During weeks 1 and 2 you have explored how parenting expectations, experiences and styles are influenced by many factors. The learning resources suggest several ways to provide parenting information and related family supports. For Assignment 1 due Week 2 you will use this information to create an enticing flyer for a parenting class that is designed to help prepare new parents. Your flyer should include:
1. The purpose of the parenting class – including why it is important
2. At least 5 distinct topics that will be addressed in the class noting why each is important. Be sure to cite resources to back this up.
3. Be creative – how would you entice parents or parents to be to come?
Flyer length minimum 500 words, 2 academic references used, MS word or RTF format only.
|Possible grade||Student grade|
|The paper addresses the issues specified by the assignment – 5 parenting topics described.||20|
|The author shows insight and sophistication in thinking and writing||30|
|Two academic references were used with corresponding citations in the body of the paper||20|
|Paper was well organized and easy to follow. Paper was the required length. Cover page, paper body, citations and Reference list were in the American Psychological Association format.||20|
|Few to no spelling, grammar, punctuation or other writing structure errors||10|
HELPFUL CLASS REQUIRED READING
PARENTING: SCIENCE AND PRACTICE, 12: 212–221, 2012 ISSN: 1529-5192 print / 1532-7922 online DOI: 10.1080/15295192.2012.683359
Cultural Approaches to Parenting
Marc H. Bornstein
This article first introduces some main ideas behind culture and parenting and next addresses philosophical rationales and methodological considerations central to cultural approaches to parenting, including a brief account of a cross-cultural study of parenting. It then focuses on universals, specifics, and distinctions between form (behavior) and function (meaning) in parenting as embedded in culture. The article concludes by pointing to social policy implications as well as future directions prompted by a cultural approach to parenting.
Every culture is characterized, and distinguished from other cultures, by deeply rooted and widely acknowledged ideas about how one needs to feel, think, and act as a functioning member of the culture. Cross-cultural study affirms that groups of people possess different beliefs and engage in different behaviors that may be normative in their culture but are not necessarily normative in another culture. Cultural groups thus embody particular characteristics that are deemed essential or advantageous to their members. These beliefs and behaviors tend to persist over time and constitute the val- ued competencies that are communicated to new members of the group. Central to a concept of culture, therefore, is the expectation that different cultural groups possess distinct beliefs and behave in unique ways with respect to their parenting. Cultural variations in parenting beliefs and behaviors are impressive, whether observed among different, say ethnic, groups in one society or across societies in different parts of the world. This article addresses the rapidly increasing research interest in cultural dif- ferences in parenting. It first takes up philosophical underpinnings, rationales, and methodological considerations central to cultural approaches to parenting, describes a cross-cultural study of parenting, and then addresses some core issues in cultural approaches to parenting, namely, universals, specifics, and the form-versus-function distinction. It concludes with an overview of social policy implications and future directions of cultural approaches to parenting.
THE CULTURE–PARENTING NEXUS
Culture is usefully conceived of as the set of distinctive patterns of beliefs and behaviors that are shared by a group of people and that serve to regulate their daily living. These beliefsandbehaviorsshapehowparentscare for theiroffspring.Thus,havingexperienced
This article not subject to US copyright law.
CULTURAL APPROACHES TO PARENTING 213
unique patterns of caregiving is a principal reason that individuals in different cultures are who they are and often differ so from one another. Culture helps to construct parents andparenting, and culture ismaintained and transmitted by influencingparental cognitions that in turn are thought to shape parenting practices (Bornstein & Lansford, 2010; Harkness et al., 2007). Children’s experiences with their parents within a cultural context consequently scaffold them to become culturally competent members of their society. For example, European American and Puerto Rican mothers of toddlers believe in the differential value of individual autonomy versus connected interdependence, a contrast that in turn relates to mothers’ actual caregiving (Harwood, Schoelmerich, Schulze, & Gonzalez, 1999): Where European American mothers use suggestions (rather than commands) andother indirectmeans of structuring their children’s behavior, Puerto Rican mothers use more direct means of structuring, such as commands, physical positioning and restraints, and direct attempts to recruit their children’s attention. Parents normally organize and distribute their caregiving faithful to indigenous cul-
tural belief systems and behavior patterns. Indeed, culturally constructed beliefs can be so powerful that parents are known to act on them, setting aside what their senses might tell them about their own children. For example, parents in most societies speak to babies and rightly see them as comprehending interactive partners long before infants produce language, whereas parents in some societies think that it is nonsensical to talk to infants before children themselves are capable of speech (Ochs, 1988). Cultural cognitions and practices instantiate themes that communicate consistent cul-
tural messages (Quinn & Holland, 1987). For example, in the United States personal choice is firmly rooted in principles of liberty and freedom, is closely bound up with how individuals conceive of themselves andmake sense of their lives, and is a persistent and significant construct in the literature on parenting (Tamis-LeMonda & McFadden, 2010). Moreover, culture-specific patterns of childrearing can be expected to adapt to each society’s specific setting and needs. For example, young infants among the nomadic hunter-gatherer Aka are more likely to be held and fed in close proximity to their care- givers than are infants from Ngandu farming communities who are more likely to be left by themselves, even though these two traditional groups live close to one another in central Africa (Hewlett, Lamb, Shannon, Leyendecker, & Schölmerich, 1998). Aka par- ents are reasoned to maintain closer proximity to infants because the group moves in search of food more frequently than do Ngandu. Generational, social, and media images—culture—of caregiving and childhood play
formative roles in generating parenting cognitions and guiding parenting practices (Bornstein & Lansford, 2010). Parenting thus embeds cultural models and meanings into basic psychological processes which maintain or transform the culture (Bornstein, 2009). Reciprocally, culture expresses and perpetuates itself through parenting. Parents bring certain cultural proclivities to interactions with their children, and parents inter- pret even similar characteristics in children within their culture’s frame of reference; parents then encourage or discourage characteristics as appropriate or detrimental to adequate functioning within the group.
