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Parental Influence on the Development of Children

 The child  develops based on the genes it received from his or her parents; the child’s body shape, eye color, hair color, complexion, and temperament as well as numerous other characteristics will arise based on its inherited genes.  Therefore, it is evident that parents directly influence the development of their child in the genetic sense.  Once the child is born, however, the child enters into a new environment in which the parents are the sole means of survival and interaction with the world. Studies show that parents greatly influence the development of their child in all areas  however, parental influence on development is most notable in the areas of psychosocial development.  Furthermore, parents play a vital role in the emotional, moral, and social development of their child or children. 
        ·      Emotional Development
            Emotional development includes all aspects of personality and identity development.  Throughout life, one’s personality and identity are greatly influenced by genes as well as environmental influences such as parents.  For example, at birth, one has a particular temperament or characteristic disposition and method of approaching and reacting to situations (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2002).  A child’s temperament is essentially the emotional self-regulation of a child when he or she responds to situations, how sociable the child is, and its activity level.  According to research, temperament is a fairly stable characteristic of an individual based mainly on heredity (Papalia et al., 2002).  However, one’s temperament can be influenced and altered to a certain degree based on the interactions of the child with a parent.  If a child with a difficult temperament has a parent with a difficult temperament, the parent theoretically will be able to address the child’s temperament and make adapting to new situations and various changes easier; this is referred to as the goodness of fit between parent and child (Papalia et al., 2002).                        
         ·      Moral Development
            Moral development, like emotional development, results from the positive influence of parents on a child.  According to Lawrence Kohlberg, parental participation in moral development is not necessary for one to reach a high level of moral reasoning because schools and other settings can provide similar moral environments (1969, as cited in Bornstein, 2002).  However, Hoffman (1983, as cited in Bornstein, 2002) states that disciplinary encounters with parents are crucial for the internalization of moral standards.  When a parent intervenes in a child’s negative behavior in an attempt to correct the behavior and then disciplines the child, the parent is attempting to help the child internalize moral standards. Parents who use inductive reasoning, stimulate moral reasoning with moral discussions, and are supportive and encourage autonomous thinking will have a child who functions at a higher level of moral reasoning. 
         ·   Social Development
            The social development of a child is influenced by parental involvement similar to emotional and moral development.  The social relationship a child has with his or her parents directly correlates with the relationships and social behavior the child will have throughout life.  As a result, the attachment a child has with his or her parents is pivotal to his or her social development.     
            The attachment relationships a child forms as a baby influence relationships the child has throughout the remainder of his or her life.  For example, Sternberg (1987, as cited in Papalia et al., 2003) has identified a triangular theory of love composed of three main components:  passion, intimacy, and commitment.    
            The relationship between parents and their child will also influence different aspects of his or her social development.  For example, when a child is very young, the child will look to parents to see how to respond to ambiguous situations as a form of social referencing.  In this manner, the child learns proper social behavior from imitating the behavior of the parents (Papalia et al., 2002).  Specifically, a child will learn how to address conflict from the influence of his or her parents.  Miller, DiIorio, and Dudley (2002) found that children whose parents were responsive, controlling, and involved were less likely to respond to conflict with violence than children whose parents were not involved as much.  The children who were likely to respond to conflict with violence had parents who were inconsistent in discipline approaches and did not respond with adequate punishment (Miller et al., 2002). 

            Throughout each form of psychosocial development, parents play a vital role in the positive development of their child.  Parents who influence the development of their child in a positive manner tend to have particular qualities and characteristics.  These parents tend to be responsive, demanding, accepting and emphasize discussion and interaction.  According to Baumrind, these parents have the characteristics of an authoritative parent (1991, as cited in Papalia et al., 2003).  Therefore, it can be concluded that parents who are generally authoritative are those who influence the development of their child in the best manner.           

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