Compliance and the young child: the role of the parents

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

The early socialization process is investigated in a study of the relationship between parents * childrearing practices and child compliance at home and at school. The developmental model of socialization proposed by Sears, Maccoby, and Levin (1957), in which parents gradually shift their childrearing styles as children move from reliance on external controls to reliance on their own internalized controls, is examined as a useful approach to the understanding of socialization.The present study investigates individual differences in the relationships between mothers' and fathers * childrearing techniques and child compliance at home and school. Five categories of childrearing techniques are investigated: the use of direct external techniques (e.g., physical intervention), indirect internal techniques (e.g., reasoning), motivational techniques, number of socialization issues parents address, and parents * persistence in enforcing discipline after child noncompliance. Twenty-seven families of children aged 5 to 6 years were recruited for participation from two Houston private preschools. The families were white, middle to uppermiddle class. The data were gathered through a combination of naturalistic observation and self-report techniques. Observations of each family were conducted in the homes on two evenings, with parent-child interactions recorded on audiotape, and described with pencil and paper techniques that recorded the frequency and sequencing of all parent socializing attempts. Both parents were interviewed regarding their childrearing practices and concerns, and were given a written rating scale on their child's compliance at home. Each child was also observed in the school setting for two hours on two different days, again using pencil and paper techniques. Teachers completed a rating scale similar to that given the parents. The results showed that parents who relied more on developmentally advanced techniques, such as reasoning, and less on less advanced techniques, such as physical intervention, had children who were compliant at school, though not necessarily at home. In addition, parents who addressed a large number of socialization issues had children who were compliant at home. For mothers, the association extended to children also being compliant at school. Lastly, parents who used fewer motivational techniques had more compliant children; for fathers, the relationship was significant for child compliance in school, while for mothers it was significant for child compliance at home. The results are discussed in terms of the socialization model proposed by Sears et al. (1957), as well as in terms of the complementary roles played by mothers and fathers in regard to child compliance in different settings. Indications for future research, as well as clinical implications, are discussed.

Child rearing, Child development