CULTURAL STUDY AS A PRIMARY APPROACH IN PARENTING SCIENCE
The move toward a culturally richer understanding of parenting has given rise to a set of important questions about parenting (Bornstein, 2001). What is normative parenting
and to what extent does it vary with culture? What are the historical, economic, social, or other sources of cultural variation in parenting norms? How does culture embed into parenting cognitions and practices and manifest and maintain itself through parenting? There is definite need and significance for a cultural approach to parenting science.
Descriptively it is invaluable for revealing the full range of human parenting. The study of parenting across cultures also furnishes a check against an ethnocentric world view of parenting. Acceptance of findings from any one culture as “normative” of parent- ing is too narrow in scope, and ready generalizations from them to parents at large are blindingly uncritical. Comparison across cultures is also valuable because it augments an understanding of the processes throughwhich biological variables fuse with environ- mental variables and experiences. Parenting needs to be considered in its socio-cultural context, and cultural study provides the variability necessary to expose process.
Cultural Methods in Parenting Science
Some culture research in parenting compares group means on variables of inter- est, like parenting cognitions and practices or their child outcomes, using analyses of variance statistics. Other research looks at how culture moderates patterns of associa- tions between variables across cultural groups. Both approaches require indicators that are clearly defined and measured in consistent ways. Cultural science, in addition to requirements of any good science, also brings with it unique issues and requirements (translation, sampling, and measurement equivalence, for example), and risks associ- ated with this research are enhanced when it is conducted without full awareness and sensitivity to these specific concerns. For example, studies that compare cultural groups often require the collection of data in different languages, and the instruments used in such comparisons must be rendered equally valid across cultural groups (Peña, 2007). Furthermore, with any test of between-group differences, there is a chance that mea- sures are not equivalent in the groups. Equivalences at many levels are important, and steps need to be taken to promote not only cross-linguistic appropriateness but also cross-cultural validity of instruments to achieve at least “adapted equivalence” (van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). Indeed, failure to do so creates problems in interpretation of find- ings that are as serious as lack of reliability and validity (Vandenberg & Lance, 2000). If test measurement invariance is not tested and ensured, additional empirical and/or conceptual justification that the measures used have the same meaning in different cultural groups is required. Cultural comparisons of parenting usually involve quasi-experimental designs, in
which samples are not randomly selected either from the world population or from national populations or (obviously) assigned to cultures. Interpreting findings is much more challenging in such designs than in experiments that are based on random assign- ment of participants. A major challenge that confronts cultural comparisons concerns how to isolate source(s) of potential effects and identify the presumed active cultural ingredient(s) that produced differences. Samples in different cultures can differ onmany personological or sociodemographic characteristics that may confound parenting differ- ences. For example, parents in different cultural groups may vary in modal patterns of personality, acculturation level, education, or socioeconomic status (Bornstein et al., 2007; Bornstein et al., 2012a). Various procedures are available to untangle rival expla- nations for cultural comparisons, such as the inclusion of covariates in the research design to confirm or disconfirm specific alternative interpretations. By ruling out com- plementary accounts, it is possible to draw conclusions that are more firmly situated in
CULTURAL APPROACHES TO PARENTING 215
culture. For example, culture influences teaching and expectations of children in moth- ers of Australian versus Lebanese descent all living in Australia apart from child gender, parity, and socioeconomic class (Goodnow, Cashmore, Cotton, & Knight, 1984). Other methodological questions threaten the validity of cultural comparisons
(Matsumoto & van de Vijver, 2011). For example, it matters who is doing the study, their culture, their assumptions in asking certain questions, and so forth. Whether collaborat- ing scientists are “on the ground” in the culture and undertake adequate preliminary study to generate meaningful questions are also pertinent.
