What Does the Literature Say About Parenting Affecting Children?
Ever since Noam Chomsky proposed that nature and nurture both had key roles in child development, child nurturing and parenting has become exponentially more important. In today’s society, parents shelter, coddle, and spoil their children into entitlement that they will not always receive. This sheltering, or “Helicopter Parenting”, has caused anxiety and stress to run rampant when real pressure or responsibility shows up. The way a child is cared for, socially, economically, and physically has a direct correlation to the mental and physical health; as well as affecting their attitude and work ethics.
One of the most important factors in a child’s development is the socioeconomic status of their parents or legal guardians. It’s no secret that parenting methods differ depending on social class. “Poverty and economic loss diminish the capacity for supportive, consistent, and involved parenting and render parents more vulnerable to the debilitating effects of negative life events” (McLoyd "The Impact of Economic Hardship on Black Families and Children: Psychological Distress, Parenting, and Emotional Development.") Along with the stress associated with poverty, the stress deriving from health issues, family issues and everyday life lead to lapses in parental judgment and lack of time for parenting. “The developmental outcomes parents expect and desire for their children and the roles parents see for themselves in achieving those outcomes vary…” (Hoff 231-252) meaning that each parent has his or her own plan what role they will fill as a parent and what their child will do in the future. Parents who have better goals set for their children may positively influence their children into doing better in life. Economic status influences the parenting style, likelihood of completing high school, and the stability of the household the children are involved in.
On top of the psychological effects of living in poverty, the physical effects devastate children and parents of impoverished families. The cost of living and maintaining a healthy life style are far more expensive than its processed competition. In a low income area, with a limited amount of money, a parent can acquire unhealthy processed food in abundance, they can spend the minimal amount of money for the maximum amount of food. This trend of spending as little money as possible on nutrition, greatly affects the development of young children. This unhealthy diet can lead to mood swings, depression, trouble sleeping, diabetes and even obesity. Also these unhealthy eating habits and malnutrition can create a pattern that is very hard to break later in life.
Another issue with parent’s economic status is the effects brought on by it later in life. Students from low income backgrounds will face more stress than their economically advantaged counterparts because they have to deal with the stress of forgone wages and the costs of borrowing (Luthar, "The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth."). These students, balancing school, work, and financial responsibilities, often crumble under the pressure and leave school, putting them in the same position with no continuing education to better themselves with. This continuation of poverty is disallowing young people from bettering themselves and living their dreams.
Along with economic status, the condition of the family the child is in greatly affects the future success and attitude of the child. For example, a family with strong parental figures and a regular set schedule are more likely to be able to respect authority, listen to and complete instructions, and function in a timely manner respecting deadlines and other organizational matters (Astone, McLanahan). “One reason children from single-parent families are less likely to finish high school is the precarious economic position of their families. Mother-only families are more likely than any families to be poor.” (Astone, McLanahan), this shows that there is a direct link between divorce and economic hardship; meaning that not only is a divorce psychological affecting children it may also be affecting them economically therefore setting back their development even further. “Divorce, a major cause of single parent families, impoverishes the household of the divorced wife (Weitzman, 1981)” (Dornbusch, 326-341). In most cases, these unstable families have little to no economic stability, and when the families split they increase they financial strains on themselves. Although separately they both affect families greatly, poverty and family instability together can crush a families dreams of existing further.
Another factor that influences children, as they develop, is the values and morals instilled in a child by their parents or guardians. Children mirror the behavior of their parents and subconsciously want to be more like them. When this influence is a positive one, the child receives morals, beliefs, and a determination to better themselves. When the influence is bad it can lead the child into, drugs, alcohol, or other harmful substances or scenarios. Arguably, parenting is the most important factor in how a child turns out. If a person’s childhood is traumatic, or full of stress it can lead to mental problems, physical conditions, or even a distrust of authority.
Along with developing who they are as a person through their childhood, people also define who they are as a person, and eventually parent themselves. “Parenting includes generic endowment and direct effects of experience that manifest in parent’s beliefs and behaviors; parenting’s indirect influences take place through parent’s relationships with each other and their connection to community networks…” (Bornstein, Socioneconomic status, Parenting, and Child Development). This definition of parenting acknowledges the influence that a parent has on their child’s development, directly and indirectly. This shows that the interaction a parent has with their child is crucial to key developmental stages, for example a child who grows up with two stable parental figures who encourage and care for the child will learn to love and care for others. Adversely, if a child grows up in a broken home with little to no guidance, they are more likely to have marital problems as well as child care issues in their own life.
Parenting, is arguably the most important influence on a child’s life through its development. How the parental figures interact, and influence their children directly affects their personality and morals later on. Along with the morals and parenting styles used, a child is influenced by their family’s economic status, and the stability of their home. Children from poverty stricken or one parent households have a harder time overcoming obstacles and prospering later on in life economically, and mentally. Parent’s use the same methods of parenting that were used on them, in some cases this can be good, but in others it creates a vicious cycle of abuse that continues for generations.
Although it proves contrary to what the literature says, there are instances where the environmental, and parental factors did not influence the outcome of the child. For example: a child from poverty who was abused who grew up to be a successful businessman, or a rich kid who grew up with everything who ends up with nothing because of their own laziness. Parenting influences children, but it doesn’t overwhelm strong characteristics like determination or lack thereof it.
Overall, parenting is definitely the most important, and influential part of a person’s childhood. Along with the parenting style implemented by the guardians, the parent’s socioeconomic status, and the stability of the family greatly influences the child as well. Children from poor socioeconomic status with an unstable family life, tend to attain less education, and be less successful in their careers. On the contrary a child from a high socioeconomic status who has a stable family life is far more likely to be educated, and far more likely to be a successful person late in life. Although the outcome of each person is determined by their own actions, and decisions, parenting and the socioeconomic status of the families greatly affect the outcome of the child.
1. Astone, Nan Marie, and Sara S. McLanahan. "Family structure, parental practices and high school completion." American sociological review (1991): 309-320.
2. Bornstein, Marc H., and Robert H. Bradley, eds. Socioeconomic status, parenting, and child development. Routledge, 2014.
3. Dornbusch, Sanford M., et al. "Single parents, extended households, and the control of adolescents." Child development (1985): 326-341.
4. Luthar, Suniya S. "The culture of affluence: Psychological costs of material wealth." Child development 74.6 (2003): 1581-1593.
5. Hoff, Erika, Brett Laursen, and Twila Tardif. "Socioeconomic status and parenting." Handbook of Parenting Volume 2: Biology and Ecology of Parenting (2002): 231-52.
6. Maccoby, Eleanor E. "Parenting and its effects on children: On reading and misreading behavior genetics." The Science of Mental Health: Personality and personality disorder 51 (2001): 201.
7. McLoyd, Vonnie C. "The impact of economic hardship on black families and children: Psychological distress, parenting, and emotional development." Child development 61.2 (1990): 311-346.
8. Okagaki, Lynn, and Peter A. Frensch. "Parenting and children’s school achievement: A multiethnic perspective." American Educational Research Journal 35.1 (1998): 123-144.