How Parents Influence Children’s Development

The Handbook of Parenting and Child Development Across the Lifespan is a compilation of the most important theory and empirical findings relating to the parent-child relationships. The authors aimed at building comprehensive conceptual framework for understanding all aspects of the parenting role and how parenting practices influence children’s lifelong development.

Matthew R. Sanders is considered a world leader in the development, evaluation, and global dissemination of evidence-based programs. Alina Morawska is Deputy Director (Research) at the Parenting and Family Support Centre, the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on behavioural family intervention as a means for promoting positive family relationships, and the prevention and early intervention for young children at risk of developing behavioural and emotional problems. She is a Director of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy Ltd. She has published extensively in the field of parenting and family intervention and has received numerous grants to support her research.

The authors make the case for a multilevel system of evidence-based parenting support within a population health framework and discuss the economic benefits of investments in parenting programs. The author argues that the access to social support from partners, extended family and friends, religious organizations, and the workplace have a strong influence on the parenting system.


Nature vs Nurture

“Being a parent can be a wonderfully fulfilling role that brings immense joy, pride and happiness to the lives of parents.”

But parenting takes place in a wide variety of socioeconomic circumstances and children begin life in diverse situations that do not provide equal opportunities to thrive developmentally.

While the determinants of parenting are complex (Belsky, 1984). One can safely assume that when parenting occurs in a very low resource setting, children’s health and development are adversely affected. Parents differ considerably in their knowledge of child development and effective parenting practices, their self-efficacy, and their emotional resilience in undertaking the parenting role. A host of genetic and biological factors (that are mostly nonmodifiable by parents) interact with environmental and cultural factors to determine the kind of parenting children experiences as they grow up.


What is Parenting and how does it affect children?

The parenting role involves a set of purposeful activities that ensure the survival, care, development, and well-being of children. It involves a number of interrelated functions that gradually change over the course of a child’s development. How successfully a parent undertakes their parenting responsibilities impacts on their children's adjustment, mental health and wellbeing into adulthood. The aim is for children to reach adulthood with the prosocial skills, interests, and health habits needed to live healthy, happy, and productive lives.

Parents have a crucial role in children’s socialization by establishing expectations (Maccoby, 2015). This socialization process also includes monitoring and supervising children, actively teaching children the cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and self-regulatory skills they need to become independent in daily living. Providing limits and boundaries in a developmentally and culturally appropriate manner. It involves helping children learn to self-manage their emotions and behaviour, and to control impulsive behaviour and refrain from unacceptable behaviour (e.g., hitting, bullying, temper tantrums, and disobedience), and how to behave appropriately in varied social situations.

Children tend to have fewer social or emotional problems at school when parents actively involve themselves in children’s learning and education (Brotman, Basrjas-Gonzalez, Dawson-McClure, & Calzada, 2018; Kirby & Hodges, 2018). Parents have an important role in encouraging tolerance, compassion, and acceptance of others (e.g., racial, cultural, religious differences), and the avoidance of inadvertently teaching children to be prejudiced.

Roles and Responsibilities of Parents

There is no single right way to raise children and many different parenting arrangements can be made to work or fail. Parenting takes place in many diverse family contexts (e.g., nuclear family, single parent, adoptive family, adoptive, blended or stepfamily, foster or kinship care, multigenerational or multiple family house-holds). Parents need to reach an agreement about parental roles and responsibilities.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

There is no single-family configuration that is essential to produce healthy, well- adjusted children. Children can thrive in any environment that creates a loving, stable, secure family context that caters for children’s social, emotional, and physical needs. 

Parents emotional health and well-being can have a major impact on a parent’s capacity to parent their children. The African proverb It takes a village to raise a child speaks to the importance of parents having access to strong community support in parenting. Grandparents play an important role in the lives of parents and grandchildren, and comprise an important form of social support. In many cultures, the extended family plays a crucial part in child rearing and there are defined roles and responsibilities.

Libertarian Paternalism and the need for universal evidence backed programmes.

Children who have plenty of age-appropriate activities available in a safe supervised environment have greater opportunities for free play, exploration, experimentation, and discovery. Cultural and religious context in which families live can greatly influence parenting values and practices. Parents need to keep up with the technological advances being accessed by their digital-native children. Families are forced to develop new ways of monitoring and educating children about cyberbullying, cyber safety, and informed consumerism. 

True to the spirit of Libertarian Paternalism, Parents must develop the knowledge, skills, and resources to care for their child’s physical and educational needs (e.g., food, clean water, warmth, and hygiene practices) Good parenting is a cost-efficient, common pathway to positively influence many different developmental outcomes, from healthy brain development to reduced risk of anti-social behaviours. 

The social role of being a parent and its associated activities is important to not only the next generation, but for society as a whole.


Parenting is a major determinant of children’s development and life course outcomes. It is based on various biological and environmental factors. Parenting is malleable and parents continue to learn to parent throughout their lifetime, from the anxious beginnings of being a first-time parent to the challenge of being a great grandparent in the later years of life. The social role of being a parent and its associated activities is important to not only the next generation; it has a fundamental role in influencing the personal well-being of parents as adults and the quality of community and family life they experience. The authors advocate for a policy-based investment to train and support a workforce that can deliver a variety of culturally informed, evidence-based parenting programs relevant to community and individual needs. Improved feedback loops between parenting and child development research, government policy, and professional service delivery can only serve to enhance child, parent, family, and community outcomes.

What we can do as individual parents:

1. Eating with our kids a family provides much needed sense of security and builds a sense of togetherness. It also acts as an avenue to talk and get to understand/ bond with each other.

2. Reading books to toddlers and young children is one of the best ways to socialize, teach and bond with our children. The benefits range from in the moment bonding to gaining important cognitive and social skills.

3. Playing board games, Going for picnics, hiking/trekking, sports and other similar activities can improve team work, leadership skills and most of all strengthen family bonds that can last for a lifetime!

Its a small investment that will reap large rewards for the child, the family and eventually, the society at large!

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