Relationships with Parents and Peers

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Relationships with Parents and Peers
Infancy and Childhood: Social and Emotional Development
review of about twenty studies done in the 1980s revealed that infants in full-time day
care were somewhat more likely to be classified as insecurely attached. About 36 percent
of them were classified as insecure; only 29 percent of the infants who were not in fulltime day care were counted as insecure (Clarke-Stewart, 1989). These results appear to
support the suggestion that day care harms infants’ attachments to their mothers.
■ Can that evidence be interpreted another way?
Perhaps factors other than day care could explain the difference between infants in day
care and those at home with their mothers. One such factor could be the method that
was used to assess attachment. Infants in these studies were judged insecure if they did
not run to their mothers after a brief separation in the Strange Situation. But maybe
infants who experience daily separations from their mothers during day care feel more
comfortable in the Strange Situation and therefore seek out less closeness with their
mothers. A second factor concerns the possible differences between the infants’ mothers. Perhaps mothers who value independence in themselves and in their children are
more likely to be working and to place their children in day care, whereas mothers who
emphasize closeness with their children are more likely to stay home.
■ What evidence would help to evaluate the alternatives?
are understandably concerned that leaving their infants in a day-care center all
day long might interfere with the
mother-infant attachment or with other
aspects of the child’s development. Research shows that most infants in day
care do form healthy bonds with their
parents but that if children spend many
hours in day care between infancy and
kindergarten, they are more likely to
have behavior problems in school, such as
talking back to the teacher or getting
into fights with other children (NICHD
Early Child Care Research Network, 2001,
2006b). Time will tell whether other problems develop in the future.
Finding insecure attachment to be more common among the infants of working mothers does not, by itself, demonstrate that day care is harmful. To judge the effects of day
care, we must consider other measures of emotional adjustment as well. If day-care
infants showed consistent signs of impaired emotional relations in other situations (at
home, say) and with other caregivers (such as the father), this evidence would support
the argument that day care harms children’s emotional development. Another useful
method would be to statistically control for differences in the behavior and attitudes
of parents who do and do not put their infants in day care, and then look for differences in their children.
In fact, this research design has already been employed. In 1990, the U.S. government funded a study of infant day care in ten sites around the country. The psychological and physical development of more than 1,300 randomly selected infants was
tracked from birth through age three. The results available so far show that when factors such as parents’ education, income, and attitudes were statistically controlled,
infants in day care were no more likely to have emotional problems or to be insecurely
attached to their mothers than infants not in day care. However, in cases in which
infants were placed in poor-quality day care with caregivers who were insensitive and
unresponsive and in which mothers were insensitive to their babies’ needs at home, the
infants were less likely to develop a secure attachment to their mothers (NICHD Early
Child Care Research Network, 2005, 2006a).
■ What conclusions are most reasonable?
Based on available evidence, the most reasonable conclusion appears to be that day care
by itself does not lead to insecure attachment. But if that day care is of poor quality, it
can worsen a risky situation at home and increase the likelihood that infants will have
problems forming a secure attachment to their mothers. The U.S. government study is
still under way, and the children’s progress is being followed into adolescence.
Relationships with Parents and Peers
Erik Erikson (1968) saw the first year of life as a time when infants develop a feeling
of trust (or mistrust) about the world. According to his theory, an infant’s first year
represents the first of eight stages of lifelong psychosocial development (see Table 9.2).
Each stage focuses on an issue, or “crisis,” that is especially important at that time of
Chapter 9
Erikson’s Stages of
Psychosocial Development
In each of Erikson’s stages of development,
a different psychological issue presents a
new crisis for the person to resolve. The
person focuses attention on that issue
and, by the end of the period, has worked
through the crisis and resolved it either positively, in the direction of healthy development, or negatively, hindering further
psychological development.
Human Development
Central Psychological Issue or Crisis
First Year
Trust versus mistrust
Infants learn to trust that their needs will be met by the
world, especially by the mother—or they learn to mistrust
the world.
Second year
Autonomy versus shame and doubt
Children learn to exercise will, to make choices, and to
control themselves—or they become uncertain and doubt
that they can do things by themselves.
Third to fifth year
Initiative versus guilt
Children learn to initiate activities and enjoy their
accomplishments, acquiring direction and purpose—
or, if they are not allowed initiative, they feel guilty for
their attempts at independence.
Sixth year through
Industry versus inferiority
Children develop a sense of industry and curiosity and are
eager to learn—or they feel inferior and lose interest in
the tasks before them.
Identity versus role confusion
Adolescents come to see themselves as unique and
integrated persons with an ideology—or they become
confused about what they want out of life.
Early adulthood
Intimacy versus isolation
Young people become able to commit themselves to
another person—or they develop a sense of isolation and
feel they have no one in the world but themselves.
Middle age
Generativity versus stagnation
Adults are willing to have and care for children and to
devote themselves to their work and the common good—
or they become self-centered and inactive.
