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Parental expectations of children’s development
Journal of Clinical Child Psychiatry, 2007 15, pp. 259-70.
By Dr. F. A. Osman, BA.,BSc.,Msc., Ph.D.
Senior Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist
Parental expectations of children’s development
The present study was carried out to explore the parent’s views and beliefs concerning the ages at which they think children typically acquire certain social and emotional skills, and the ages at which become able to perform various routine tasks. The design of the present study was replicating a research procedure designed by Hess et al., 1980 by making a comparison between two participants and the investigator himself. This is called the structured method. This technique therefore allows for the possibility that the parents will give unexpected views and that further questioning will lead to new discoveries about thinking.
The results showed that a culture differences has the most significant effect on the views and belief of parents on child development. The major difference in the responses Participant one from the Participant two and the investigator, is due to the different social background. Overall, the results of the present study in accordance with literature on whether experience or inherited factors can have a significant effect upon child development. The implications of these findings for the Vygotskyan theory of internalisation are discussed.
It is common belief that one of the main applications for a critical influence of child development is the context of social interaction provided by the child’s interaction with significant adults, especially parents. Different beliefs about children effect both the child-rearing practices and what children are expected to do.
The social dimension is very important in Vygotsky’s theory in studying developmental processes. Basically, Vygotsky believed that the process of developmental includes internalizing social interactions and it occurs within the child. The interaction can then begin to extend its topics to include joint action, and joint attention, directed to things other than the interaction itself. Vygotsky pointed out that society was essential to human cognitive development, beginning with interaction between the child and another person.
Studies of Hess et al.’s (1980) and Goodnow et al.’s (1984) have shown that how broader cultural expectations and values affected parental beliefs about the a proper development of their children. Hess et al., designed a ‘developmental expectations procedure ‘to examine in cross-cultural study mothers (i.e., Japanese vs. Americans) expectations of children’s development. Hess et al., found that mothers from these two societies placed significantly different emphases on what was to be encouraged as desirable in the growing child.
Moreover, Goodnow et al., (1984) replicated Hess et al.’s study and used ‘developmental expectations procedure’ to compare two groups of mothers (Australia, English as mother tongue language vs. Lebanon-born mothers seem to believe that skills can be learned when they are needed .
Generally speaking, many of Vygotsky’s observations fit the general findings in the present study. Vygotsky’s theory stresses the importance of including the social dimension in understanding child development. He argued that all thought arises first in actions between people and only then becomes internalized. On the other hand, behaviourists focus on observable behaviour rather than internal processes. For example, Skinner argued that history of reinforcements determines behaviour and by understanding this and using reinforcements one can shape behaviour.
Furthermore, Whiting & Edwards (1992) emphasize the effect of the community’s values on the way children are treated (e.g. phenomenon of electing power children). Their argument is guite similar to many ideas and observations of Vygotsky’s theory.
In sum, the present study is a replication of Hess et al., (1980) in which a comparison between two participants and the investigator himself about their views of child development. The aims here are to explore where parental beliefs come from, the experiences and influences that shape development goals.
The design of the present study was replicating a research procedure designed by Hess et al., 1980 by making a comparison between two participants and the investigator himself.
Two volunteers mothers as participants took part of the present study. The first participant is 27 year-old women and had been born in Bosnia. She came to Britain in her 20’s. She is happily married with an English accountant man (36 year-old) and her mother tongue was Bosnian. The second of 37 year-old, an Irish mother. These
mothers had children aged 4 and 6 years, a boy and a girl respectively.
To gather data in relation to expectations of parents about children’s development, the investigator conducted interviews. Each interview was about 65 minutes long and took place in the child’s home.
After familiarisation time and explaining the main purpose of the present study. The instruction (see Appendix 1) was read to each mother by the investigator.
After the participants have sorted the cards into piles. They allowed a five minutes break, the participants were involved in a discussion about their responses during the first part of the interview.
The events and procedure used in the present study were identical to the research procedure designed by Hess et al., by making a comparison between two participants and the investigator about their views and belief of children’s development expectations (i.e., emotional maturity, politeness, compliance, independence, social skills and verbal assertiveness).
The ethical considerations were carefully considered. The investigator explained clearly the purpose of the present study . Parents happily agreed to participate in the present study.
3.0. Data and analysis
The data for this study were analysed using the comparison between averages score of each of six areas of child behaviour. The scores was based on the responses for the six areas of child’s development in different ages as follow: before 4 years: score 3; 4 or 5 years: score 2 and 6 years or older: score 1 (see Appendix 1). Thus, averages range between 1 and 3, with a higher score indicating a younger age at which children are expected ton reach the various developmental goals.
The data of the present study are summarized in Table 1. The data in Table 2 from Hess’s comparison of Japan and the US and the present study sample are summarized in Figure 1, which shows the average scores in the six areas .
Parental expectations of children’s development
Area Participant 1 Participant 2 Current Emotional maturity 1.75 1.6 1.6 Politeness 1.5 2.5 2.25 Compliance 1.5 2 2 Independence 1.38 1.63 1.75 Social Skills 1.33 2.5 2.33 Verbal assertiveness 1.4 1.8 1.8
Table 1. Represents the average scores of two participants mother’s and one investigator of the present study for the developmental expectations for under 4 year to 5 year old and over 6 year old in each of six areas taken from Hess et al.’s. 1980.