Similarity and Difference in Parenting across Cultures
The “story” of the cultural investigation of parenting is largely one of similarities, differences, and their meaning. In an illustrative study, we analyzed and compared natural mother-infant interactions in Argentina, Belgium, Israel, Italy, and the United States (Bornstein et al., 2012b). Differences exist among the locales we recruited from in terms of history, beliefs, languages, and childrearing values. However, the samples were more alike than not in terms of modernity, urbanity, economics, politics, living standards, even ecology and climate. Thus, they created the possibility of identifying culture-unique and -general conclusions about childrearing. Mothers were primiparous, at least 18 years of age, and from intact families; infants were firstborn, term, healthy, and 5 months old. Our aims were to observe mothers and their infants under eco- logically valid, natural, and unobtrusive conditions, and so we studied their usual routines in the familiar confines of their own homes. We videorecorded mother–baby dyads and then used mutually exclusive and exhaustive coding systems to compre- hensively characterize frequency and duration of six maternal caregiving behavioral domains (nurture, physical, social, didactic, material, and language) and five corre- sponding infant developmental domains (physical, social, exploration, vocalization, and distress communication). One question we asked concerned cultural similarities and differences in base rates
of parenting in the six caregiving domains. We standardized maternal behavior fre- quency in terms of rate of occurrence per hour, pooled, normalized, and disaggregated the data by country, finally analyzing country means for parallel comparisons for dif- ferent domains. Mothers differed in every domain assessed. Moreover, mothers in no one country surpassed mothers in all others in their base rates of parenting across domains. The fact that maternal behaviors vary significantly across thesemodern, indus- trialized, and comparable places underscores the role of cultural influence on everyday human experiences, even from the start of life. Of course, even greater variation is often revealed in starker contrasts. For example, mothers in rural Thailand do not know that their newborns can see, and so during the day swaddle infants in fabric hammocks that allow babies only a slit view of ceiling or sky (Kotchabhakdi, Winichagoon, Smitasiri, Dhanamitta, & Valyasevi, 1987). Awareness of alternative modes of development also enhances understanding of the nature of variation across cultures; cross-cultural com- parisons show how. For example, U.S. mothers are often thought of as being highly verbal, but U.S. mothers actually fell at the bottom of our five-culture comparison. A second question we asked concerned relations between parent-provided experi-
ences and behavioral development in young infants (Bornstein et al., 2012b). Across cultures, mothers and infants showed a noteworthy degree of attunement and speci- ficity. Mothers who encouraged their infants’ physical development more had more
physically developed infants as opposed to other outcomes; mothers who engaged infants more socially had infants who paidmore attention to them;mothers who encour- aged their infants more didactically had infants who explored more properties, objects, and events in the environment, as did babies whose mothers outfitted their environ- ments in richer ways. That is, mothers and infants are not only in tune with one another, but their correspondences tend to be domain specific. Thus, specific correspondences in mother–infant interaction patterns were widespread and similar in different cultural groups. This kind of study continues the story of cultural approaches to parenting in terms of
their traditional dual foci on similarities and differences. Mothers in different cultures differ in their mean levels of different domains of parenting infants, but mothers and infants in different cultures are similar in terms of mutual attunement of caregiving on the part of mothers and development in corresponding domains in infants. A shift in focus to the meaning of those similarities and differences advances the culture and parenting narrative.
CULTURAL UNIVERSALS, SPECIFICS, AND FORM–FUNCTION RELATIONS IN PARENTING
Culture-Common and Culture-Specific Parenting
The cultural approach to parenting has as one main goal to evaluate and com- pare culture-common and culture-specific modes of parenting. Evolutionary thinking appeals to the species-common genome, and the biological heritage of some psycho- logical processes presupposes their universality (Norenzayan & Heine, 2005) as do shared historical and economic forces (Harris, 2001). At the same time, cultural psychol- ogy explores variation in core psychological processes by investigating the competing influences of divergent physical and social environments (Bornstein, 2010; van de Vijver & Leung, 1997). Psychological constructs, structures, functions, and processes like parenting can be universal and simultaneously reflect cultural moderation of their quantitative level or qualitative expression. Language illustrates this essential duality. An evolutionary model posits a language instinct from the perspective of an inborn and universal acquisition device, but diversity of environmental input plays a strong role in the acquisition of any specific language (Pinker, 2007). Some demands on par- ents are universal. For example, parents in all societies must nurture and protect their young (Bornstein, 2006). Other demands vary greatly across cultural groups. For exam- ple, parents in some societies play with babies and see them as interactive partners, whereas parents in other societies think that it is senseless for parents to play with infants (Bornstein, 2007). Culture-specific influences on parenting begin long before children are born, and they
shape fundamental decisions about which behaviors parents should promote in their children and how parents should interact with their children (Bornstein, 1991; Whiting, 1963). Thus, caregiving varies among cultures in terms of opinions about the full range of caregiving and child development, including the significance of specific competencies for children’s successful adjustment, the ages expected for children to reach develop- mental milestones, when and how to care for children, and the like. For example, the United States and Japan are both child-centeredmodern societies with equivalently high
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standards of living and so forth, but U.S. American and Japanese parents value differ- ent childrearing goals which they express in different ways (Bornstein, 1989; Bornstein et al., 2012a; Morelli & Rothbaum, 2007). American mothers try to promote auton- omy, assertiveness, verbal competence, and self-actualization in their children, whereas Japanese mothers try to promote emotional maturity, self-control, social courtesy, and interdependence in theirs. Many parenting cognitions and practices are likely to be similar across cultures;
indeed, similarities may reflect universals (in the sense of being common) even if they vary in form and the degree to which they are shaped by experience and influenced by culture. Such patterns of parenting might reflect inherent attributes of caregiving, historical convergences in parenting, or they could be a by-product of information dissemination via forces of globalization or mass media or migration that present par- ents today with increasingly similar socialization models, issues, and challenges. In the end, all peoples must help children meet similar developmental tasks, and all peo- ples (presumably) wish physical health, social adjustment, educational achievement, and economic security for their children, and so they parent in some manifestly sim- ilar ways. Furthermore, the mechanisms through which parents likely affect children are universal. For example, social learning theorists have identified the pervasive roles that conditioning and modeling play as children acquire associations that subsequently form the basis for their culturally constructed selves. By watching or listening to oth- ers who are already embedded in the culture, children come to think and act like them. Attachment theorists propose that children everywhere develop internal working mod- els of social relationships through interactions with their primary caregivers and that these models shape children’s future social relationships with others throughout the balance of the life course (Sroufe & Fleeson, 1986). With so much emphasis on identifi- cation of differences among peoples, it is easy to forget that nearly all parents regardless of culture seek to lead happy, healthy, fulfilled parenthoods and to rear happy, healthy, fulfilled children.
