The Influence Of Parents On Children’s Development

THESIS: The paper specifically focuses on the influence parents have on the development of their children whether on the emotional-social, cognitive, or physical development. Parents are the regulator that forms us as individuals; they adjusts their children’s development at all levels within their capabilities.


Before and immediately after conception of a child, parents play a huge role in the development of their baby. Throughout each phase of growth and development even in the mother’s womb, the DNA of the child directly influences its development. The child’s genome will become its most distinguishing feature; its DNA is different from everyone else’s DNA. In this sense, the child will develop based on the genes it received from his or her parents; the child’s body shape, hair color, eye color,  complexion, and temperament as well as numerous other characteristics will arise based on its inherited genes.  Therefore, it is evident that parents directly influence the development of their child in the genetic sense.  Once the child is born, however, the child enters into a new environment in which the parents are the sole means of survival and interaction with the world. If two people grew up in the same kind of environment but they will live differently and make different decisions because of their genetics, they are build differently.  As a result, a key question arises; to what extent do parents influence the development of their child beyond genetics?  How do the environmental interactions with parents influence the development of a child?  Studies show that parents greatly influence the development of their child in all areas (Papalia, Olds, Feldman, 2002); however, parental influence on development is most notable in the areas of psychosocial development.  Furthermore, parents play a vital role in the social-emotional, physical and cognitive development of their child or children. 

Which of the domains of development do the parents impact?

Certainly, all the parents influence in many branches of their children’s development. Our parents raise us from childhood, because they are the factor that shapes us as individuals. They impact on various domains of human development: physical, psychological, emotional, social, cognitive and behavioral development of their child or children. All aspects of child development are interconnected. For example, a child’s ability to learn new information is influenced by his ability to interact appropriately with others and his ability to control his immediate impulses. Emotional, cognitive, social, and physical development are interrelated and influence each other (Putnam, Sanson, Rothbart).

First of all, parents form a child’s perception of the world. Children’s experiences in their earliest years affect how their brains work, the way they respond to stress, and their ability to form trusting relationships. During these years the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, setting the stage for social and emotional development. Language blossoms, basic motor abilities form, thinking becomes more complex, and children begin to understand their own feelings and those of others (Sroufe). As well as parents in this period of child development are with their children, they contribute to the positive development of children’s feelings, emotions and perception of the environment. So, emotional development is very important to cultivate.

The development from childhood into young adulthood brings new cultural and societal opportunities and expectations. Nationally, more than half (55 percent) of infants display at least one characteristic of a difficult temperament most of the time, suggesting that many of these characteristics are common. For instance, most infants want attention and company. However, when an infant demands attention through crying, fits, or whimpering most of the time, this may be a sign of a difficult temperament (Putnam, Sanson, Rothbart). And, together these behaviors make caring for difficult babies challenging for many parents. But exactly parents look after their child’s development in society, how he or she reacts to different things and how begin to communicate with other people. Since early childhood, parents lay the foundation of development of their babies. As a result, it depends on parents which moral values will be in the child and how he or she would relate to others and to society in a whole.

The health of a child is very important to every parent, isn’t it? So, there’s a question do the parents impact on their children’s health? The answer will be – totally! Firstly, child’s health may be affected during pregnancy if the mother is taking drugs. This could result in premature birth and low birth weight which can then lead to a slower development rate and affect the development later on in their life, if they have had drugs\smoke in themselves before as a baby in the placenta. Therefore, parents influence on their young children’s physical activity behaviours. It is widely accepted that physical activity has numerous positive health outcomes including its influence on meeting healthy weight goals, when associated with low-energy intake through healthy eating habits. In children, physical activity is particularly important as it improves gross and fine motor skill development necessary for academic performance (e.g., writing, reading), self-perceived competence (academic as well as athletic) as well as increasing socio-emotional adjustment and self-esteem. Supporting the importance of parental support and role modeling in their children’s physical activity habits, research suggests that there is a link between parental physical activity, encouragement, involvement/interaction, support, and their children habits. Gustafson and Rhodes found that children between 4 and 7 years of age were 3.5 to almost 6 times more likely to be active when one or both parents were active than when both parents were inactive. Among the various components of parental influence, it appears that parental facilitation exerts the greatest independent influence on young children’s physical activity and on health in a result. In addition, there is evidence that parental support of child physical activity contributes to the maintenance of physical activity habits later in adolescence (Gustafson, Rhodes). So, that’s the fact, that our parents on our physical health.

