Parents Can Affect the Connection Between Negative Thesis

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¶ … parents can affect the connection between negative emotions and problematic behavior in young children. In particular, this paper examines how authoritarian parenting matches up with authoritative parenting in terms of helping children to avoid expressing their negative feelings through disruptive behavior.

This is a noteworthy area of research because there have been a number of studies linking children's negative emotions with their acting out in problematic ways. This acting out, in addition to tending to reinforce children's negative emotions and their sense of themselves as "bad," has a number of unfortunate consequences, including poor interactions with other children and well as with their caregivers.

Literature review: Three sets of researchers found that some parenting styles can help separate a child's negative emotions from that child's putting those emotions into action.

Findings: This section details the research design and findings previewed in the section above.

Discussion: This is an essential question to examine because it has lifelong implications for children's ability to develop and implement vital social skills.


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This paper examines the different effects of two different parenting styles on young children. All young children experience negative emotions and act in problematic ways as a result of these feelings. This is the nature of young children. However, while it is natural for young children to out act, such behavior tends to cause problems for the child, especially in terms of his or her relationships with other children and caregivers. Thus parenting styles that can help children tolerate negative emotions without acting out will have substantial beneficial effect for the children. The research does in fact support that authoritative parenting -- which is firm but loving -- is more effective at helping children not act out than is authoritarian parenting, which emphasizes compliance and conformity.


Thesis on Parents Can Affect the Connection Between Negative Assignment

Anyone who has ever spent time with preschool children knows that the lives of such young people are marked both by negative emotions and by acting out (often described as "temper tantrums"). Both are typical and age appropriate. However, also age appropriate to the preschool cohort is the need to begin to learn how to regulate their behavior. While young children have some ability to be self-regulating (as opposed to infants), they lack the cognitive and emotional skills to be able to do so on their own in any consistent matter. Thus one of the tasks of parenting preschool-aged children is to help them learn to separate negative emotions from negative actions.

Key to this process is teaching children that negative emotions are perfectly acceptable. The parenting style that is best geared to teaching both aspects of this -- that negative emotions are natural but that negative acting out is not acceptable -- is the authoritative parenting style. In contrast, an authoritarian parenting style can be fundamentally harmful to the process of teaching young children to honor but contain their negative emotions such as anger, fear, dislike.

Authoritarian parenting is marked by the parents' having very high expectations of compliance to the rules that they put into place and a high level of conformity to the parents' beliefs. Authoritarian parents tend to give commands rather than explanations. Authoritative parents also set standards and hold expectations for their children but also allow an appropriate amount of independence on the part of the child and allows for questioning and discussion.

The hypothesis that this paper examines is the following: An authoritative parenting style helps reduce negative behaviors in preschool children that are associated with negative emotions.

Statement of the Problem

The problem explored in by the research focused on here is how may parents help young children learn how to separate their negative emotions (especially anger and frustration, both very common -- and entirely acceptable -- emotions at this stage of life). Parents may often find themselves both angry and frustrated at the child who turns around and bites a friend on the playground or who collapses onto the grocery store floor when denied an especially sugary treat and respond in much the same way as their children -- yelling back and losing their own tempers. This is hardly an effective response.

The most effective response, according to the research examined here, is for parents to help their children understand their emotions, put words to those emotions, and to find appropriate ways to act out their emotions -- perhaps by tearing paper into small pieces, building up towers of blocks and knocking them over, etc. Parents who help their children separate negative emotions from negative actions are authoritative, allowing children to ask questions and receive honest answers. Parents who insist on compliance and conformity tend to exacerbate their children's negative behavior.

Literature Review

The research summarized here fully supports the idea that parents using an authoritative style are more successful at helping their children reduce their negative behaviors than are parents using an authoritarian style. Paulessen-Hoogeboom et al. (2008) found that while young children will act out in negative ways at times regardless of parenting style (this is only to be expected at this developmental stage), authoritative parenting helped reduced this behavior. In other words, "that the relations between child negative emotionality and internalizing and externalizing behaviors were partially mediated by mothers' authoritative parenting style" (p. 209).

Moreover, when the authors used confirmatory factor analysis to decontaminate possible overlap in item content between measures assessing temperament and problematic behavior, the association between negative emotionality and internalizing behavior was fully mediated by authoritative parenting. (p.209)

The researchers used the following definition for authoritative parenting: "Authoritative parenting is characterized by a combination of high warmth, firm but fair control, and the use of explanations and reasoning" (p. 212). They observed 98 male and 98 female children from two and a half to four years in Dutch daycare centers. They assessed the parents' style of interaction with their children and determined how effective authoritarian and authoritative parents were in terms of helping their children disconnect negative emotions from negative "externalization." They found that there was a statistically positive correlation between authoritative parenting and children's ability to disconnect negative feelings from negative actions.

This research is echoed by others and in fact substantiates the body of research in this area. Similar findings were reported by Kochanska, Murray, & Coy (1997) found that mothers who scored high on sensitivity measures and responded quickly to requests made by their toddlers (that is, mothers who used an authoritative parenting style) were effective in limiting negative behavior on the part of their children. Both sensitivity and speed in responding to requests were made in response to children's expressing negative emotions in words: The maternal response emphasized and supported the children's use of verbal expression rather than physical acting out when the child felt negative emotions.

In this longitudinal study, one year after the researchers initially observed the toddlers, they found that the children rated higher on cooperativeness and prosocial behavior than did children who had parents with a less responsive style.

Kochanska, Murray, & Coy (1997) found that both outgoing and shy toddlers benefited from a responsive but firm parenting style. This finding is important because it suggests that parenting style can at least in some measure trump temperament or personality, or "Different socialization experiences can predict the same developmental outcomes for children with different predispositions, and a given socialization experience can predict divergent developmental for different children."

Another study that that the groundwork for the work by Paulessen-Hoogeboom etal was Clark & Ladd (2000). In observing kindergarten-aged children and their mothers, they assessed the level of mutual warmth, happiness, reciprocity, and engagement. (They used these terms to operationalize the concept of authoritative parenting.) They found that children and mothers who scored high on all of these measures (and who thus met the requirements for an authoritative family) scored much higher on positive behavior regardless of internal emotional state. Both teachers and peers described these children as being more empathetic, more socially accepting and acceptable, as having more friends, and as having more harmonious relationships with both other children and adults.

The body of research in this area was confirmed and consolidated by Paulessen-Hoogeboom et al. (2008). All three of these studies find clear, significantly statistical results between an authoritative parenting style and the ability of young children to contain negative emotions in an appropriate way. Paulessen-Hoogeboom et al. (2008) summarized their findings:

The finding that an authoritative parenting style mediates the relations between negative emotionality and problematic behaviors underscores the importance of providing effective parenting support to parents who have difficulties in dealing with their young child's negative emotionality on a daily basis.

When parents can be trained and encouraged to react to their children's negative emotionality in an adaptive way, parent -- child interactions may become more enjoyable, thereby reducing the occurrence of problematic behaviors and preventing more serious behavioral problems later in life (Campbell, 1995; Patterson, 1982). We note that even in general population samples, a substantial percentage of children (up to 10%) may develop internalizing- and externalizing-behavior problems in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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