URC

Family Influences on the Development of a Child's Behavior

Kwalombota Mahalihali
The Master’s College


ABSTRACT

Research indicates that the development of a child’s behavior is strongly influenced by how well his or her family functions. It is during this time that children are dependent upon adults to meet their needs that their concept of the importance of family develops. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent of awareness of family influences on the well-being of a child. The survey instrument used in this study requested demographic data in addition to the responses to the five Likert-type survey questions. The findings from the survey instrument indicated that (a) the students sampled at The Master’s College were influenced by how well the family functioned and (b) the values and standards of the students were shaped during the period they were reliant on their parents. Based on the information gathered from the review of literature and the survey instrument, it is concluded that family life affects the cognitive development of a child.

INTRODUCTION

The ability to handle life’s issues and demands is based upon psychological foundations of early family experiences. Within the society, parents identify certain values that are important for the development of their children (Goldsmith, 2000).The Family Pediatrics Report (2003) indicated that, “Families are the most central and enduring influence in children’s lives regardless of their education, composition, income, or values” (introduction section, para.1).

The Structure of the Family

Elkin and Handel (1978) defined “the family as the first unit with which children have a continuous contact and the first context in which socialization patterns develop” (p.118). The Family Pediatrics Report (2003) explained that the development of children is significantly influenced by interpersonal relationships within the family. Children who are raised by 2 parents, who are both responsible and dedicated, usually perform well in school (family structure section, para1). Affection and protection are evidently crucial for the health of a child. Thus children need to receive love and protection for their healthy emotional development. Critical to emotional needs of children is the nature of family structure. Losing one person in a group of two destroys the relationship. Structure, therefore, creates a greater need for maintenance of the relationship through the expression of affection. The denial of negative feelings may restrict problem solving efforts (Phelan, 1979) . According to The Family Pediatrics Report (2003), the risks for emotional, behavioral, and educational problems are lower among children in 2-parent households on average. The apparent advantage of the 2-parent household structure is that it facilitates effective parenting behaviors, but it does not guarantee success. A stable, well-functioning family is potentially the most secure, supportive, and nurturing environment in which children may be raised (family structure section, para.1).

The Function of the Family

The organization of the family has direct effect on the children. The first social relationship of children is familial, where children acquire their first experiences of being treated as persons in their own right. Children receive care for their dependency and attention for their sociability. The kind of care and attention children receive during their early years of life affect their handling of important issues, such as trust vs.distrust and autonomy vs.disunity. This ability equips children for establishing later ties with people outside the family. Newborns are unaware that they are separate and distinct persons. However, as time goes by they become aware that they are separate from their mothers and that there are other members of the household. Children learn that others have interests, wishes, and ways of their own. Children growing up in a household shared with other siblings learn that they have to share the resources of the household. Children learn the ways in which their cooperation is sought and welcomed and the ways in which they may compete for what they want (Elkin and Handel, 1978). According to The Family Pediatrics Report (2003), when the family environment enables their needs to be met, children generally turn out well, both socially and psychologically, and their parents are satisfied with their lives and marriages. Throughout the children’s dependent years, families provide them with food, clothing, shelter, a safe and clean environment, adequate supervision, and access to necessary health care and education. In a family, children also receive support, come to feel loved, valued, and competent. Children are provided with companionship and learn to believe in a shared set of values.

