Representative image
Representative image

Warm ties with peers, teachers may offset effects of punitive parents

ANI | Updated: Nov 26, 2018 20:10 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Nov 26 (ANI): According to a recent study, warm ties with teachers and friendships with peers can help promote better behaviour in harshly-parented children.
The study was published in the Journal of Development and Psychopathology. Angry and highly critical parenting is more likely to result in children with defiant, noncompliant and revengeful behavior that spills over to adulthood and can also impact relationships in the future.
However, the study by researchers at UC San Francisco has confirmed this link and found that kindergarten may provide a unique opportunity for these children to retool negative behavior.
The researchers looked at 338 kindergartners in six public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. They found that 10 percent of the children met the criteria for oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Among this group, 71 percent had been exposed to high levels of harsh parenting, versus 29 percent who had been raised with lower levels of harsh parenting.
Harsh parenting was assessed according to 18 statements, which the parents were instructed to rank on a seven-point scale ranging from "extremely true" to "extremely untrue." Statements centered on parents' discipline strategies, such as "I believe physical punishment to be the best way of disciplining" and "I do not allow my child to question my decisions."
ODD was assessed according to parent and teacher questionnaires that asked them to rank the frequency with which the child argued with adults and peers, blamed others for their mistakes and had temper tantrums. The children's own perceptions of their behavior were included in the assessment.
ODD is characterised by angry and irritable mood, argumentative and defiant behavior, and spiteful outbursts, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In young children, the condition is linked with a high risk in adolescence and adulthood for antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and criminal offenses.
The researchers discovered that when harshly parented children were liked and accepted by their classmates, according to interviews with their peers and teacher reports. They exhibited fewer undesirable traits. This subset was found to have 64 percent lower symptoms of ODD than those who were not liked.
"Acceptance within one's peer group creates opportunities for socialisation and a sense of belonging that acts as a buffer against the impact of harsh parenting," said study author Danielle Roubinov.
"Healthy peer relationships may have an attenuating influence by modeling or providing children with feedback about the inappropriate nature of oppositional behaviors acquired from harsh interactions with parents," added Roubinov.
Roubinov and her team also found that a warm relationship with classroom teachers mitigated adverse behavior in these harshly parented kindergartners. Symptoms of ODD were 29 percent lower in this group if the teacher-student relationship was close. This confirms previous studies by other researchers that reported that positive teacher-student relationships were linked with less aggressive behavior in children.
"The teacher-child relationship has frequently been framed in terms of extended attachment theory, and a high-quality teacher-child relationship may function in a manner analogous to the secure base of a child's primary attachment, the parent. Warm relationships may improve children's self-regulation, positive emotionality and responsiveness to warnings about oppositional behaviour," said Roubinov.
The results of the study suggest that treating ODD outside of the family environment may be helpful. (ANI)