Temperament and Child Development (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010


The formation of a child’s personality is closely related to the types of stress to which he is subjected in his early years and to how he deals with that stress. A child who lives in poverty, has multiple hospital stays, or comes from a dysfunctional home is at risk for long-lasting psychosocial disorder. Still, some resilient children handle stress better than others do and many progress through adverse early years relatively undamaged (Masten & Gerwitz, 2006). Those resilient children benefit from adults in both their family and their community who are competent and caring (Masten, 2001).

Sibling Relationships

Researchers have speculated that children’s social interactions with peers are affected by the relationships they have with their siblings. This makes intuitive sense for a number of reasons. First, children spend a lot of time with siblings—more time than they spend with either their parents or, when they are young, with their peers. Second, siblings give children the opportunity to practice social skills. They have the opportunity to engage in positive social exchanges and to resolve conflict with partners who, unlike parents, have a similar level of sophistication. Although researchers have hypothesized that there is a link between children’s interactions with siblings and with peers, little empirical evidence for that link exists (Dunn, 2002).

There is particularly limited research on the nature of sibling relationships in minority communities and in non-Western cultures (Dunn, 2002). The nature of sibling relationships outside of the United States may differ because, in a number of cultures, siblings often function as caregivers from an early age and may serve to socialize children for parenthood (Dunn, 2002).

Parental Style

Baumrind (1973) speculated that parents’ style of interacting with their child would have an impact on that child’s later development. He described parents as authoritative, authoritarian, or permissive.

The authoritative parent is firm and willing to set limits, but not intrusive. Authoritative parents encourage their children to explore their environments and gain interpersonal competence. In contrast, the authoritarian parent is harsh, rigid, and unresponsive to her child. The third type of parent, the permissive parent, is affectionate toward her child but lax and inconsistent with her discipline. As a consequence, her child is uncontrolled and may show impulsive behavior (Parke & Buriel, 1998).

Parke and Buriel (1998) found a number of problems with Baumrind’s conceptualization of parental style. First, a distinction can be drawn between style (or parental attitudes) and parental practices. Second, as noted by Sameroff and his colleagues (Sameroff & Chandler, 1975; Sameroff & Fiese, 1990), the direction of effects is as likely to be from the child to the parent as the reverse. Finally, the scheme may not be universal. It may not apply to parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds or to parents from diverse cultures. For example, Russell, Mize, and Bissaker (2002) note that some research has shown that, in African American families, harsh discipline co-exists with warm and nurturing relationships more often than in white families.

According to Parke et al. (2002), parents do indeed affect their children’s social and emotional development through three different routes: (1) they interact directly with their children; (2) they instruct, teaching their children about what constitutes important social behavior; and (3) they provide their children with opportunities for social experiences.

Parke et al. (2002) assert that children’s social relationships extend beyond the immediate family to the extended family, the neighborhood and school, and places of worship. Because children have so many chances to interact with others and form relationships, parents can enhance children’s relationships by actively managing these opportunities. For example, parents can supervise their children’s choice of activities and friends, they can initiate and arrange play dates for their children, and they can enroll their child in organized activities like religious (pre)school.

Both mothers and fathers influence children’s social and emotional development. Research does not make clear whether the relationships that children have with mothers and fathers is more similar than different; however, there is some evidence that interaction with fathers is more often focused on play and recreation, while interactions with mothers tend to revolve around caregiving (Russell et al., 2002).

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