Attachment, Working Models of Parenting, and Expectations for Using Television in Childrearing

By Nathanson, Amy I.; Manohar, Uttara | Family Relations, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Attachment, Working Models of Parenting, and Expectations for Using Television in Childrearing


Nathanson, Amy I., Manohar, Uttara, Family Relations


This study used attachment theory to understand college students' working models of parenting and expectations for how they would use television in parenting. We found that secure parent-child attachment histories were related to more positive expectations of parenting and that avoidant and anxious-ambivalent parent-child attachment histories were related to more negative expectations of parenting. Avoidant parent-child attachment history was related to more positive views about television for children and in parenting, especially among adults with insecure adult attachments. In addition, students with more secure attachment histories had healthier views on using television with children. The implications of these results for understanding parents' use of television with their children as well the effects of television on children are discussed.

Key Words: attachment, children, parenting, television.

Statistics show that television has become a significant part of young children's lives (Rideout & Hamel, 2006). Today, most children begin watching television during infancy and continue viewing during the toddler and preschool years as well as beyond (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003, 2006; Vandewater et al., 2007). Rising numbers of parents install television sets in their infants' bedrooms (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003), and significant percentages of parents report using television deliberately, such as to calm, educate, and socialize their young children (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006). Parents' television use with children can be considered a form of parenting that is rooted in certain beliefs and attitudes about what is best for children.

We may gain insight into why children are watching television at such young ages by investigating working models of parenthood among adults who have not yet had children. College students without children should have expectations about parenting that are based on their own parent-child relationships and that may include allowing television viewing to play a significant role in parenting. The purpose of this study was to understand nonparents' working models of parenting, especially as they pertain to incorporating television into parenting styles. We explored the role that parent-child and adult attachment styles each play in shaping nonparents' expectations for how they would use television in parenting.

Working Models of Parenthood

Before becoming parents, adults have conceptions about what parenting involves and expectations for how they would relate to their children. Adults may differ in their perceptions of the demands and rewards of parenting, how to discipline children, how much time they should spend with their children, and their anticipated level of emotional connection with their children.

These "working models of parenting" (Rholes, Simpson, Blakely, Lanigan, & Allen, 1997) become especially important when adults have children. Adults who expect parenting to be mostly demanding may spend less time with their children in order to avoid unpleasant feelings. In addition, working models can serve as perceptual filters in that adults with unfavorable expectations of parenting may view their children negatively, as manipulative or unreasonable, when their children express ageappropriate needs. Adults with positive expectations of parenting may interpret the same child behaviors differently. These parents may interpret their infant's persistent crying as a request for comfort and may respond more sympathetically.

Working models of parenting have usually been studied among couples who are expecting thetr first child. Delmore-Ko, Pancer, Hunsberger, and Pratt (2000) studied adults' expectations for having a child during the prepartum period and classified them as either prepared, fearful, or complacent regarding impending parenthood. They found that both men and women who were classified as prepared experienced less stress and better adjustment once the baby arrived. …

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