Form and Function in Cultural Approaches to Parenting
These general considerations of universals and specifics lead to a logic model that contrasts form with function in parenting. By form, I mean a parenting cognition or practice as instantiated; by function, I mean the purpose or construal or meaning attached to the form. A proper understanding of the function of parenting cognitions and practices requires situating them in their cultural context (Bornstein, 1995). When a particular parenting cognition or practice serves the same function and connotes the same meaning in different cultures, it likely constitutes a universal. For example, care- givers in (almost) all cultures routinely adjust their speech to very young children making it simpler and more redundant, presumably to support early language acqui- sition; child-directed speech constitutes a universal that adults find difficult to suppress (Papoušek & Bornstein, 1992). The same parenting cognition or practice can also assume different functions in different cultural contexts. Particular parental practices, such as harsh initiation rites, deemed less harmful to children in some cultures may be judged abusive in others. Conversely, different parenting cognitions and practices may serve the same function in different cultural contexts. For example, an authoritative parent- ing style (high warmth, high control) leads to positive outcomes in European American school children, whereas an authoritarian parenting style (low warmth, high control)
leads to positive outcomes in African American and Hong Kong Chinese school chil- dren (Leung, Lau, & Lam, 1998). When different parenting cognitions or practices serve different functions in different settings, it is evidence for cultural specificity. Many dif- ferent parenting practices appear to be adaptive but differently for different cultural groups (Ogbu, 1993). Thus, cultural study informs not only about quantitative aspects but also about qualitative meaning of parents’ beliefs and behaviors.
SOCIAL POLICY AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS IN CULTURAL APPROACHES TO PARENTING
It is imperative to learn more about parenting and culture so that scientists, educators, and practitioners can effectively enhance parent and child development and strengthen families in diverse social groups. Insofar as some systematic universal relations obtain between how people parent and how children develop, the possibility exists for identify- ing some “best practices” in how to promote positive parenting and child development. Differences attached to the cultural meanings of particular behaviors can cause prob- lems, however. For example, immigrant children may have parents who expect them to behave in one way that is encouraged at home (e.g., averting eye contact to show defer- ence and respect) but then find themselves in a context where adults of the mainstream culture attach a different (often negative) meaning to the same behavior (e.g., appearing disinterested and unengaged with a teacher at school). Other possible future directions for a cultural parenting science would consti-
tute a long agendum. Some will be procedural. Many studies rely on self-reports, and many survey parenting at only one point in time. Observations of actual prac- tices constitute a vital complementary data base (Bornstein, Cote, & Venuti, 2001), and a developmental perspective offers insights into temporal processes of encul- turation, parents tracking differential ontogenetic trajectories, and highlights inter- generational similarities and differences in parents and children from different cul- tures (Bornstein et al., 2010). Parenting modifies social and cognitive aspects of the developing individual and so the design of the brain. For example, assistance con- stitutes an important feature of family relationships for adolescents but has distinc- tive values in Latino and European heritage cultures. Youth in both ethnic groups show similar behavioral levels of helping but, via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), different patterns of neural activity within the mesolimbic reward system: Latinos show more activity when contributing to family, and European Americans show more activity when gaining cash for themselves (Telzer, Masten, Berkman, Lieberman, & Fuligni, 2010). A future behavioral neuroscience of parent- ing will profitably include cultural variation (Barrett & Fleming, 2011; Bornstein, 2012). Parenting is thought to differ in mothers and fathers (and for girls and boys), but
most parenting research still focuses on mothers. In many cultures, children spend large amounts of time with caregivers other than parents, and all contribute to the caregiving environment of the child. How caregiving is distributed amongst different stakeholders across cultures is not well understood, and future cultural research in parenting will benefit from an enlarged family systems perspective (Bornstein & Sawyer, 2006). Thinking about parent–child relationships often highlights parents as agents of
socialization; however, caregiving is a two-way street. Parent and child activities are
CULTURAL APPROACHES TO PARENTING 219
characterized by intricate patterns of sensitive mutual understandings and unfolding synchronous transactions (Bornstein, 2006, 2009). Moreover, children’s appraisals of their parents affect parenting and child adjustment. Future research needs to attend to child effects, cultural normativeness, and construals of parenting as well as how culture moderates each. Parenting styles that are congruent with cultural norms appear to be effective in transmitting values from parents to children, perhaps because parenting practices that approach the cultural norm result in a childrearing environment that is more positive, consistent, and predictable and in one that facilitates children’s accurate perceptions of parents; children of parents who behave in culturally normative ways are also likely to encounter similar values in settings outside the family (e.g., in religious institutions, in the community) that reinforce their parenting experiences.