Old age
Integrity versus despair
Older people enter a period of reflection, becoming
assured that their lives have been meaningful and
becoming ready to face death with acceptance and
dignity—or they are in despair for their unaccomplished
goals, failures, and ill-spent lives.
life. Erikson believed that the ways in which people resolve these crises shape their personalities and social relationships. Resolving a crisis in a positive way provides the foundation for characteristics such as trust, independence, initiative, or industry. But if the
crisis is not resolved positively, according to Erikson, the person will be psychologically
troubled and cope less effectively with later crises. In Erikson’s theory, trusting caregivers
during infancy forms the bedrock for all future social and emotional development.
After children have formed strong emotional attachments to their parents, their next
psychological task is to develop a more independent relationship with them. In Erikson’s
theory, this task is reflected in the second stage (again, see Table 9.2). Children begin to
exercise their wills, to develop some independence from their parents, and to begin activities on their own. According to Erikson, children who are not allowed to exercise their
wills or start their own activities will feel uncertain about doing things for themselves and
guilty about seeking independence. The extent to which parents allow or encourage their
children’s independence is related to their parenting style.
Infancy and Childhood: Social and Emotional Development
socialization The process by which
parents, teachers, and others teach children the skills and social norms necessary to be well-functioning members of
authoritarian parents Parents who are
firm, punitive, and unsympathetic.
permissive parents Parents who give
their children complete freedom and
lax discipline.
authoritative parents Parents who
reason with their children and are firm
but understanding.
Parenting Styles Most parents try to channel children’s impulses into socially
accepted outlets and teach them the skills and rules needed to function in their society. Cultural values strongly shape this socialization process. Parents in Hispanic cultures of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Central America, for example, tend to be influenced
by the collectivist tradition discussed in the introductory chapter, in which family and
community interests are emphasized over individual goals. Children in these cultures
are expected to respect and obey their elders, and they are taught to do less of the questioning, negotiating, and arguing that is encouraged—or at least tolerated—in many
middle-class European American families (Greenfield, Suzuki, & Rothstein-Fisch, 2006;
Parke & Buriel, 2006).
European American parents tend to employ one of three distinct parenting styles, as
described by Diana Baumrind (1991). Authoritarian parents tend to be strict, punishing, and unsympathetic. They value obedience from children and try to shape their children’s behavior to meet a set standard and to curb the children’s wills. They do not encourage independence. They are detached and seldom praise their youngsters. In contrast,
permissive parents give their children complete freedom and provide little discipline.
Authoritative parents fall between these two extremes. They reason with their children,
encouraging give and take. They allow children increasing responsibility as they get older
and better at making decisions. They are firm but understanding. They set limits but also
encourage independence. Their demands are reasonable, rational, and consistent.
In her research with middle-class parents, Baumrind found these three parenting
styles to be consistently related to young children’s social and emotional development.
Authoritarian parents had children who were unfriendly, distrustful, and withdrawn.
The children of permissive parents were immature, dependent, and unhappy; they were
likely to have tantrums or to ask for help when they encountered even slight difficulties. Children raised by authoritative parents were friendly, cooperative, self-reliant, and
socially responsible.
Other researchers who followed Baumrind’s lead found that authoritative parenting
styles were associated with additional positive outcomes, including better school
achievement, greater popularity, and better psychological adjustment to parental
divorce (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Hinshaw et al., 1997; Steinberg et al.,
1994). In contrast, children of authoritarian parents are more likely to cheat and to be
aggressive and less likely to experience guilt or accept blame after doing something
wrong (Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad, 2006).
The results of these parenting studies are interesting, but they are limited in several
ways. First, they are based on correlations, which, as discussed in the introductory chapter, do not prove causation. Finding consistent correlations between parents’ and children’s behavior does not establish that the parents are creating the differences seen in
their children. Even evidence that differences between the children of authoritative and
nonauthoritative parents tend to increase over time can only show that parents’ socialization styles might have a direct influence on children’s behavior (Steinberg et al.,
1994). It is also possible, for example, that parents’ behavior might be shaped to some
extent by their children. Children’s temperament, size, and appearance may influence
the way parents treat them (Bugental & Grusec, 2006) and may alter the effects of parenting styles (Zhou et al., 2004).
Second, some developmental psychologists suggest that it is not the parents’ socialization practices that influence children but, rather, how the children perceive the discipline they receive—as stricter or more lenient than what an older sibling received, for
example (Reiss et al., 2000). A third limitation of parenting studies is that the correlations between parenting styles and children’s behavior, though statistically significant,
are usually not terribly strong. Expected outcomes do not always appear. For example,
Baumrind (1971) found a small group of “harmonious” families in which discipline
was never observed, yet the children were thriving.
In all likelihood, it is the “fit” between parenting style and children’s characteristics that affects children the most. There is no universally “best” style of parenting
(Parke & Buriel, 2006). So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked
with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school
performance among African American or Asian American youngsters (Kim & Rohner,
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