Reaction to Intergenerational Parenting Study

Parenting is not an easy obligation.  There are influential factors that form what type of parent youll become, including your upbringing.  In 1984, Belsky and McCarthy performed a study using a three-wave longitudinal data set covering a period of two decades of early adolescence, early adulthood and middle adulthood.  In other words, they wanted to prove that our surroundings and family background explains the intergenerational continuance of constructive parenting.

There were several pre-studies taken into consideration before they started the process. They found that early abuse, physical and mental, would result in a parent treating their own children in the same manner (Steinmetz, 1987). In these situations, extreme cases of child abuse can exist in disciplining and teaching the child (Belsky 1984).  The discoveries on intergenerational parenting proved that supportive parenting techniques begins in parent-infant relationships.  Most pregnant women, who were raised by caring and reliable parents, are more likely to display the same type of affection throughout the lives of their own children.  Far fewer studies were performed to examine whether or not this takes place with older children.

The first data set consisted of questionnaires responded to by the students in their seventh grade (modal age  13 years) in a random 50 of the 36 high schools in Houston Independent School District in 1971 (Kaplan, 1980).  For this data, the response was an impressive 81.6 in usable data.  The same respondents were tracked down for the household interviews.  At this time the respondents were in their 20s.  To fulfill the 3-wave longitudinal data set requirements, the same respondents were sought out when they were in their mid to late 30s.  From this group, a new attribute was introduced to the research.  For one to qualify as a respondent in the third phase, they had to have at least one child aged 6 to 18 years.  As a result of this, the sample number went down to 2,388.  The respondents available for all three waves were 4,594 while those not present for all three were 3,024.

The research used both qualitative and quantitative methods in testing the hypothesis and generating analytical data sets.  The research saw the employment of regression analysis in modeling and analyzing the variables.  This was achieved by setting some background variables as exogenous control variables.  This included gender, parental education, family poverty and structure.  These were modeled so as to have a direct or indirect influence on the independent, mediating and dependent variables.

In the 1st wave, the major independent variable was perception of experiencing good parenting.  This was modeled as a latent construct reflected in three additive indexes.  In the 2nd wave, the intervening variables were measured with psychological state being treated as a latent construct reflected in three additive indexes.  At this stage, interpersonal relations and social participation were also treated as latent constructs.  In the 3rd wave, constructive parenting was the dependent variable measured.  It was reflected in five indexes on the basis of content validity to reflect the dimensions of responsiveness and demandingness (Maccoby  Martin, 1983).

The use of LISREL 8 (Joreskog  Sorbom, 1993) as model of choice in analyzing the results was wise.  Since LISREL (Linear Structural Relations model) incorporates confirmatory factor analysis, multiple regression, path analysis, simultaneous equation models among other techniques, the analysis was able to capture simultaneous estimation of the measurement and structural models.
The research results confirm the existence of modest intergenerational continuity of constructive parenting and support the hypothesis that interpersonal relations, social participation and role modeling explain such continuity of constructive parenting across generations.  The results also give credence to the attachment theory (Fonagy, 2001) on the possibility of restructuring the internal working model formed in early years through other attachment related experiences and the topic of the intergenerational discontinuity of parenting deserves no less attention than that of the continuity (Ricks, 1985, Rutter, 1989).  Similarly, the findings indicate a lack of direct effects on later constructive parenting from early family status variables such as parental education of the respondents, family poverty and family structure.

The research into the intergenerational transmission of constructive parenting is both thoughtful and timely.  The focus of the research and the effort to search for the connection between ones feeling and deductions of positive parenting and their individual choices later in life was well thought.  This line of thought has for long not been adequately addressed and as such the choice of the 3 wave was ideal. It allowed for and gave an opportunity to observe over time the effects once perceived successes or failures of ones parents and their individual choices when the roles were reversed.
The researchers exhibited knowledge and seriousness in their undertaking in their choice of hypothesis to test.  Their choices were able to show that the commonly assumed outcomes were not so obvious.  In choosing to interrogate the perceived natural outcomes of constructive parenting and looking for their genesis in respondents own perception of individual parenting was commendable.  Additionally, the choice of psychological disturbance, interpersonal relations and social participation variable that by nature would be challenging to capture their effect and using them to seek a connection over a long period was very ideal.  This allowed the findings to adequately bring out the true picture of the respondents parenting biases and their possible source.

The population choice was also very carefully done and was adequate.  The researchers did a commendable job of keeping track of over 2000 respondents for a period of over twenty years.  This allowed for a true reflection of the effect of the variable on the critical research components.  In addition, the choice of the 3 way longitudinal data capture model ensured the data sets had a higher probability of capturing as accurate a picture as possible. This was and still remains a very rare choice of study mode.