Families, especially parents, play a fundamental role in forming the values of children. The ability to cope with and adjust to life problems and demands is based upon the psychological foundations of early family experiences. A study of college students found that the more positive the family experience, the more likely the students were to have a positive attitude and believed they were in control of their lives (Goldsmith, 2000). Denton (1952) reported that “perceptive parents know that a child, in order to develop emotional healthy, needs both firmness and gentleness. He needs discipline, meted out with firmness and consistency, warmth and love” (p.108). Denton (1952) further gives an example of the Children’s Charter adopted by President Hoover’s White House Conference in 1930 that asserted the right of every child to have “understanding and guarding of his personality,” and noted that children have a right to certain experiences that foster social skills and happiness (p.109). Moreover, Denton (1952) quoted Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” and explained that the implication of this Scripture is that parents should not relate to their children in a manner that their children grow up “mad at the world.” Pastors and counselors regularly see adults who are angry at the world more often because the right to be happy and stable in the home was denied (p.109). DeMoss (2001) explained that parents have an enormous influence and responsibility in molding the hearts and lives of their children. In addition, DeMoss (2001) gave an example of Eli, who was a devoted priest of the Old Testament. Eli knew of the sins his sons committed but failed to restrain them. Therefore God judged his family for his actions. Elkin and Handel (1978) stated that “the father’s influences on the social climate within which his children’s many experiences occur is established by the conditions for his basic value . . . His existence personifies for his children the predictability of rules that are implicit in the ordered behavior of almost everyone that enters the life of the growing child, but the father commonly comes to ‘stand for’ the absolute necessity of social order more than any other person” (p.127). In addition, Elkin and Handel (1978), explained that the father provides a basic model of masculinity for the son and that this model becomes a basis for developing their own male identity. For his daughter, the model provides a basis for developing images of male companions or perhaps a desirable husband. For children of both sexes, such images are not influenced by the father’s actual conduct only, but the mother’s evaluation of him as well). Leonard Benson observed that “the mother is the primary parent. She is first by popular acclaim, in actual household practice, and in the minds of students of family life” (Elkin and Handel, 1978, p.128).

Society’s Effect on the Family

The family is not as dominating as it once was. Its effects may be modified by some other agencies as well. Children now attend nursery school and summer camp as young as three years of age and watch television at an even younger age. Schools, hospitals, government agencies, and service industries have taken over many activities that were once performed by parents or relatives such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. However, despite the greater exposure of the child to the outside influences, the family remains remarkably important for his or her socialization (Elkin & Handel, 1978). According to Goldsmith (2000), within the society certain competencies and values believed to be important for children’s growth and development are perceived by parents. For instance, children are influenced by their parents’ choice of dress, standards, manners, speech, and educational motivation. Goldsmith (2000) advocated that children learn their attitudes primarily from their parents; but in time, those attitudes are shaped by other environmental influences. As children become adults, they accumulate information that shape their perceptions of their roles as men and women, their roles as parents, their behaviors, their attitudes, and their belief systems. For example, how a person plans, sets standards of cleanliness, or prioritizes tasks is learned in childhood. Adults choose to accept, reject, or modify those principles they learned in their youth.

Family Circumstances and Children’s Outcomes

Children’s inability to cope without the social support of their families can stem from social strains such as parental mental illness, substance abuse, violence, and divorce (Family Pediatrics Report, 2003). According to Goldsmith (2000), parental abusive behavior results from "poor problem solving, negative interpretations of a child behavior, poor impulse control, poor social skills, and poor stress coping" (p.184). Goldsmith (2001) further suggested that stress leads to problems of parental feelings of depression, helplessness, anger, exhaustion, and marital tension. Wertlieb (2003) accentuated that “ conflict resolution, problem-solving, and open, reciprocal emotional expression” are linked to the health of a child (successful families, para. 2). Goldsmith (2000) also noted that parents who develop better management skills can help the family deal with stress and that well-developed management skills bring a sense of mastery and a feeling of being in control. A parent who develops such skills will find it easy to form strategies, solve problems, and adjust to change.

The Family Pediatrics Report (2003) pointed out that children of divorced parents are at greater risk of emotional and behavior problems,which include depression and poor school performance. Such children tend to have more social difficulties and more problematic relationships with one or both parents. The effects of divorce may continue to be evident into adulthood and can create future marital instability. When the needs within the single family are not met, the fulfillment of those needs may be sought in the community by illegitimate means. The children may exhibit emotional problems in school, or a parent may be unable to control her own emotions and anxieties sufficiently to function adequately in society (Phelan, 1979). According to the Family Pdiatrics Report (2003) “children who live with their stepparents and do not have regular contact with their birth mothers are less likely to have routine doctor or dentists visits or to have a place for usual medical care and also are less likely to wear seat belts” (step parenting section, para.1). In addition, The Family Pediatrics Report asserted that when fathers play a visible and nurturing role in their children’s lives, the children have better emotional and social outcomes and are more likely to have a stronger coping and adaptation skills, be better to equipped to solve problems, have longer-lasting relationships, and have higher work productivity.