Research on dynamic relations between culture and parenting is increasingly focused on which aspects of culture moderate parenting cognitions and practices and how they do so, as well as on when and why links between parenting cognitions and practices and children’s development are culturally general versus culturally specific. These new directions will move the field toward a deeper understanding, not just of which simi- larities obtain and which differences can be identified, but also of why, in whom, and under which conditions. The cultural study of parenting is beneficially understood in a framework of nec-
essary versus desirable demands. A necessary demand is that parents and children communicate with one another. Normal interaction and children’s healthy mental and socioemotional development depend on it. Not unexpectedly, communication appears to be a universal aspect of parenting and child development. A desirable demand is that parents and children communicate in certain ways adapted and faithful to their cul- tural context. Cultural studies tell us about parents’ and children’s mutual adjustments in terms of universally necessary and contextually desirable demands. Assumptions about the specificity and generality of parenting, and relations between parents and children, are advantageously tested through cultural research because neither parenting nor children’s development occurs in a vacuum: Both emerge and grow in a medium of culture. Variations in what is normative in different cultures help us to question our assumptions about what is universal and informs our understanding of how parent– child relationships unfold in ways both culturally universal and specific. That admirable goal notwithstanding, methodological challenges unique to this line of research loom large. It has been said that only two kinds of information are transmitted across genera-
tions: genes and culture. Parents are the final common pathway of both. We can ask, however, Which is the more meaningful and enduring? The biological view is that we are “gene machines,” created to pass on our genes. A child, even a grandchild, may resem- ble a parent in facial features or in a talent for music. However, as each generation passes the contribution of any parent’s genes is halved and it is pooled with those of many other parents. It does not take long to reach negligible proportions. Genes may be immortal, but the unique collection of genes which is any one parent crum- bles away (Dawkins, 1976). Rather, what parents do, and how they prepare the next
generation in their cultures, can live on, intact, long after their genes dissolve in the common pool.
AFFILIATION AND ADDRESS
Marc H. Bornstein, Child and Family Research, Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Suite 8030, 6705 Rockledge Drive, Bethesda MD 20892-7971, USA. E-mail: Marc_H_Bornstein@nih.gov.
Research supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, NICHD. I thank P. Horn and C. Padilla.
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Factors influencing parenting in early childhood: a prospective longitudinal study focusing on changecch_1037 198..207
A. Waylen* and S. Stewart-Brown†
*Department of Oral and Dental Science, Bristol Dental School, University of Bristol, Bristol, and †Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
Accepted for publication 7 August 2009
Keywords ALSPAC, causal factors, longitudinal analysis, parent–child relationship
Correspondence: Andrea Waylen PhD, Department of Oral and Dental Science, Bristol Dental School, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LY, UK E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract Background Parenting influences child outcomes but does not occur in a vacuum. It is influenced
by socio-economic resources, parental health, and child characteristics. Our aim was to investigate
the relative importance of these influences by exploring the relationship between changing
parental health and socio-economic circumstances and changes in parenting.
Methods Data collected from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were used to
develop an eight-item parenting measure at 8 and 33 months. The measure covered warmth,
support, rejection, and control and proved valid and reliable. Regression analysis examined changes
in financial circumstance, housing tenure, marital status, social support, maternal health and
depression, and their influence on parenting score. The final model controlled for maternal age,
education, and baseline depression.
Results Most mothers reported warm, supportive parenting at both times. Maternal depression was
the only variable for which both positive and negative change was associated with changes in
parenting score. Less depression was associated with better parenting scores and more depression
with worse parenting scores. Improvements in social support and maternal general health were both
associated with improved parenting scores, but for neither of these variables was deterioration asso-
ciated with deterioration in parenting scores.Worsening financial circumstances predicted deteriora-
tion in parenting score, but improvements were not predictive of improvements in parenting.
