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Parent-child Interaction

Behavioral scientists have also approached the question of how to best understand relations between the parental role and child outcomes through studying parent-child interaction. This method focuses on the dyadic relationship between one parent (historically the mother) and one child. From a family systems perspective, the dyadic relationship represents one piece of a larger puzzle. Nonetheless, emphasis on the dyadic relationship has been fruitful and has dominated decades of parenting literature. Parent-child interaction research has shown that the interaction between parent and child is linked to a variety of social outcomes including aggression, achievement, and moral development. Significant associations between parent-child interaction and child outcomes are impressive not because of their size, which is often small, but because of the unique influence they have on child development amid the array of other family, school, and community influences on any given child. Behavioral scientists have "turned over many stones" in their search for influential parental characteristics. Examples of parental qualities that have been repeatedly identified as salient predictors of positive development include parental responsiveness, lack of hostility and controlling parenting, and positive parental affect.

Studies conducted in the 1990s found unique effects for fathers' interaction apart from effects from mothers with respect to cognitive and social development. Thus, it is no longer accurate to view fathers' role in the household as instrumental (e.g., breadwinner) while mothers influence all emotional development. Despite the lesser amount of time fathers spend with children, fathers' interaction patterns contribute to children's emotional development apart from the influence of mothers. Further, parent-child interaction research has evolved from simply matching behaviors on the part of parents with behaviors displayed by their children. Contemporary work focuses on psychological processes that underlie associations between parenting and child adjustment, such as emotional understanding, emotional regulatory skills, mental representations, attributions and beliefs, and problem-solving skills.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6Parenting - Who Is Socializing U.s. Children?, Qualitative Aspects Of Parenting, Parenting Style, Parent-child Interaction - Quantitative Aspects of Parenting