METHOD

The purpose of this study is to determine the extent of awareness of family influences on the well-being of a child. The following research questions provided the focus of the study.

  1. Is the well-being of children influenced by how their family is structured and functions?
  2. Are family values and standards shaped during the extended time for which children are dependent upon adults to meet their basic needs?
Method of data collection

The survey instrument used in this study, to determine whether family structure plays a fundamental role in determining the well-being of a child, requested demographic data in addition to the responses to the five Likert-type survey questions. The survey instrument was arbitrarily distributed to students attending The Master’s College during the spring semester of 2004. Forty copies of the survey instrument were distributed; a total number of thirty-six copies of the survey instrument were completed and returned. All returned copies of the instrument were used in this study. The data collected from the thirty-six subjects will be discussed in subsequent sections, commencing with the reporting of the demographic findings.

Statistical Procedures

STATPAK software was employed to examine the data. The desired scale of measurement was interval. This scale measures the intervals between equal size of numbers on the scale (Brown, Cozby, Kee &Worden, 1999). The One-Dimension Chi-Square test was used to test the data because “it measures the significance of frequencies observed in different categories” (Gay, 1992, p. 443). The .05 level of significance was used to test the results of the study. Data retrieved from the demographic portion of the survey instrument are reported in tables and figures.

RESULT

The data collected from the thirty-six subjects indicated the following distribution: 64.2 percent female students and 35.8 percent male students. The ages of the participants are displayed in Table 2 and Figure 2. The analysis of research questions follows.

Research Question One

Is the well-being of children influenced by how well the family functions?

Questions 1, 2 and 3 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this research question.

Because the computed Chi-square values for questions #1, #2, #3 are less than the tabled values at the .05 level of significance, it can be concluded that there is not a statistically significant difference between the responses to question # 1, # 2 and # 3, thus suggesting that (a) committed parents do respect and support each other; (b) type of care received in childhood affects later relationships outside family; and (c) aggressive adults have experienced abuse growing up.

The findings from the question aligns with the research reported by The Family Pediatrics Report (2003), which noted that generally children do their best when they live in a 2-parent home (family structure section, para.1). The result from question 2 agrees with the study conducted by Elkin and Handel (1978) who stated that the way children are cared for in childhood affects their handling of important issues, such as trust vs. distrust and autonomy vs. disunity. This ability to handle important issues equips children for establishing later ties with people outside the family. The finding from question 3 is in line with the research conducted by Denton (1952) who noted that aggressive adults often come from homes that deprived them of the experiences of being happy.

Research Question Two

Are family values and standards shaped during the extended time for which children are dependent on adults to meet their basic needs? Questions #4 and #5 of the survey instrument located in Appendix A addressed this research question.

Because the computed Chi-square values for questions # 4 and #5 are less than the tabled values at the .05 level of significance, it can be concluded that there is not a statistically significant difference between the responses to question # 4 and #5, hence implying that (a) students from single families perform well despite their family structure and (b) a person is influenced by his or her parents’ characteristics in choosing a spouse.

The finding from question 4 deviates from the research conclusions in The Family Pediatrics Report (2003), which pointed out that children who experienced divorce attain lower scores. The result from question 5 supports the study conducted by Elkin and Handel (1978) who asserted that a father plays an important part in developing the masculinity identity for his son and the male image for his daughter.

Population Characteristics

The distribution of gender is presented in Table 1 and Figure 1

Table 1

Distribution of Gender

________________________________________________________________________________

Gender

Number

Percentage

________________________________________________________________________________

Female

23

64.2

Male

13

35.8

Total

36

100

________________________________________________________________________________

Figure 1. Distribution of gender

The distribution of ages is presented in Table 2. Figure 2 displays the distribution.

Table 2

Distribution by Age

________________________________________________________________________________

Age

Number

Percentage

________________________________________________________________________________

18

3

8.3

19

12

33.3

20

7

19.4

21

8

22.2

22

4

11.1

23

1

2.8

24

1

2.8

Total

36

100

________________________________________________________________________________

Figure 2. Distribution by age

Findings

Based on the one-dimensional Chi-square test

  • committed parents do respect and support each other;
  1. the way children are cared for in childhood influences their later relationships towards people outside their family;
  2. aggressive adults have experienced abuse growing up;
  3. students from single families perform well in school despite their family structure; and
  4. a person is influenced by his or her parents characteristics in choosing a spouse.
DISCUSSION

Within the stated purpose and findings of the study, the following conclusions appear warranted:

  • The well-being of students have been influenced by how well the family functions.
  • The values and standards of the students at The Master’s College were shaped during the period they were reliant on their parents.