Conclusions Programmes aiming to improve parental health and social support are likely to return
greater dividends with regard to improving parenting than programmes that aim to reduce family
Parenting is important for a variety of child outcomes. Warm,
supportive parenting is associated with positive cognitive,
behavioural, emotional, and physical child outcomes (Bradley &
Caldwell 1995; Atzaba-Poria & Pike 2005; Barber et al. 2005;
Dallaire & Weinraub 2005; Seaman et al. 2005; Waylen et al.
2008) whereas harsh, abusive, and/or emotionally neglectful
parenting is associated with emotional, behavioural, mental,
and physical health problems in childhood and adulthood
(Repetti et al. 2002). Parenting accounts for 20–50% of the vari-
ance in some child outcomes (Elder et al. 1984), but child out-
comes and aspects of parenting are influenced by economic and
social factors and parental health. Economic hardship in par-
ticular is associated with deteriorating parent–child relation-
ships and increased behavioural problems (McLoyd 1998;
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Early Child Care Research Network 2005).
Parenting is also influenced by the parent’s life history,
culture, and neighbourhood (Bronfenbrenner 1979; Holden &
Miller 1999; Sellstrom et al. 2000), marital conflict (Bronstein
et al. 1993; Cummings et al. 2006), poor parental health (Frank
Child: care, health and development Original Article doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.01037.x
© 2009 The Authors Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd198
1989; Armistead et al. 1995; Bugental & Happaney 2004) and
child characteristics, e.g. developmental age and temperament
(Bronfenbrenner 1979; Bradley & Corwyn 2002).
Epidemiological studies are important in defining possible
causal factors, but rarely prove causality, particularly where out-
comes are influenced by multiple risk factors and potentially
complex causal chains. However, if it can be shown that, e.g.
increasing economic hardship is followed by deterioration in
parenting and vice versa, it is reasonable to conclude that eco-
nomic hardship plays a causal role and that alleviating child
poverty would lead to improvements in parenting. Data
collected from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and
Children (ALSPAC) cohort provided an opportunity to identify
families exposed to changes in various socio-demographic
factors in early childhood and to examine the extent and direc-
tion of associated changes in parenting over time.
The ALSPAC (see http://www.alspac.bris.ac.uk) (Golding et al.
2001) is a geographically representative, population-based
study investigating social, environmental, biological, and
genetic influences on the health and development of children.
All pregnant women in the former Avon Health Authority (UK)
with an expected delivery date between April 1991 and Decem-
ber 1992 were invited to take part. The final cohort consisted of
14 541 pregnancies. Since enrolment, self-report information
has been collected from the mothers both ante- and post-natally
on an annual basis. In addition, mothers continue to complete a
bi-annual questionnaire about the study child’s health, behav-
iour, and development. Mothers consented to join the study at
recruitment and they consent to return each questionnaire. All
aspects of the study conform to the ethical regulations of both
the ALSPAC Law and Ethics Committee and local research and
In this study we used parenting data collected at 8 and 33
months. At each of these timepoints, parenting and socio-
demographic data were gathered on all families participating in
the study and relevant items were asked in exactly the same way.
Data were available for 11 314 study children (78%) at 8 months
and for 9687 study children (67%) at 33 months.
All analyses were undertaken using Intercalated STATA 9.0
(1985). Correlational analyses measured the strength of associa-
tions between variables. Factor analysis was used to investigate
the feasibility of aggregating items to develop a parenting
measure. c2- and t-tests were used to examine differences in circumstance and parenting at 8 months between those who
dropped out of the study and those who continued to parti-
cipate. The strength of evidence for changes in parenting asso-
ciated with socio-demographic and health variables was
examined using c2-tests. Finally, to examine whether and how parenting changed over time and how any changes related to
changing social and health factors, univariate and multivariate
regression analyses were undertaken. The final models were
adjusted for maternal age, education, and parenting score and
maternal depression score at baseline. To account for multiple
testing, we used a conservative P-value of 0.008 (Bonferroni’s
a = 0.05/6 = 0.008).
Development of the parenting measure
The ALSPAC Study has collected data on a variety of behav-
ioural and developmental variables. We were interested in those
measuring warmth and support, rejection and control in early
parent–child relationships. Various items relating to parenting
quality were identified in data collected during the first 3 years
of life (see Appendix 1). From this list we identified eight mater-
nal self-report items administered in exactly the same way at
both 8 and 33 months, which were unambiguous in their inter-
pretation (see Table 1).
Parental warmth and support was measured according to
reported levels of enjoyment, confidence, pleasure, and fulfil-
ment with respect to caring for the child (items 1–4) and rejec-
tion and control was measured according to maternal report of
preferring not to have had the child at that time, dislike of the
child’s crying and surrounding mess and lack of time for herself
(items 5–8). Scores for items 1–4 were reverse coded so that, for
all items, a score of 4 represented warm, supportive parenting.
