Analysis of data from the large study on twins in Germany (TwinLife), showed no support for the belief that parental control, parental activity and extracurricular activities influence the development noncognitive skills among early adolescents (ages 10-14). Six non-cognitive skills were considered by the authors. These included motivation to go to school, to learn, education related skills, self confidence, self-efficacy, self esteem, and how much control an adolescent feels he/she can exercise over their own lives. The paper was published by the University of California Press in Acta Sociologica.
The majority of parents view parenting as a significant channel through the child’s development. Researchers distinguish two aspects of parenting – parenting styles and parental and extracurricular activities. The emotional climate that parents create for children and their families is called parenting styles. They are unique combinations that parents can use to control their emotional heat and control.
Researchers tend to see the parenting style that is defined by high levels of both warmth and control, the so-called “authoritative parenting style” as better for child development than other combinations of these aspects. Parental activities are the interactions parents have with their children to positively influence their development. Some extracurricular activities can also be considered to contribute to the development non-cognitive skills.
Many studies in the past support the notion that parenting has an impact on skill development during early childhood. This was particularly true for children coming from economically disadvantaged families. Many of these studies don’t allow for cause and effect, and very few studies have investigated the effects of parenting on adolescents in their earliest years.
To study the effects of parenting on early adolescents, professor Michael Grätz from the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and his colleagues analyzed a part of data from TwinLIfe, a large German panel of twins and their families. They used data from two timepoints that were available – one from 2014/2015 and the other from 2016/2017. They analyzed data from 756 pairs, which included twins aged between 10 and 12, at the time they were first collected the data.
Six non-cognitive skills were examined by researchers to determine if they were relevant for education and future opportunities. These included children’s academic self-concept (self-assessment of their education-related skills), intrinsic motivation to attend school (how much children are motivated to attend school on their own, without external incentives), learning motivation, self-efficacy (the degree to which children believe that they can accomplish their goals), self-esteem (their belief to be a valuable person), and locus of control (children’s assessment of how much control they have over their lives).
They also looked at data about parental styles. These are the degrees of warmth, control, and activities of parents. These indicate how often family members engage in activities like reading, singing, or visiting museums per month. Similar assessments were made for extracurricular activities, which included the frequency of such activities per calendar month.
Researchers considered whether the twins are monozygotic and dizygotic to account for genetic variation. As a control, they used the intelligence of children (Culture Fair Intelligence Test CFT-20R).
“We find small positive effects of parental warmth on learning motivation, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and locus of control for DZ twins, and on academic self-concept, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy for MZ twins. The strongest effect for DZ twins is found on self-esteem, and for MZ twins on self-efficacy”, authors report.
However, they note that the pattern does not hold across all skills. It is notable that researchers did not control for intelligence, birthweight, prior noncognitive abilities, or prior intelligence. However, the effects of warmth vanished except for the effect of warmth on self-esteem in dizygotic siblings. The study authors conclude that “results suggest that parenting styles do not affect noncognitive skills in early adolescence”.
Parental control had no discernible effects. There were no effects due to parental warmth or control alone. Extracurricular and parental activities did not have any impact on the study of noncognitive skills.
The study authors point out that their study only examines variations in parenting between families. Different parenting styles may have a greater impact on child development than differences in the parenting style of families. However, there are limitations on how generalized the findings from twin studies can be. Results from studies of twins may not be comparable with those obtained on children from other countries or groups.
The study, “The effects of parenting on early adolescents’ noncognitive skills: Evidence from a sample of twins in Germany“, was authored by Michael Grätz, Volker Lang, and Martin Diewald.
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