As can be noted from Table 1, the average scores in the area of social skills were
markedly different from the data of the present study and those of Japanese sample. A detailed examination of the data (see Appendix 1 and 2) showed that Participant 1 (i.e., a mother of a 4 year-old boy) expected children to achieve emotional maturity at an earlier age than both Participant 2 (i.e., a mother of 6 year-old girl) and the
investigator ( a father of 9 and 7 year-old girl and boy respectively) of this study. The investigator’s of this study expectations concerning the areas of emotional maturity, verbal assertiveness and politeness were identical (average scores, 1.6 vs. 2.5 vs. 2.00 respectively) to those of Participant 1 (i.e., average scores, 1.75 vs. 1.5 vs. 1.5 respectively). With regards to the area of independence, the average scores between Participants 1 and 2 was markedly different (1.33 vs. 1.63 respectively) and the investigator (1.75 average scores). While investigator of the present study have similar expectations to these of Participant 1 for ‘emotional maturity’, ‘verbal assertiveness’ and ‘politeness’, the investigator expect later achievement of ‘independence’ and ‘compliance’.
Table 2. The developmental goals of four sample of adults.
Area/ Sample Japanese mothers* US mothers* UK ** mother mothers current*** emotional maturity 2.49 2.08 1.84 1.65 Politeness 2.24 2.04 2.18 2.08 Compliance 2.49 2.30 2.61 1.83 Independence 2.13 1.92 1.73 1.59 Social skills 1.87 2.18 2.08 2.06 Verbal assertiveness 1.73 2.18 2.17 1.64
Note: Averages range between 1 and 3, with a higher score indicating a younger age at which children are expected in reach the various developmental goals.
* indicates the averages in these columns have been taken from Table 1 of Hess et al., (1980), and Table 2, OU UK, (1990).
** *indicates the averages score in these column the data of the present study.
As you can see from Table 2, the averages scores for the participants in the present study was particularly roughly identical to those of the previous studies in the area of compliance. As the data stand, both the data of OU UK and the present study are quite similar, namely, in the areas of independence and social skills with the trend of lower averages score of the present study. However, the averages score of those two areas differed markedly from those of the USA and Japanese sample.
The findings of the present study have shown that parent’s culture has a strong effect of their expectations of the children’s social behaviour. A careful examinations of the data reported indicates the Participants views and beliefs about the ages of children’s development.
Taken together, the averages score from the different participants of the present study, the data collected by Hess et al., and the sample of OU UK are quite identical, namely, in the area of politeness. They all expected earlier achievement of politeness. This result is particularly important because it suggests that such attitudes are common to many cultures.
As the data of the present study stand, the effect of culture is quite obvious in the parent’s expectations of children’s social behaviour. The observed variation in the data between the investigator’s expectations and the Participants suggests that how a very different set assumptions held by mothers from different culture affect their expectations. Some societies encourage a great deal of adult child interaction with parents and elders , while others discourage it. For example, in some societies with large extended families, children are usually discouraged from imitating interaction with adults, ‘respect and obedience to orders are valued’ Whiting & Edwards (1992).
Moreover, the current sample data of Participant 1 versus Participant 2, the investigator in the present study demonstrated a distinctly different pattern of results, notably later expectations regarding emotional maturity, compliance, independence and verbal assertiveness. A careful look to the raw scores of the responses of Participant 1 (The Bosnian-born mother) reported that she used to have everything done for her, there was not any type of demand to share hard activities in her big family and her parent loved to enjoy her childhood time. This is one example of her parent in different culture express their expectations about the skills of developmental children. They are not expected to take responsibilities until they are much older. Miller (1987), suggests that such attitudes are common to many cultures and continue to exist today. Whiting & Edwards noted that adults caretakers, usually mothers, all over the world have similar goals-’caring for, socialising and transmitting culture to their children’ (Whiting & Edwards, 1988, p.87, quoted from BK1, OU).
As I approach the conclusion of the present study, it is appropriate to explain and try to answer the following question: How a parent’s behaviour can be affected by their image of their children?. Attribution theorists propose that causal attributions play a central role in predicting behaviour as individuals use them to understand, control and master their environment. When parents perceive a behaviour to be more intentional, they are more upset by it and more likely to endorse power-assertive discipline techniques. Hence, children’s perception of their own behaviour will be co-determined
by such parental attributions. To some extent, children’s representations of themselves will be moulded by parent’s expectations and ideals and these are transmitted through
mimicry and actions that reveal to the child how the parents have interpreted his intentions. Through this process the child learns how to intend’ (Dunn, 1982).
The result of the present study is similar to the studies findings of Hess et al.’s (1980) and Goodnow et al.’s (1984). The parents from different culture placed significantly different emphases on what was to be encouraged as desirable in the growing child.
To some up, to understand more fully the development of beliefs about children it would seem to be necessary to take account of cultural processes that affect both child and parents behaviour. Therefore, a simple cause-and-effect model cannot fully describe the complex transactional links between parents and children behaviour: each person plays a part in determining how the other behaves within the cultural patterns that extend and have consequences beyond the specific interactions between parents and their children.
The results of the present study are consistent with many research studies of child rearing. Any account of development is necessarily culturally based, since the processes of raising children are essentially one of enculturation. However, it is important to remember that such understandings of human behaviour are not universal. What is true for middle-class white Europeans is not necessarily true in other parts of the worlds.
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