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Beyond nature vs. nurture: Parental guidance boosts child's strengths, shapes development
Date:12/2/2010

Why does a child grow up to become a lawyer, a politician, a professional athlete, an environmentalist or a churchgoer?

It's determined by our inherited genes, say some researchers. Still others say the driving force is our upbringing and the nurturing we get from our parents.

But a new child-development theory bridges those two models, says psychologist George W. Holden at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Holden's theory holds that the way a child turns out can be determined in large part by the day-to-day decisions made by the parents who guide that child's growth.

"This model helps to resolve the nature-nurture debate," Holden says. "Effective parents are taking nature into account in their nurturing. It's a slightly different twist."

Parental guidance is key Child development researchers largely have ignored the importance of parental "guidance," Holden says. In his model, effective parents observe, recognize and assess their child's individual genetic characteristics, then cultivate their child's strengths.

"It's been said that parents are the 'architect' or the 'conductor' of a child's development. There are lots of different synonyms, but the terms don't capture the essence that parents are trying to 'guide,'" Holden says. "Some parents have more refined goals like wanting their child to be an athlete or to have a particular career. Some have more general goals such as not wanting their child to become a criminal. But all are positive goals."

Holden describes and explains his theory and research in the article "Childrearing and Developmental Trajectories: Positive Pathways, Off-ramps, and Dynamic Processes" in the current issue of the journal Child Development Perspectives. The theory is also detailed in his child psychology textbook, "Parenting, A Dynamic Perspective," published by Sage Publications Inc., 2010.

Parents help or hinder progress

In decades past, re
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

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