Archive for the ‘
Behavior ’ Category
Monday, November 25th, 2013
When discussing the 4 types of sibling relationships, the unique profile of siblings who have high levels of both positivity and negativity in their relationship was flagged. Why is this group particularly salient to researchers who study siblings? Because they are more likely to get in trouble – together.
The idea was formalized decades ago by the late Dr. David Rowe. He was studying twins and examining their similarity for delinquent behavior during the teen years. He found that twins were very much alike in this regard – if one twin was getting into trouble, the other twin was likely to do so as well. But the key observation was that this similarity was not due to genetics – something the twin design gets at by comparing identical and fraternal twins. Similarity for DNA didn’t matter much. What mattered was how much time the twins spent together, and if they had common friends.
Now of course just spending time together with a sibling doesn’t promote delinquency. Over the years, research has shown that the combination of both high positivity – hanging out, having fun, having common friends – and high negativity – fighting, arguing – signals the possibility of rule breaking behavior in the teen years. Observational research shows how this can happen. These sibs end up laughing and fighting at the same time – and they end up enjoying and reinforcing each other’s negative behaviors (one hits, the other laughs, hits back, they laugh). Getting into trouble becomes fun. Other studies show how this becomes a mechanism by which an older sibling introduces a younger sibling to substances at very early ages – ages which are problematic. These influences are most prominent when sibs are closer in age (typically within a few years) – but the principle applies to both brothers and sisters (so it’s not just limited to boys).
So what’s a parent to do? How do you know if what’s going on is just part of the complex sib relationship – or the foundation for legal difficulties in the teen years? A few things to keep in mind. First, maintain good limit setting and monitoring – sibs can join forces and undermine parental efforts. Second, don’t let the negative get out of hand in the early years. Just because it’s normative for sibs to argue and fight now and then doesn’t mean it should define their relationship – it becomes habit and carries over to other social relationships. Third, keep an eye on what the older sib is introducing to the younger sib – no 12-year-old should be exposed to drinking or substances.
While sibling relationship features don’t guarantee developmental pathways, having insight into the ways in which the sibling bond can lead to problem behaviors.
Twins Fighting via Shutterstock.com
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Brothers, Delinquency, Health, Kids Health, Siblings, Sisters, Teen Drinking, teen drug use | Categories:
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Friday, November 22nd, 2013
This guest post by Dr. Claire Elizabeth Cameron breaks down the take-home messages on how dads contribute to early child development.
Most of the research on parenting has focused on moms. But a recent review of the literature – specifically a meta-analysis of almost two dozen studies of father involvement during early childhood – illustrates the specific parenting features by which dads have a positive influence on their kid’s development in the early years.
During the years from 3 to 8, how much time dads spent with their kids, as well as how positively (or negatively) they interacted with them, related to how children performed on cognitive, social, and behavioral assessments. In fact, fathers made the greatest relative contribution to their children’s social and self-control skills, compared to cognitive skills.
Features of “positive dad parenting” are consistent with generally effective parenting, and include:
- Spending time together
- Expressing warmth to your child
- Providing support for your child’s learning without controlling too much, or being overbearing
- Setting appropriate limits and consistently enforcing those limits, without harshly punishing your child
Spending time together…sharing warm moments…all dads want those things. But what if your youngster is unruly, obstinate, or just plain hard to get along with? The researchers on this study acknowledge that rather than involved dads producing better behaved kids, it is just as likely that well-behaved, self-controlled children are easier for fathers to spend time with. Yet beyond this “chicken or egg” question is a clear message: early childhood is a critical time for dads to engage with their offspring.
So, Dads – what to do if your child makes it difficult to share enjoyable moments together?
First, think about what could be motivating your son or daughter’s undesirable behavior. Rarely are children deliberately trying to irritate you when they act out. Instead, he or she could be tired, hungry, or looking for some attention but not be able to ask in a more productive way. If you figure out what’s really behind the pouts or whines, it’s like playing offense instead of defense.
Second, try to model the behaviors that you want to see in your child. Want a child who can keep their temper in check? Try deep breathing or taking a moment of “time out” if you yourself become angry. Show your child the power of earning a reward (like a treat or a favorite TV program) by setting goals for yourself and indulging only after you’ve met the goals, rather than whenever you feel like it.
Third, doing just one thing at a time can make whatever you are doing more enjoyable, and this includes interacting with your child. So, for some meaningful one-on-one time, put the cell phone and video games on the shelf and find something active or creative for the two of you to do together.
Fourth, when in doubt, go easy on yourself. In this study, simply spending time together was as important for children’s behavior as cultivating specific, positive interactions that take lots of energy. So if you are exhausted at the end of a long day, just bring your child along as you relax in your regular routine. Your child will appreciate the time with you.
Claire Elizabeth Cameron is a Research Scientist with expertise in early childhood development at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). She received BAs in Honors Psychology and Italian, a MS in Developmental Psychology, and a PhD in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan before completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Institute for Education Sciences at CASTL.
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Kids Talk about Loving their Daddy
Dad and Child via Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Toddlers, kids, tweens, and teens may pose unique parenting challenges – but there are some principles that apply across all those developmental periods that help promote good, compliant, social behavior. There are 2 constructs that have been shown in research to be key parenting strategies. They are:
1) Limit Setting. Every toddler, tween, and teen needs limit setting. They need to know their boundaries and how to respect them. Some things are off-limits. Some behaviors are not acceptable. Think of providing clear, consistent rules that make sense. A toddler can’t run around and touch every thing they want in a store. A tween can’t talk back to a parent disrespectfully. A teen can’t stay out all night. You can come up with a whole bunch across the ages – but the limits should be clear, to the point, developmentally appropriate, and enforced with consistency. And of course as kids age the limits change – but the principle remains the same. There are limits, they are set, they are adhered to, and there are (appropriate) consequences to not abiding.