The Review of Literature indicated that the family is the most prominent and continuing influence in a child’s life. Based on the findings of this research and concurrent with other research, it can be concluded that the family is one element that affects the emotional health of children. The reasons for this phenomenon are still quite complex, perhaps because the family is where children attain their fist experiences in life. Whatever the reasons for the perceived link between family structure and the well-being of children, it is clear that discipline mixed together with love is necessary for the emotional health of children.

However, due to the limited scope of this study, there may be many aspects that may not have been covered or determined. Consequently, further research is warranted regarding the influences of family on the development of a child’s behavior.

Recommendations for Further Study

This study provides some information regarding the influence of family on the welfare of a child. Additional questions pertaining to the topic warrant further investigation. Thus the following recommendations for further research and study are suggested:

  1. This study should be replicated, using a different population to determine whether or not family structure and functioning plays a basic role in determining the well-being of a child.
  2. A study should be conducted to determine whether family values and standards are shaped during the extended time for which children are dependent.
  3. The effects of trust versus distrust and those of autonomy versus disunity should be further studied.
  • Research should be conducted, using a different population to determine the effects of family influences on a child’s behavior.
REFERENCES

Brown, K. W., & Cozby, P. C. (1999). Research methods in human development. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

DeMoss, N. (2001). Lies women believe and the truth that sets them free. Chicago: Moody Press.

Denton, W. (1952).What’s happening to our family? Pennsylvania: Westminster Press.

Family pediatrics report of the task force on the family. (2003). Pediatrics, 111(6), 31- 1541.

Elkin, K. & Handel, G. (1978).The child and society: The process of socialization . New York: Random House.

Gay, R. (1992). Education research: competencies for analysis and application (4 th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company

Goldsmith, E. (2000). Resource management for individuals and family. United States: Wadsworth.

Phelan, G. (1979). Family relationships. Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Company.

Wertlieb, D. (2003). Converging Trends in Family Research and Pediatrics: Recent Findings for the American academy of pediatrics task force on the family[Electronic version]. Pediatrics, 111(6), 16-1572.

APPENDIX A
1542n1.jpg
FAMILY INFLUENCES ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CHILD’S BEHAVIOR
SURVEY INSTRUMENT

The purpose of this survey is to determine whether or not the well—being of the students here at The Master’s College has been influenced by their family structure and functioning. The results of this survey will be used for the Fundamentals of Home Economic research class (HE 300). Please fill out the survey honestly and completely, and it will be a great assistance in my research Thank you! (When completed, return to Kwalombota Mahalihali or send in box #1704 by April 2, 2004).

Circle the one that applies to you.

Gender: M F

Age 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements:

1. Parents that are committed in the up bringing of their children respect and support each other.

1
2
3
4
5
Strongly agree
Agree
Undecided
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

2. Children who are trained in their early years of life to say “thank you” and “please” to show politeness establish good ties with people outside their family.

1
2
3
4
5
Strongly agree
Agree
Undecided
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

3. Adults that have an aggressive behavior generally come from homes that have abused and denied them of their right to be happy.

1
2
3
4
5
Strongly agree
Agree
Undecided
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

4. Children that come from single—parent families usually do not perform well in school.

1
2
3
4
5
Strongly agree
Agree
Undecided
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

5. A person generally marries someone with similar character as their parents.

1
2
3
4
5
Strongly agree
Agree
Undecided
Disagree
Strongly Disagree


URC RESOURCES:

©2002-2016 All rights reserved by the Undergraduate Research Community.

Research Journal: Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 3 Vol. 4 Vol. 5 Vol. 6 Vol. 7 Vol. 8 Vol. 9 Vol. 10 Vol. 11 Vol. 12 Vol. 13 Vol. 14 Vol. 15
High School Edition

Call for Papers ¦ URC Home ¦ Kappa Omicron Nu

KONbutton K O N KONbutton