Tracking and maintaining the same respondents as well as capturing responses at different times in their lives, allowed for the reduction in the probability of future perceptions, emotional state and behavior affecting the objectivity of responses about their childhood.  The researchers choice of four mechanisms psychological state, interpersonal relations, social participation and role-specific modeling allowed for a comprehensive identification of factors that could possibly influence an individuals views and actions in parenting.

Chen  Kaplan (2001) have interpreted the substantial remaining direct effect as direct modeling in relation to intervening pathways for supportive parenting.  This interpretation has not accounted for the direct effect of early upbringing on later utilization of similar parenting strategies. The research also avoided looking at the effect of intergenerational transmission of constructive parenting with respect to the gender balance.  It would have been interesting and would have shone new light on the interactions between gender and intergenerational transmission of constructive parenting.  It could also have been interesting and would have opened new areas of debate if the research had looked even if casually on the effect on the different gender independently to find out whom between the males and female are best andor most influenced positively. Similarly who between them best andor most influence.

This research highlights and captures various personality theories vividly.  The behavioral theories suggest that personality is a result of interactions between the individual and the environment.  This is captured by the researchers when they look to avoid the biases that could arise from trying to remember childhood influences.  This is why they chose to have a longitudinal panel data set and capture the respective responses while they were still fresh in a childs mind.  According to the theory of attachment (Fonagy, 2001), children learn from their caregiver through having a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.  It is during this attachment and learning phase that positive behavior and traits are developed and imprinted in the child.  This will influence their future outlook at life and especially how they will care for their children.

Biological or trait theorists contend that human behavior is traced to the joint effects of the childs inherited capabilities and past experiences.  In looking at how the childs upbringing influences decisions made in their adulthood concerning their children, the researchers clearly shows this to be that case.  It was found out that in families where the child perceived love and emotional stability in the family from the parents in their adulthood they were found to be exhibiting the same traits (Sigelman  Rider, 2008).  Psychoanalysts view human behavior as being determined by a persons past experiences, which color their perceptions of current events.  In the questionnaire question designed to capture the respondents view about monitoring children  How often would you say know where they are and who they are with when they are away, this seeks to illustrate how the interactions in the parents childhood have colored their present outlook to parenting.

Social (Learning) theorists see human behavior as resulting from persons past learning, current perceptions and higher level processes of thinking (Scott, 2006).  In the questionnaire questions used in time 2  when the respondents were in their 20s, the three additive indexes sought responses that indicated current perceptions and higher level process of thinking.  They use of questions like  do you often feel downcast are you often bothered by nervousness and, at times do you think you are of no good at all  The responses do not come from inherited and passed down traits or behaviors but rather are as a result of association gained from high level process of thinking and organization.  To humanistic theorists, human behavior can be understood only in terms of the persons internal perceptions of self and others leading toward personal fulfillment.  In borrowing from the questions used in wave 2, the responses bring out personal humanistic view.

The results of this study do give credence to all aspects of importance in the study of personality theories.  In Eriksons Stages of Psychological development (Kail  Cavanaugh, 2007), the gradual progression envisioned is clear in the growth of the respondents responses through the years.  As they go through the different stages and as they respond to the questionnaires at time 1, 2 and 3 there is a clear growth both in terms of response quality and thought process.  From the study it is clear from the responses, that during the age 20s there are instances of identity crisis.  This is evident as they try to reconcile what they have learned from their parents  especially the negative lessons, with what they have learnt from interaction with the external environment.

It is also at this time that the respondents are suffering from basic anxieties as they figure out the inherent need either to move towards, away and against others (Horney, 2008).  This is especially for the parents depending on the construction whether positive or negative that they underwent.  From the results, the individuals that have come from well rounded families that have had positive constructive parenting that exhibit the clearest signs of well-adjustment.

The study is very applicable in my life.  A lot of what I am and what I believe in is as a result of what I have imitated from my parents.  They continue to shape my view of the world and influence the choices I make in a positive way. There are times when I have had an opportunity to visit my grandparents it becomes clear to me where the positive reinforcements my parents tirelessly drummed into me came from.

It is clear that in my family, there is a clear and direct channel of intergenerational continuity in constructive parenting.  This indeed supports the hypothesis that interpersonal relations, social participation and role-specific modeling explain such continuity of constructive parenting across generations.  From interacting with my friends, it is evident that people with negative psychological states are indeed less likely to maintain good quality of interpersonal relations and are less active in social participation.

What is very clear and is indeed supported by the study is that the levels of parental education, family poverty and structure have no direct effect on later constructive parenting.  It is indeed true that childrearing practices are not affected by status variables per se, but rather by an earlier upbringing that had been influenced by these status variables.  As is true of attachment theory, some of the perception formed in childhood have been changed and altered as a result of attachment related experiences from the environment.  It is thus true that the topic of the intergenerational discontinuity of parenting deserves no less attention than that of the continuity.


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