2) Monitoring. As toddlers begin to assert their independence, monitoring becomes really important – and remains important through the teen years. Parents of toddlers need to keep an eye on them. Using the example from above, it’s one thing to say a toddler can’t run around a store and touch everything that looks appealing. It’s another thing to actually monitor them to follow through on that. Same principle down the developmental line. It gets hard – we can’t know what our kids are doing every second of the day. But it’s our obligation to be as informed as possible and to be proactive about the need to monitor. As kids get older, an open line of communication is essential as kids spend more and more time outside the home. Mobile technology – which is becoming commonplace – is certainly a tool that can be used in a good way to stay in touch with our kids and keep the lines of communication open to permit remote monitoring and aid limit setting.
Parenting can be tough. Consistency can be hard to achieve. But keeping in mind basic principles to guide our parenting strategies can help us keep the big picture in mind – and give us a framework that is applicable to nearly every developmental stage.
Find out what your parenting style is with our handy quiz. Then, browse through these no-fail tantrum tamers.
Ask Your Mother via Shutterstock.com
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How to Discipline Your Kids
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Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Growing up with a sibling is complicated. Siblings get along – and don’t get along – in many different ways. But there’s a simple principle – when expanded a bit – that guides a straightforward way of making sense of the type of relationship siblings have at a given point in time and development. (I’ve said it that way because the nature of the relationship can change over time … but more on that later).
First, the simple principle. You know that you can categorize a sibling relationship in terms of both positive and negative dimensions. Siblings express different degrees of positivity towards each other – we think about it in terms of how much warmth/affection they display, how much they like spending time with each other, how much they laugh when they are together, how they may express concern for each other. Siblings also (no surprise here) also can exhibit lots of negativity – fighting, arguing, hostility, and rivalry.
Okay, now the expansion. The degree of positivity in the sibling relationship is not highly associated with the degree of negativity. The formal way of saying this statistically is that they are “orthogonal” dimensions – they are not that highly correlated with each other. The better way of saying it is that knowing how much positivity siblings share does not necessarily tell us how much negativity exists in their relationship. You can have high levels of both, high levels of one or the other, or low levels of both.
So … the implication is that you can create, in a simple and descriptive way, 4 types of sibling relationships. The trick is to “rate” each dimension – positivity and negativity – as either high or low. Think of high as “more of rather than less of” and think of low as “less of rather than more of.” Yes, this is an arbitrary way of doing it – but one that actually works quite well empirically in research studies. Once you do that, then you get 4 types of sibling relationships:
- HIGH POSITIVITY, HIGH NEGATIVITY
- HIGH POSITIVITY, LOW NEGATIVITY
- LOW POSITIVITY, HIGH NEGATIVITY
- LOW POSITIVITY, LOW NEGATIVITY
Why are these typologies helpful? They tell us a lot about how a given pair of siblings influence each other:
- Kids who are low on both positivity and negativity tend not to influence each other so much – they kind of quietly co-exist with not a lot of interaction.
- The low positivity/high negativity sibs are the ones who constantly fight and argue and don’t like spending much time together. They can be problematic because they can reinforce hostile and coercive behaviors which spill out to other relationships outside the home.
- Sibs who are high positivity/low negativity tend to complement (and compliment) each other – they function like buddies and as support systems.
- The high positive/high negative sibs are an interesting lot – they spend lots of time together, have mutual friends, are very connected socially, and … are statistically more likely to break rules and get into trouble together, particularly in the teen years. They are the most complex developmentally and clinically and often have similar trajectories … which sometimes are not very good ones.
There are a few key points to keep in mind. Like any type of categorical system, this one makes probabilistic claims, not definitive ones. Age differences matter, as does gender composition. When there are more than 2 kids in a family, all kinds of dynamics exist, including a variety of potentially different sibling relationships. Importantly, sibling relationships can change over time – and as the sibling relationship extends through many developmental phases, it may morph more than once.
All that said, this typology offers a way to think about the different ways that siblings may, or may not, influence each other – and speaks to the range of experiences that siblings have throughout their life.
Baby Sister and Big Sister via Shutterstock.com
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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
The debate circulates periodically in the parenting world – is it better to be an only child, or to grow up with siblings? Research findings will be cherry picked to support whatever position is endorsed. Personal experience will be cited. But as someone who has observed families – lots of families, all across the country – in many settings (research and clinical), I have a very simple answer to the question of which is better:
Now, of course there are plenty of unique features to being an only child, or being a sibling. But there is so much variation out there it seems absurd to me to claim that, structurally, being an only child versus having siblings is inherently preferable. And I’m not inclined to be swayed by trends in certain studies that point to small statistical effects. Only children are not “spoiled” unless a parent spoils them. There are plenty of “spoiled” children who have siblings. Growing up with a sibling can set a platform for the most intimate and long-lasting relationship a person may have. Then again, there are siblings who can’t stand each other. Some kids who don’t have siblings wish they did – and others grow up fine without one. Come up with any scenario and you can find someone who fits the profile – and someone who doesn’t.
Let’s face it, what really mattes is how a child is brought up – whether there is only one, or more than one, child in a household.
Raising an only child has unique demands. Raising more than one child does as well. But in either case, there’s either good parenting, or not so good parenting – or put another way, a healthy family climate or one that is problematic. That’s the big effect you will see in the data that will tell you plenty about a child – and what kind of person they become.
Plus: Are you ready for another child? Take our quiz and find out!
Sesame Street Lessons: Brothers and Sisters
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