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Additional Influences On Temperament And Parenting

Other factors may influence the relationship between temperament and parenting (Sanson and Rothbart 1995). These include the age and sex of the child, as well as social factors. In studies of mothers' responses to children's temperament, similar behaviors may lead to different responses depending on the child's age. At younger ages in infancy (e.g., six and twelve months), higher distress is related to more mother involvement. At later ages (e.g., eighteen and twenty-four months), the same behavior is related to lower mother involvement (Sanson and Rothbart 1995). Parents may begin by showing greater effort in raising a distress-prone child, but may not be able to sustain the effort over time and development.

Differences have also been found in parents' reactions to similar behaviors depending on the child's sex. More positive response to boys' than girls' irritability and negative emotion has been found, especially from fathers (Sanson and Roth-bart 1995). Different beliefs of parents about how acceptable a temperamental attribute is for boys and girls might lead to different parent responses to similar behaviors from girls or boys.

Some studies examining the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and temperament have found no relationship. In a study of temperament and parenting in children aged three to four years, however, Margot Prior, Ann Sanson, and their colleagues (1989) found twice as many significant correlations between temperament and parenting measures in a high SES group than in a low SES group. The authors interpreted this as evidence of possible greater sensitivity and accommodation to the individuality of their children among high SES mothers.

Temperament and marriage. Temperament's relevance to marriage and the family involves adults as well as children. For example, temperament is related to age of marriage and of having children. In both U.S. and Swedish samples, childhood shyness was found to be related to later age of marriage and having children for men, but not for women (Kerr, Lambert, and Bem 1996). These findings suggest a tendency of less outgoing men to be less forward in the mating area. For women, these characteristics may be less important.

With data from a longitudinal sample followed for thirty years beginning at ages eight to ten, Avshalom Caspi, Glen Elder, and Daryl Bem (1989) found similar marriage patterns in adults who were shy as children. Men who were shy as children married an average of three years later, became fathers an average of four years later, and entered into a career path an average of three years later than men who were not shy as children. Childhood shyness in females predicted more traditional marriage and career paths, although women who were shy in childhood married at the same age as their nonshy counterparts, they spent fewer years in the workforce than women who were outgoing in childhood (Caspi, Elder, and Bem 1989).

Caspi, Elder, and Bem (1987) also examined the life-course patterns of adults with a history of explosive behaviors as children. Men who were illtempered as children (showing frequent and severe tantrums) were more likely to divorce and to have erratic work lives in comparison with men who were not ill-tempered as children. Women with histories of childhood tantrums tended to marry men with lower occupational status, were likely to divorce, and were considered to be illtempered as mothers (Caspi, Elder, and Bem 1987).

Differences in marital and family functioning have also been related to child temperament (Stoneman, Brody, and Burke 1989). For both fathers and mothers, consistent ratings of their older girls' temperamental difficulty (defined by Stone-man et al. as active and emotional) was related to decreased marital satisfaction and a less positive family climate in two-child families. Marital and family distresses were also related to having two temperamentally difficult siblings.

Temperament and culture. Numerous studies have found both similarities in the structure of temperament across cultures, and differences in levels of temperament between children of different cultures. A study of children's temperament in the People's Republic of China found lower surgency and higher negative affect than in a U.S. sample, with the two cultures also showing differences in relations among temperament variables (Ahadi; Rothbart; and Ye 1993). In the United States, but not China, children with higher effortful control were reported to have lower negative affectivity (fear, sadness, etc.). In China, but not the United States, higher effortful control was related to lower surgency. Culture may influence behaviors of children seen as worthy of control, and these behaviors can vary across cultures. In the United States, it may be more important to control negative feelings, whereas in China, stress may be placed on controlling one's outgoing and impulsive behaviors.

In an examination of relationships among culture, parental attitudes, and temperament, Xinyin Chen and colleagues (1998) studied two-year-old Chinese children in the People's Republic of China and Caucasian children in Canada. Chinese children were significantly more inhibited than the Canadian children, and inhibition was related to more acceptance and warmth from the Chinese mothers. In Canadian children, inhibition was negatively related to mothers' acceptance and encouragement. Again, there is the suggestion that cultural values may shape temperament by encouraging valued and discouraging de-valued characteristics.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesTemperament - Measurement Of Temperament, The Structure Of Temperament, Typologies, Stability And Development Of Temperament, Parenting