Parents are a child’s first learning centre. Even before a child is admitted to a school to learn about the world, it imbibes everything, consciously or unconsciously, which he/she encounters in his immediate environment. According to recent findings, it has been reported that the nature of parenting affects the social behaviour of a child greatly.
Incorporating what a child sees at home, he or she is likely to behave similarly when he faces social situations. An environment which provided more love and support would make the child more amiable, whereas encountering a lack of sympathy and harsh milieu would probably make him much more aggressive and cynical.
According to a study conducted with over 227 identical pairs of twins, a team of researchers studied the minor differences in the parenting technique that each pair experienced. They used this data to interpret whether the difference in parenting impacted on the social behaviour of the child - and the factors that caused antisocial behaviour. The team observed that the pair which was brought up in a relatively strict environment and received a harsh treatment from their parents were at a greater risk of developing anti-social behaviour in their lives. They had a greater chance of showcasing aggression and callous-unemotional (CU) traits,
"Some of the early work on callous-unemotional traits focused on their biological bases, like genetics and the brain, making the argument that these traits develop regardless of what is happening in a child's environment, that parenting doesn't matter. We felt there must be something we could change in the environment that might prevent a susceptible child from going down the pathway to more severe antisocial behaviour," said Waller, an assistant professor in Penn's Department of Psychology, where the study was carried out.
Waller and the team studied various aspects of parenting and observed the impact of different techniques of parenting on the child. The analysis first considered the biological parent and their child. It inferred that warmth and the security that a child received from his or her parents played a significant role in determining whether a child would develop CU traits. Subsequently, children who were adopted - i.e. parents who were not biologically related to the child - were also studied, to consider any findings related to genes. The results, however, were consistent. "We couldn't blame that on genetics because these children don't share genes with their parents." Waller said.
However, the researcher also added, "But it still didn't rule out the possibility that something about the child's genetic characteristics was evoking certain reactions from the adoptive parent." In other words, a parent who is warm and positive may have a hard time maintaining those behaviours if the child never reciprocates.
Parents of identical twins were asked to answer a 50-items questionnaire about the environment at home. They were asked to rate the harshness and warmth levels too - assessing statements like "I often lose my temper with my child" and "My child knows I love him/her." The child’s mother was also asked to report on 35 characteristics of the child which related to aggression and CU traits - which could foster anti-social behaviour in the child.
"The study convincingly shows that parenting, and not just genes, contributes to the development of risky callous-unemotional traits," said Hyde, an associate professor in Michigan's Department of Psychology. "Because identical twins have the same DNA, we can be surer that the differences in parenting the twins received affect the development of these traits."
The evaluation also helps in understanding the different forms of antisocial behaviour in people and the root cause of such conducts. "This provides strong evidence that parenting is also important in the development of callous-unemotional traits," Hyde said. "The good news is we know that treatments can help parents who may need extra support with children struggling with these dangerous behaviours."
(With Inputs from ANI)