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

searchers have studied many aspects of parenting that Holden describes as "unidimensional" and easier to quantify than guidance. Examples include: how parents reinforce their children's behavior, punish their children or show them love and warmth.

Only in the last decade have researchers studied the role parents play in helping or hindering their child's progress toward or abandonment of a particular course of development, he says.

"It's not an easy set of behaviors to observe and quantify because it's more complex in that it relates to parental goals that they have for their children," he says. "It's also multi-faceted. It's not a simple unitary behavior that can be easily and reliably counted up. So there are methodological reasons it hasn't been studied, and there are also biases and theoretical orientations that have neglected this."

The time has come, however, to understand the impact of parental guidance, Holden says. Sophisticated statistical procedures now allow new research techniques such as growth-curve modeling and group-based trajectory analysis. Other child development experts have ventured into the interaction between child and parent trajectories, says Holden. He hopes many more will join in advancing the concept, which he considers critical to understanding child development.

"I'm certainly not the first to think of this, but I've framed it a little differently and I think a little more comprehensively than it's been discussed before," Holden says. "I'm sure there are things I haven't thought of, so hopefully this will generate discussion, research and modification. And I hope it will trickle down to parents so they can see the critical role they can play in helping their children develop in positive ways."

Pathways or trajectories

In his conceptual framework, Holden hypothesizes that parents guide their children's development in four complex and dynamic ways:

  • Parents
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

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