Scores for all items were added together (range = 8–32); higher scores indicated more supportive parenting. We were unable to
include other items listed in Appendix 1, e.g. measures of disci-
pline and time spent teaching the child because relevant ques-
tions were either asked only once, asked in a slightly different
way each time or did not reflect unequivocally positive or nega-
Factor analysis of the eight items indicated a single factor
solution explaining 34% and 33% of the variance at 8 and 33
months, respectively. Factor loadings are shown in Table 1. In
Table 2 we report correlations between scores on the derived
parenting variable at 8 and 33 months with another parenting
measure collected on the cohort [HOME Inventory (Bradley &
Changes in parenting over time 199
© 2009 The Authors Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Child: care, health and development, 36, 2, 198–207
Caldwell 1995)] and the Strengths and Difficulties Question-
naire (SDQ) (Goodman 2001) at 47 and 81 months.
The results of univariate linear regression analysis showed
that the derived parenting measure predicted SDQ scores at
both 47 and 81 months (P < 0.001) and remained predictive (P < 0.001) after adjusting for confounding variables (Appen- dices 2a & b). Negative coefficients indicate that, as parenting
score increased, child emotional and behavioural problems were
reduced: a point increase in parenting score predicted a reduc-
tion in SDQ score of 0.4–0.5 after adjustment for confounders.
To assess change over time, scores for the derived parenting
variable at 8 months were subtracted from scores at 33 months
giving a normally distributed change score ranging from -17 to +17. A negative score (higher at 8 than 33 months) indicates deterioration in parenting over time and vice versa.
Identification of factors predicting parenting
Correlations were obtained between parenting scores and
various socio-demographic and parental variables available for
the cohort children and indicated as relevant in the literature.
Key predictors of parenting score were maternal age and edu-
cation. Ethnic group was not a significant predictor possibly
because there were several ethnic categories with very small
membership. Amongst the range of potentially changeable
factors, financial circumstances, housing tenure, marital status,
social support (emotional, financial, and practical support from
partner, family, friends, or the state), and maternal general
health and depression [as measured by the Edinburgh Post-
Natal Depression Scale – EPDS (Matthey et al. 2001)] correlated
with parenting scores (P < 0.001). Each of these variables was dichotomized: (1) mothers either found it difficult to afford
three or more from a list of five items or not; (2) they owned
their own homes or not; (3) they were married or not; (4) they
perceived little or no social support (emotional, practical or
financial) or not; (5) they rated themselves as being always or
mostly well or not; and (6) they were depressed (scoring 12
or over on the EPDS) or not. Circumstances across time were
classified as having either: (1) remained stable; (2) worsened; or
(3) improved over time.
Table 1. Factor analysis: parenting measures and data collection time points
8 months 33 months
Mean (SD) Skewness Kurtosis Factor loading Mean (SD) Skewness Kurtosis Factor loading
1. I really enjoy this child Warmth 1.31 (0.53) 1.49 4.51 0.70 1.31 (0.54) 1.57 4.77 0.70 2. I feel confident with my child Support 1.20 (0.47) 2.66 11.45 0.45 1.23 (0.52) 2.44 9.34 0.58 3. It is a great pleasure to watch
my child develop Support 1.08 (0.33) 4.58 28.02 0.50 1.14 (0.41) 3.45 17.02 0.52
4. Having this child makes me feel fulfilled
Warmth 1.81 (0.92) 0.86 2.70 0.57 1.78 (0.91) 0.86 2.69 0.57
5. I would have preferred that we had not had this baby / child when we did
Rejection 3.85 (0.45) -3.76 19.53 -0.39 3.85 (0.52) -4.05 20.30 -0.26
6. I can’t bear hearing the child cry
Control 3.20 (0.73) -0.90 4.11 -0.39 3.15 (0.77) -0.83 3.63 -0.29
7. I dislike / hate the mess that surrounds the child
Control 3.59 (0.61) -1.54 5.65 -0.35 3.30 (0.64) -0.63 3.70 -0.36
8. I feel I have no time to myself Rejection 2.94 (0.75) -0.72 3.72 -0.51 2.89 (0.76) -0.72 3.62 -0.44 Eigenvalues 2.71 2.64 Cronbach’s alpha 0.69 0.67
All responses were measured on a 4-point Likert scale (1 = feel exactly, 2 = often feel, 3 = sometimes feel, 4 = never feel) – items 1–4 reverse scored.
Table 2. Correlations between the derived parenting score and existing measures of parenting and child behaviour in the ALSPAC study
Derived parenting score (8 months)
HOME score (adapted)† (6 months)
SDQ (47 months)
SDQ (81 months)
Derived parenting score (8 months) – 0.10 0.20 0.19 Derived parenting score (33 months) 0.54 0.12 0.32 0.27
†Adapted from Bradley and Corwyn (2005). 6 items: (1) does the child have cuddly toys? (2) does the child have push and pull toys? (3) does the child have co-ordination toys? (4) does the child have books? (5) do you try to teach the child? (6) Do you talk to the child while you work in the home?
200 A. Waylen and S. Stwart-Brown
© 2009 The Authors Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Child: care, health and development, 36, 2, 198–207
Maternal depression was moderately associated with general
health and social support at both 8 and 33 months. Associations
between depression and financial circumstance were somewhat
weaker (all P < 0.001) (see Appendix 3).
