Monday, April 5, 2010


A notion I've always disagreed with is that children are a direct reflection of their parents, or that we grow up to "become our parents." Personally, I see very few similarities between my parents and myself: we are polar opposites on our views & values, problem solve in different ways, and have completely different interests. While I owed the differences to our having "grown up" in different places and times, this article from the University of Texas offers a good take on different aspects of parentology: from observing behavioral patterns shared by parents and their children, to how divorce can affect children. The study revealed that the more pragmatic people are in describing their childhood (without sugar coating or generalizing) the more likely it is that the behavioral patterns they have "inherited" will not negatively affect their own parenting.

It is often said that children are impressionable. Supposedly so much so that they are said to mimic what they see or hear in their environment. Yet the article offers a more important thought: that children are perceptive. Even (20 month old) young children can perceive their parents' action and behavior well and respond accordingly- so that children of depressive mother tend to be less defiant or the children of sensitive mother being more defiant or aware of their own effectiveness. They are not mirroring their pants, but almost counteracting against their parents. Likewise, children of divorced parents can notice if the parents is dating or changing their hobbies or interests- the key question being: how will they respond to the change?

This is not to say however, that children are not directly affected by their parents behavior. While the abused do not always become the abusive in the same sense, abuse (or behaviors) can be passed down in different forms. For example, a mother that was sexually abused in her childhood does not abuse her daughter, but can have episodes where she is sweet one moment and growling at her and smothering her next. While her daughter doesn't endure the same abuse as her mother, she can be affected by this inconsistency in her mother.

Bottom line: There's no doubt that we are affected by our parents. Yet how those behavioral patterns manifest themselves if and when we become patterns depends on how creative you are in recalling or coping with your experiences.

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