Cognitive development related to the ability of children and adolescents to think and reason. As a child grows, she begins to think in concrete ways, such as when she performs mathematical equations. In adolescence, she begins to use more complex thought processes such as reasoning, when she is considering multiple points of view and engaging in abstract thinking. As an adolescent grows, she will begin to develop her own ideas, question authority, form a personal code of ethics, make plans for the future and begin to consider abstract concepts. Of course, parents raise us from birth and try to develop mental abilities. But a child’s cognitive development, including his intelligence, information processing, conceptual resources, perceptual skill, language learning and skills may be influenced by many factors. It may take more than just parenting skills to form a child’s abilities to process information, develop his skills in decision making and so on. Many other important aspects in a child’s life can influence his brain development, such as: his state of health or disease, his physical environment, the adequacy of his nutrition, his social environment, his genetic make-up, his family’s dynamics and his family’s socioeconomic status (Kawamura, Frost, Harmatz). Although parenting skills are important in raising motivated children, learning may be enhanced by many other factors that play a dynamic role in mental development. More research needs to be done.

Why do parents behave the way they do when raising children? One answer is that they are modelling the behaviour of their own parents, having learned how to parent in the course of being parented. Another is that they are behaving in accord with information about appropriate parenting  acquired through books, Web sites, or informal and formal advice. Yet another major determinant of their behaviour lies in their general attitudes as well as specific beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that are activated during parenting: These have a  powerful impact on behaviour, even if parents are distressed by or unaware of that impact. Many of researchers interested in children’s development have explored parenting attitudes, cognitions, and the resulting emotions (such as anger or happiness), because of their influence on parenting behaviour and on the subsequent impact of that parenting behaviour on  children’s socioemotional and cognitive development.

Emotion Development

When most people think of parenting, they picture changing diapers, messy feeding times, and chasing a screaming child through a crowded grocery store. But parenting goes far beyond the requirements for meeting the basic survival needs of the child, and parents have a significant influence on how children turn out, including their personality, emotional development, and behavioral habits, as well as a host of other factors. It is important for the overall development of children that parents be present enough to support them, and this support fosters confidence and growth in many areas. Let’s explore the ways parents can impact the emotional development of their children. Sometimes, just being physically present is not enough. Parents that may be nearby but that are not emotionally invested or responsive tend to raise children that are more distressed and less engaged with their play or activities. A study investigating the connection between parent’s investment and children’s competence suggests that the emotional involvement of parents really does matter and affects the outcome of their child’s emotional competence and regulation (Volling). Parents should keep this in mind when considering the quality of the time they spend with their children, because if they do not invest enough of their time and commitment into pouring emotionally into their child, the child will struggle to learn how to regulate his emotions and interact with others appropriately.

Authoritative parenting is defined by parents that are both demanding and supportive of their child.  Parents set known expectations for their child in a variety of arenas including academic achievement, social behavior, and familial relationships.  Along with these expectations, parents are also extremely supportive in the child’s various endeavors and express love and support regardless of a child’s success or failure (Kawamura, Frost, Harmatz). Authoritative parents are responsive and accepting of their children, but also enforce a sense of control and authority over their children. Enforcing control while still maintaining a sense of acceptance may seem like a difficult balance to sustain.  However, there are various methods to do so.  First, it is important that a child maintains a consistently high sense of self-esteem throughout their lives, most importantly their childhood and adolescence. Toddlers and little kids generally have few self-esteem issues, however, the beginning of school and adolescence brings about an onslaught of self-esteem issues stemming from the physical and social changes associated with puberty.  Kids begin to compare themselves to their peers in many aspects of life, which can lead to negative conceptions of the self.  Those with low self-esteem tend to dwell on their negative characteristics and failures, which can lead to larger issues of depression and anxiety (Kawamura, Frost, Harmatz). At this time parents have to avoid such problems for their child during those tough teenage years, make sure to use a nurturing, democratic parenting style and constantly show affection and support. For example, the relationship between the causes and consequences of child maltreatment is particularly problematic, since some factors (such as low intelligence in the child) may help stimulate abusive behavior by the parent or caretaker, but low intelligence can also be a consequence of abusive experiences in early childhood.