At 8 months, mothers who would drop out of the study by 33
months were more likely than those who remained to have
financial difficulties [10.4% (N = 233) vs. 8.0% (N = 725), respectively; (c2 = 12.83, P < 0.001)]; be unmarried [6.8% (N = 153) vs. 5.0% (N = 451); (c2 = 9.92, P = 0.002)] and be living in rented accommodation [36.9% (N = 824) vs. 19.4% (N = 1750); (c2 = 300.18, P < 0.001)]; to perceive little or no social support for themselves [7.1% (N = 140) vs. 4.0% (N = 337); (c2 = 37.35, P < 0.001)]; and to be depressed [14.6% (N = 326) vs. 10.5% (N = 939); (c2 = 27.88, P < 0.001)]. Mothers who dropped out of the study had a slightly lower parenting
score at 8 months [28.1 vs. 28.3; (N = 11 068); (t = 2.95, P < 0.001)] than those who remained. There were no differences in
the general health of remaining mothers compared with those
who dropped out: 94.1% (N = 2138) compared with 94.6% (N = 8563) rated themselves as always or mostly well (c2 = 5.11, P = 0.164). Results reported here concern families with data at both 8 and 33 months.
Changes in circumstance over time
Between 8 and 33 months, marital status changed for 3% (N = 252) of mothers: 2% (163) were no longer in a marital rela-
tionship by 33 months whereas 1% (89) entered a relationship.
Depression status changed for 15% (1360) of mothers: 9.8%
(895) became depressed by 33 months whereas 5.1% (465)
recovered from depression. General health worsened over time
for 4% (358) of mothers and improved for 4% (344). Finan-
cial circumstances changed for 10% (930) of families between
8 and 33 months: circumstances worsened for 5.4% (492) and
improved for 4.8% (438). Housing tenure changed for 7% of
families: 3.1% (286) changed from owning their home to
renting whereas 3.6% (329) changed from tenants to owners.
Around 4% of mothers experienced changing social support
over the period: 1.8% (151) had less support by the end
compared with 2.5% (218) who reported increased levels of
Changes in parenting as a function of changes in circumstance
Mean parenting scores were relatively stable over time and dif-
ferences by maternal age and educational level were small
Table 4 shows the proportion of families for whom parenting
score decreased, remained stable, or improved between 8 and 33
months as socio-economic circumstances changed. c2-statistics and P-values are given in the table. Overall, parenting scores did
not vary with changes in financial circumstances and changes in
neither housing tenure nor marital status significantly predicted
changes in parenting.
Changes in social support influenced parenting but the level
of statistical significance failed to reach our conservative value
of 0.008. Changes in mother’s general health and depression
score had an influence with parenting score decreasing for the
majority of families when maternal health worsened. When
maternal general health or depression improved, parenting
score improved for most families.
Multi-variable modelling of changes in parenting over time
Table 5 shows the results of analyses predicting change in
parenting score over time using the original (non-categorized)
parenting score. Changes in financial circumstance, social
support, and maternal general health and depression were
entered into the model independently (univariate analysis) and
then together (adjusting for each other) and finally altogether
adjusting for maternal age, education, and baseline (8 month)
depression and parenting score. The coefficients given in each
table indicate changes in parenting score amongst mothers
whose circumstances changed compared with those whose
Table 3. Changes in parenting over time as a function of maternal age and education
Median parenting score (SD)
8 months 33 months
Age group <20 29 (2.9) 28 (3.2) 20–29 29 (2.7) 28 (2.9) 30–39 28 (2.8) 28 (2.9) >40 29 (3.0) 28 (2.9)
Education CSE 29 (3.0) 29 (3.0) Vocational 29 (2.9) 29 (3.0) O level 29 (2.8) 28 (2.9) A level 28 (2.7) 28 (2.8) Degree 28 (2.7) 28 (2.7)
Changes in parenting over time 201
© 2009 The Authors Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Child: care, health and development, 36, 2, 198–207
202 A. Waylen and S. Stwart-Brown
financial status, health, or support remained stable between 8
and 33 months. Negative coefficients indicate a reduction in
parenting score and positive coefficients indicate an increase.
In the final, fully adjusted model, parenting score reduced by
0.14 [95% CI (-0.06–0.20); P < 0.001] when financial circum- stances deteriorated, but improving financial circumstances did
not predict an improvement in parenting score (P = 0.213). Increased social support predicted improvement in parenting
score by 0.16 [95% CI (0.02–0.30; P = 0.027)] but reduced social support was not predictive (P = 0.733). Improvements and dete- riorations in depression score predicted changes in parenting
as expected: an improvement in (lessening of) depression
increased parenting score by 0.20 [95% CI (0.18–0.29); P < 0.001] and worsening depression reduced the parenting score
by -0.14 [95% CI (-0.23–0.04); P = 0.004]. Parenting score increased by 0.11 [95% CI (0.02–0.20); P = 0.02] when general health improved, but there was no effect on parenting score
when general health worsened (P = 0.548).