2007). Further, if child care hours increased between three and 54 months (4 1/2) years, their vocabulary scores are lowered by the time they reach 5th grade (Belsky et al., 2007). This suggests that long-term child care use has important implications not only on children's socio-emotional functioning but on academic achievement as well.
Knowing this, it becomes more evident that parents cannot overlook the importance of choosing high quality child care if only to moderate the effects of long-term child care use.
Earlier, it was mentioned that high-quality child care is a predictor of positive pre-academic skills. Follow-up studies on the same children show that this is a potentially enduring effect; all other factors being equal, their vocabulary scores were consistently higher through the 5th and 6th grades than children who did not attend child care (Belsky et al., 2007). This again shows that children's early experience is critical to their language development. This has important implications for children from low-income or disadvantaged families who may not be exposed to rich vocabulary at home.
To summarize, parents intending to use child care need to be assured that it is a worthwhile investment as long as they know how to make it work for them. First, they (especially the mothers) have to be comfortable using child care. Second, they have to pick the best they can afford because high-quality care in any form seems to be a predictor of enduring positive cognitive-language outcomes. Finally, if at all possible, parents (again, especially mothers) should consider part-time work and consequently part-time child care arrangements for mutually exclusive benefits in terms of mother and child well being.
Q2. Parental role in social development
Parents are their children's first influence in many aspects of social functioning. From them they learn the basic rules of social interactions and develop an internal working model of relationships. Since social behavior is invariably linked to psychological behavior and concurrently affects cognitive functioning, the impact of child-parent relationships on child development cannot be overemphasized. The extent of parenting style influence on the psycho-social functioning of children is the focus of this paper. Specifically, it will attempt to answer the following questions: Can parenting style predict child psycho-social behavior? Is there continuity in parental influence on social development? How important is culture in predicting children's social outcomes?
Among all possible predictors of child psycho-social behavior, nothing has more profound and enduring effects than the maternal care giving quality received during the early childhood years. This contention is represented by many theories on child development and supported by vast empirical evidence, including the landmark studies of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (SECC) that have been carefully and selectively collated by the NICHD Early Child Care and Research Network (ECCRN). Maternal care giving quality is instrumental to infant-mother attachment and experts have identified different patterns of adaptation among infants based on this interaction from the now classic Strange Situation Experiments pioneered in the 70's. These patterns are identified as secure, avoidant, anxious-resistant, and disorganized, with the latter three grouped under insecure attachment.
In general, securely attached babies are confident, able to express and regulate their emotions, and adapt creatively to new circumstances - traits that stem from a base caregiver or mother who responds appropriately to their needs (Ainsworth, 1978). These traits are thought to help them form healthy and stable peer relationships during pre-school and early childhood (Carlson and Sroufe, 1995, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006).
On the other hand, insecurely attached babies usually have primary caregivers who either ignored and rejected them or were inconsistently available and responsive to their needs (Ainsworth, 1978). Children with insecure attachment patterns tend to rate lower in social interactions than those with secure attachment histories. In the case of babies who were constantly ignored or rejected, they are usually emotionally inhibited and find it difficult to control their anger (avoidant pattern). They are also at risk for developing behavioral problems like aggression and having difficulties in establishing friendships later (Carlson and Sroufe, 1995; Cassidy and Kobak, 1988; Kobak and Sceery, 1988, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006).
Infants whose caregivers were not consistent in their availability and responsiveness are likely to be attention seeking and easily distressed (anxious-resistant pattern; Carlos and Sroufe, 1995, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006). They are likely to withdraw in unfamiliar settings, have heightened personal fears, and can be inappropriately aggressive or excessively passive (Carlson and Sroufe, 1995, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006). Studies show that in pre-school and early childhood, these children may be overly-anxious, unable to cope with distress, easily frustrated, and have feelings of unworthiness (Bowlby, 1980, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006). Insecure-resistant types are also likely to have less self-control and assertion among friends (McElwain et al., 2003, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006) compared to securely attached babies.