A key aspect of emotional development in children is learning how to regulate emotions (and parents have to recognize it). Children see how their parents display emotions and interact with other people, and they imitate what they see their parents do to regulate emotions (Morris, Silk, Steinberg, Myers, Robinson). A child’s temperament also plays a role in their emotion regulation, guided by the parenting style they receive. For example, children more prone to negative emotions or episodes of anger are deeply affected by hostile and neglectful parenting, often leading to even more behavioral problems. Difficult temperaments can become a bidirectional problem that evokes even more negative emotions from the parent if not monitored (Putnam, Sanson, Rothbart). Parents should be aware that not only do their own emotions and parenting style affect the emotional outcomes of their children, but if they are not aware of how their children’s tempers affect them, they could fall into a spiral of ineffective and indifferent parenting which further contributes to negative behaviors from the children.

Psychologists believes that an individual’s beliefs about their self will largely affect their motivation to achieve. Parents who praise their children for working hard and expanding solid effort will ultimately foster a growth mindset within their children. This growth mindset is defined by an individual who believes that his or her outcomes are attributed to effort rather than innate abilities (Sroufe). Additionally, these children enjoy challenges and persist despite failure. Some parents praising or criticizing children based on their individual traits. They should avoid it as this will encourage the development of a fixed mindset within children. In this fixed mindset, children will base their sense of self worth on approval from others, and will ultimately seek out situations in which they cannot fail. They believe that success or failure is attributed to aspects of the self, and that their intelligence is static and unable to develop further. These ideas of growth and fixed mindset largely affect a child’s achievement motivation, and will ultimately either encourage or discourage them from high achievement later on in life.

Furthermore, how parents address the emotions of their children and respond to them affects how expressive the children feel they can be. Reacting with criticism or dismissing the sadness or anger of a child communicates that their emotions are not valid or appropriate, which can cause children to be even more prone to those negative emotions and less able to cope with stress (Morris, Silk, Steinberg, Myers, Robinson). Instead, guiding children’s emotions and helping them find ways to express themselves in a healthy manner helps them continue regulating their responses to challenges and even aids their academic and social competence. This sort of emotion coaching greatly helps in reducing future problem behavior in children.


It should be mentioned parenting decisions affect how children turn out physically, socially, and emotionally, but that is not to say parents should be obsessed with following certain steps to have a perfectly well-adjusted child. We accept that there is no perfect formula for parents to model behavior or speak to children in certain ways to make them have a perfect emotional development experience, and that places a limit on the exploration of this subject. Parents can help their children develop into emotionally, cognitively and physically stable people by giving them a supportive environment, positive feedback, role models of healthy behavior and interactions.


Gustafson S. L. and Rhodes R. E. (2006). “Parental correlates of physical activity in children and early adolescents,” Sports Medicine, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 79–97.

Kawamura, K. Y., Frost, R. O., & Harmatz, M. G. (2002). The relationship of perceived parenting styles to perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 32(2), 317-327.

Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2002). A Child’s World: Infancy Through Adolescence (9th ed.). New York, NY:  McGraw Hill. 

Putnam, S.P., Sanson, A.V., & Rothbart, M.K. (2002). Child temperament and parenting. Handbook of Parenting, 1, 255–277.

Sheffield Morris, A., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotional regulation.Social Development, 16(2), pp 361-388.

Sroufe, L.A. (2005). Attachment and development: A prospective, longitudinal study from birth to adulthood. Attachment & Human Development, 7(4), pp. 349–367.

Volling B., McElwain, N., Notaro, P., & Herrera, C. (2002). Parents’ emotional availability and infant emotional competence: Predictors of parent-infant attachment and emerging self-regulation. Journal of family psychology, 16, pp 447-465.

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[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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