Parental Belief Systems: The Psychological Consequences for Children

Parental Belief Systems: The Psychological Consequences for Children

Parental Belief Systems: The Psychological Consequences for Children

Parental Belief Systems: The Psychological Consequences for Children

Excerpt

Irving E. Sigel
Educational Testing Service

Studies of parent-child relationships have a long history among developmental psychologists. The reason for such interest is obvious: The child is the father of the man or the mother of the woman and the child's parents are a primal source of genetic, social, and psychological influence. With this guiding belief, thousands of studies have been reported over the past 50 years. What is of particular interest is that all these studies clearly reflect the prevailing psychological theories that have guided research in social and personality development. In the 1920s and 1930s the parent-child research studies that prevailed focused on parent discipline, attitudes, etc., research paradigms common to behavioral science research in general. However, behavior-type theories dominated the psychological literature, with their attendant emphasis on so-called objective methods of experimentation. Critics decried the parent-child studies done in naturalistic settings as imprecise, nonconceptual, etc. After all, experimentation was the critical method for scientific respectability in the behavioral sciences, in spite of the respectability of nonexperimental research among such descriptive sciences as astronomy and botany. The pervasiveness of experimentation tended to relegate parent-child studies to the least desirable category. In spite of these conflicts a major observational study, well executed and meeting all the criteria of scientific rigor, was the early work of Baldwin,Kalhorn, and Breese (1945). Numerous studies followed, using behavioristic, psychoanalytic, and social learning perspectives as theory, each testing the relationship between parental attutides or feelings or disciplinary techniques and children's personal-social and/or intellectual development (Baumrind, 1971; Becker, 1964; Sigel,Dreyer, &McGillicuddy-DeLisi, 1984).

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