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Family Factors Affecting Social Development

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 13 Nov 2015 | comments*Discuss
Parenting Styles Diana Baumrind Social

Some of us seem to thrive on social interaction while others are most comfortable when operating solo. While theories abound as to why different people reach different levels of social development it seems clear that the family influences of our childhoods hold many of the answers.

Nature vs. Nurture
Some babies seem to come into the world as social beings -- outgoing and quick to smile at familiar faces, while other infants are more subdued. Could simple genetics account for the differences? Child development begins well before a child is born and each newborn infant is uniquely themselves, right from the start. Genetic makeup must surely be responsible for some inherent variances in the temperament and sociability of young babies, but as they grow and develop, parental and other family influences are sure to help shape children and impact their social growth and development.

Shy Mum, Shy Babies?
While there may or may not a "shy gene," parental personality traits are certain to have some influence on the social development of their children. Shy, introverted parents who themselves may not be comfortable in social situations, are less likely than their more outgoing peers to continually expose their children to new people and experiences. Limiting social exposure can impact the child's comfort level and ease in socialising, making the children of shy parents more inclined to be a bit reserved themselves.

Parenting Styles
Developmental psychologists have long speculated about the influences that parenting styles have on the social development of children. Diana Baumrind's work has been especially noted in this arena, observing four separate parenting styles:

Authoritarian Parenting: Often rigid and controlling, authoritarian parents place high demands on their kids without allowing room for discussion or regard for the child's feelings. This can result in children who are fearful, anxious, frustrated or withdrawn.

Authoritative Parenting: Favouring supportive discipline, authoritative parents expect good behaviour from their kids, but they gently and lovingly guide them, rather than being forceful or cruel. Kids with authoritative parents are typically self-confident and socially adept.

Permissive Parenting: Extremely lenient, permissive parents allow children to decide for themselves what they feel is appropriate behaviour. Unfortunately, these kids often have poor control over their emotions and may have difficulty with peer relationships.

Neglectful Parenting: Unlike permissive parents who are involved in their children's lives, neglectful parents place the welfare of their children as a low priority. Children of neglectful parents are frequently emotionally immature and may engage in antisocial behaviours.

Access to Others
Even the most outgoing people are not always in a position to afford their children varied social exposure. Financial constraints can limit a parent's ability to enroll their children in classes, clubs, or other social organisations that can give them opportunities to practice and master social skills. Parents who are more financially comfortable are often inclined to allow their children to pursue a variety of childhood interests, each providing the children with valuable life experience, sure to enhance their social capabilities.

Sometimes it is geography, rather than finances that helps to determine a child's access to social opportunities. Rural families may have a smaller core group of friends and acquaintances than their urban counterparts. It would seem natural that children who are introduced to not only greater numbers of people during their childhoods, but also people of varied backgrounds would grow to be more adept at understanding and relating well to many different types of people.

Family Dynamics
Every family has its own inner dynamic, which is in a constant state of flux as children grow, siblings are added, and the family expands. Big families who tend to socialise on a regular basis provide their children with not only many opportunities to practice their social skills, but also to have a large support system, which can do a great deal to enhance a child's sense of self esteem. Confidence is an important factor in healthy socialisation, so family members who encourage and cheer for one another provide a terrific base for enhanced social development.

Theories about the effect of birth order on social aptitude and overall personality are abundant. Sibling interaction often provides us with our very first opportunities for important social lesson learning. Typically, we learn how to win, lose, love, and even to fight fair by practicing with our siblings. According to their place within the family, the social positions of siblings can influence them not only as children, but well into adulthood. Oldest siblings may be bossy or opinionated, because they were expected to "take charge" as kids. Middle children are said to good listeners, socially agreeable and apt to seek calm and cohesive relationships, while the youngest in the family may have a tendency to crave attention. While adults can certainly choose how they wish to behave and interact socially, those first relationships that they had with their siblings can impact them throughout their lives.

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babygurlsav - 13-Nov-15 @ 12:46 PM
Be sure to include social interaction with other children as part of the development. It's important to socialise a child, and preferably from an early age. This can be in the form of play dates from the age of about a year, and then some time at nursery, where the child will learn more about sharing and co-operation, both of which are necessary for later life, and it's good for your child to spend time with others of the same age, especially in an environment that encourages learning. It's one of the most supportive things a family can do.
Penny - 4-Jul-12 @ 9:26 AM
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