Children's perceptions of parental roles

Christine S Lessuck Namer, Pace University


Parenting may be considered one of the most difficult tasks that humans have to perform; for people, unlike other animals are not born knowing how to be parents. While other animal species exhibit instinctive parenting behaviors, humans do not. The necessary skills and knowledge for parenting must be acquired through a process of modeling, education, and experience. Yet, it has long been a societal belief that parents have an inherent understanding of how to parent, and that they will instinctively perform as parents. Psychologists, educators, and parents themselves, only recently have begun to study the education and psychological well-being of children. Thus, the overall growth of parent-child relationships, how the parent role develops, changes, and adapts over time, and the complexity involved in parenting is just now being addressed. In order to examine the complexities associated with parenting, researchers often view parenting as a social role that is to be performed by parents. A social role refers to a category of people, a societal relationship, and a set of expectations of how people in the category should act. Parent Role Development Theory (PRDT) has been developed to examine how the parent role shifts and changes over time, and has identified the following parental characteristics: bonding, discipline, education, general welfare and protection, responsivity, and sensitivity. The current study contributes to our understanding of the importance and complexities attributed to the parent role from the perspective of the child. Questions for investigation were: (1) Do children acknowledge the important parental characteristics that have been identified from the research literature? (2) Do children view the roles of mothers and fathers similarly? Are mothers and fathers equal providers of parental characteristics to their children? (3) How are gender differences in children reflected in their responses concerning importance of parental characteristics? Do boys and girls differ in what they think parents do? (4) Do children perceive particular characteristics of parenting as shifting over time relative to their own developmental stages? For example, do affectional needs and needs to be protected and cared for assume lesser importance, while aspects of discipline, and/or education assume greater importance with changes in development? (5) Do children view the characteristics of responsivity and sensitivity (which encompass parent-child communication and empathy) as decreasing over time? (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Preschool education|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Lessuck Namer, Christine S, "Children's perceptions of parental roles" (1998). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9816325.



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