Research surrounding the development of communications skills suggests that it is built through family influence. Basically, children learn from what they see, hear and feel. Parents are generally the first caregiver a child is influenced by. By influencing a child, you build their self-concept, self esteem, and verbal skills that are necessary to be able to communicate effectively. Research has effectively shown that communication skills are learned through parents though little has shown the influence of specific parents. With society changes, such as single parents, male or female, same sex marriages, and joint custody divorces, research in this area may help to show differences that occur in communicating and cause developmental issues. This research proposal will address the influence of communication skills that a particular parent provides on their children’s development.
The research questions to be addressed within this proposal are; In what way does an individual parental figure influence communication skills within a child’s development and does communication remain consistent between a parental figure and a child throughout childhood?
Our hypothesis contains two-parts. Our first prediction is that the research will suggest that the motherly figure will play the larger role than the fatherly figure in all areas of the child’s communication skill development. Second, we predict that the fatherly figure will influence a daughter’ romantic relationship communication in later life, and motherly figures will influence a son’s romantic relationship communication in later life.
Review of Literature:
Research has proven time and again that skills for communication are developed through the parental influence whether that be mother, father, grandparent or brother playing the parental role. This research is better known as the attachment theory. Attachment security has been known to assist in developing communication competency in children (Black & Schutte, 2006). Attachment can help a child develop positive and negative socialization skills. A parental relationship that is positive and warm helps a child be more welcoming to social environments. Negative parental relationships can cause children to be more cautious of social settings, and may not voice feelings or concerns in groups (Kohn, 2005). It is valuable for children to form secure attachments to a caregiver. Children that form insecure attachments, such as: avoidant, usually have inconsistent or negative parents, leaving a child without the means to react properly if at all (Weeb, 2010).
Social behavior, which is easily defined as behavior affecting another person or individual, may impact communication. Parental impact on the social behavior may be the cause for positive and negative responses from a child (Goddard, 1994). Positive forms of social behavior are empathy, emotional security and awareness which is behavior that must be modeled to learn. Therefor children that experience empathy from a caregiver are more likely to be empathetic. Children that learn negative social behavior such as rejection and hostility have a higher risk to develop antisocial behavior. Support and open communication in childhood can be a factor in adolescent and adult taking social risks or having negative social behaviors (Laible, 2007).
Gender, which is what we learn to be. We are all born male or female, but we must learn to take the role of girl or boy by what we are taught. It is our learned behavior to take on a gender role of “man” or “woman”(World Health Organization, 2002, p. 4). Fathers have taken the role as the “man of the family” or the dominant one in many households. This type of ego may contribute to boys coming across bossy or possibly the opposite effect where they become shy and on guard. Mothers that may be shy or not likely to speak up for themselves may inflict that type of personality on their child without being aware. Women tend to be more nurturing, warm and sensitive to feelings, where men tend to be more competitive and feel they need to hold a higher social status (Timmers and Fischer, 1998). Children that don’t witness people standing up for themselves may lack the ability to do so for themselves. Gender may play a vital role in how our children learn to communicate in the home and with others.
It is possible it could be beneficial to determine if, and how, an individual parent can play a role in the communication development of a child. By identifying specific skills that a child learns from a specific parent, mother or father, could assist families in recognizing how to help compensate for a missing parental figure. A study like the longitudinal study of Freitag & Belsky’s (1996) on parent -child relationships containing infancy through childhood possibly could be a valid and reliable choice for the study of progress over time of child communication development. The study of Freitag & Belsky’s (1996) contains interviews and questionnaires from the children and parental figures. which helps in forming a picture on the influence of an individual parent on a child’s communication development.
Population and Sampling:
Research for study will be ongoing, and preformed on a set number or families, consisting of various family setups. the family setup will consist of families that have both a mother and a father, just a mother, just a father, as well as two set of same sex partners. Location of such research will take place in Rochester, New Hampshire where there are eight elementary schools that involve a diverse cluster of economic classes. The families selected will only include children fives years old at the start of the study. By making the study ongoing, the measurements of communication skills will be valid. Within the ongoing study, progress and growth can be noted as the children grow up.
Definitions of Variables and Research Strategy:
Within the groups of family selected, some will be compromised of families that have both mother and father present, along with same-sex domestic parents, while others will have a single parent raising the children. The different family styles included will indicate how having strictly the influence of one parent will affect the child. By having a variety of family styles included in the study, a level of external validity will be more likely. having a variety of family styles versus just families with both parents present involved will be a more representation of today’s society.
In the research the dependent variables are the children age five to eighteen and the independent variables are the parental caregivers. The family construct has continued evolving over time, with more raising of children done by single parents, divorced parents, and same-sex parents (Osborne and McLanahan, 2007). Identifying the different skills that children learn specifically from mother or father could help current families recognize early how to compensate on the missing parent to help a child’s communication development.
The first instrument in the study will be interviews conducted by a qualified researcher,similar to questions asked in the Freitag and Belsky(2006) study, with each of the families every three years, until the child reaches 18 years old. The interviewer will set up a time to interview the parents, or parent, and age permitting children. The children will answer questions about the level of communication present within the family, whereas questions that the parent(s) will be asked will indicate what form of communication style that advocate-ranging from a very communicative family atmosphere to one where conformity of parents’ ideas are valued. how each parent answers the questions will help identify distinctions between what kind of communication is valued by mothers, and what is valued by fathers.
Questions that children are asked will indicate which communication style they perceive their parent(s) advocate. In addition, for families that have both parents present, the children will be asked about which parent they spend the most time with, and which they feel more comfortable with. Questions will be modified as the children get older and the family dynamics alter. Also, the interviews will be video-taped so that the research team can view and interpret the interviews together. this form of measurement will promote validity of the experiment by providing data of the communication skills development process as it is occurring.
The second instrument in the study will be a Parent-Child Communication Questionnaire issued to the parent(s) on the same day of the interviews. This will be scored with a 5-point Lickert scale, 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree. The Questionnaire will ask each parent specific questions about the level of communication that he or she has with each individual child in the family.Questions will in ones such as “I encourage my child to talk to me if they are upset” and, “I make an effort to spend time alone with my child”. The parent(s) will fill out a different questionnaire for each child. this is very important because past studies suggest that the sex of the child plays a role in which communication skills are developed.
The third instrument in this study will be a Child-Parent Communication Questionnaire issued to the children within the families once they reach early adolescence, between ages 11-13. The Lickert scale will also be used in this instrument. this questionnaire will ask questions about the levels of communication he or she has with each individual parent. Each child will fill out a different questionnaire for each parent in order to determine the differences between parents in level of communication influence. Questions will include ones such as “When I am upset I do not tell my mom” and, ” When I am upset I do not tell my dad.”
The fourth and final instrument used in this study will be a Child-Peer Communication Questionnaire issued to the children within the family along with the Child-Parent Communication Questionnaire. The Lickert scale will again be used to measure the level of communication competence with peers. This questionnaire, given to the children once they reach early adolescence (between ages 11-13) will ask the children questions about their peer relationships. This is important because how a child communicates with their peer should directly reflect how they communicate with their parent(s). Questions will include ones such as ” Most of my friends are the same sex as me” and, “I feel comfortable about talking to my friends about things that are important to me.”
The level of communication competence gained from each individual parent will be calculated and evaluated by trained coders who will analyze all four measures together, with sex of child as a control factor.
The three questionnaires will provide instrument reliability because the answers are rated on a scale of 1-5, so there will be minimal variance when the researcher interprets the data. Also, questions will remain the same for each questionnaire at every time it is administered in order to keep track changes in answers as time progresses throughout the study.
Analysis of Data:
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