A third pattern among insecurely attached infants has been identified as "disorganized," called as such because of the unclear organization of the attachment strategy itself. This appears to be the least understood among the three and is characterized by contradictory and disoriented behavior during the Strange Situation (Cassidy and Mohr, 2001, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006). Unlike the other types of insecure infants, they are at greater risk for psychopathology, aggression, and defiant disorder in childhood (Greenberg, 1999; Lyons-Ruth & Jacobvitz, 1999; van IJzendoorn, Schuengel & Bakerman-Kranenburg 1999, in NICHD ECCRN, 2006).
As much as early attachments have been shown to predict social behavior among children, recent studies also suggest that concurrent parenting styles may have a dynamic effect on subsequent socio-emotional outcomes. Specifically, when maternal parenting changes, there may be concomitant effects on the child's social outcomes regardless of her early attachment history. The NICHD examined the association between early infant attachment classifications and children's later social competence and behavior problems during the school transition years (pre-school, kindergarten, and grade 1) under both stable and changing conditions of parental quality. What they found out was that under stable conditions, the early attachment theory was consistent in predicting social outcomes, as assessed by both parents and teachers, during the school transition years. However, under changing parenting conditions, the results took a different turn particularly for those with insecure-attachment histories (NICHD ECCRN, 2006).
When maternal parenting quality improved over time, children with a history of insecure attachments showed fewer externalizing behaviors (e.g. delinquency and aggression) than insecurely attached children who received the same or declining parental quality (NICHRD, 2006). Conversely, insecurely attached children showed more externalizing factors when parenting style declined over time. This suggests that intervening parental behavior can redirect social development pathways predicted by early childhood attachment experiences.
Longitudinal studies on the social development of adopted children support the view that concurrent experience and attachment history are both important in predicting middle childhood and adolescent social behavior (studies on adopted children have the advantage of eliminating the confounding of genetic similarities and parenting effects; Stams, Juffer, & IJzendoorn, 2002). They report that high-quality attachment security again uniquely predicts better social development during middle childhood (Stams, Juffer, & IJzendoorn, 2002). Further, they show that maternal sensitivity during middle childhood predict less difficult temperament in adolescence, which in turn is related to optimal social behavior (Jaffari-Bimmel et al., 2006). These suggest that parental role on children's social development remains significant over time.
Indeed, experts have come to view social development as a function of time rather than being heavily reliant on early experiences and relationships. Parent-child relationships change as children grow older and presumably as parents become more mature themselves. Unique family situations such as divorce, stress, relocation, and even abuse can contribute to a dynamic environment around which socialization may evolve (Lamb et al., 1999). One environmental factor that hasn't been emphasized as yet in social developmental studies is the effect of cross-cultural differences. Few studies have compared adult-children relationships outside the Western world. Research done in Japan and Israel suggest that the Strange Situation behavior can vary from one culture to another. For instance, Japanese babies appear to be unusually distressed because of their mothers' culturally determined inordinate behavior (Miyake et al., 1985 in Lamb et al., 1999). So are Israeli babies raised in kibbutzes where encounters with strangers are rare (Sagi et al., 1985 in Lamb et al., 1999).
Cultural differences are also evident in the effect of parents' control as shown in a comparative study of American and Chinese young adolescents' psychological functioning.
Over time, parents' behavioral control (i.e. over activities and actions) predicts American but not Chinese children's increased emotional well being, whereas parent's psychological control (i.e. over thoughts and feelings) predict American but not Chinese decreased learning strategies (Wang, Pomerantz, & Chen, 2007). In other words, in American society where autonomy and independence are encouraged, behavioral control benefits children presumably because it provides them guidance, whereas psychological control hurts them because it affects their sense of self (Wang, Pomerantz, & Chen, 2007). In contrast, in Chinese culture where interpersonal relatedness and parental authority are valued over individuality, parents' intrusion in whatever form is less of an…