Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

use is mother-driven in that at least one social construction, namely birth order, seems to affect mothers' language use; we can label this a social construction because there are no corresponding birth order differences in the children's language. The question of whether differential maternal language use is relationship-driven was not assessed in this study. The study of relationship-driven sources may very well replace the study of child-driven and parent-driven sources. Family context variables were assessed in this study and did not seem to account for differential maternal language use at all; however, power was low in these analyses.


Future Directions for Research on Parent-Child Relations

We have argued that the parent-child relationship must be studied as a relationship; that is, parent effects cannot be studied without studying child effects. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the value in studying child effects through the study of differential parental treatment of siblings. Finally, we have offered a taxonomy of potential sources of differential parental treatment of siblings that we hope will guide future research. We offer several specific suggestions as well.

A fruitful way to study adaptability is to study an individual with different partners (see Bell & Harper, 1977). We have used this strategy by studying mothers and children in semi-natural contexts; however, this strategy can be used experimentally, too. Both experimental and nonexperimental manipulations of partners should be conducted to determine whether findings replicate.

Child effects and parent effects should be assessed in the same study. One way to conduct such a study would be to use a round-robin methodology ( Kenney & LaVoie, 1984), where each individual in a relationship is observed with multiple partners. We have conducted such a study and our preliminary analyses reveal that child effects, mother effects, and relationship effects operate simultaneously ( McCartney & Jordan, in prep.).

It seems like a truism that relationship effects are transactional. Thus, the answers to many of our questions about reciprocal influence in parent-child relations probably lies in longitudinal research that takes into account the dynamics of the evolving relationship. Individual patterns in growth ( Ragosa, Brandt, & Zimowski, 1982) may very well be associated with the relationship between a parent and child on various indicators of personality and intelligence.

Finally, it seems critical to remember that any effects may vary across and/or within domains. Here, the existing literature should help identify domains in which we can expect parent effects, child effects, and relationship effects.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research was supported by a grant to the first author ( McCartney), by NIMH (R01 MH41807). Many research assistants helped to collect and code the data that are presented here. The authors are especially grateful to three

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