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The progression of the development of a child goes through different stages, each of which the environment in which the child is brought up has a significant effect on the child’s growth and development. There is a general agreement that the environment plays a pivotal role in shaping the child’s development, while the domains of socialization within the child’s environment shape the overall child’s behavior (Gopnik, 2016). However, the major issue of contention is what environmental factors exactly constitute this influence. The context and the genetic factors have been established as the major confounding factors on how a child develops and turns out (Harris, 2000). Nevertheless, while one faction of the science of child development argues for the prevalence of the genetic factors in shaping the overall behavioral outcome of a child, the other faction holds that the parental/genetic factor plays a zero long-term effects on how a child turns out (Levine, 2016). Therefore, the debate concerns the subject of child development after infancy and early childhood. According to Harris (1998), parents play a very small role in defining who children turn out, with the bulk contribution of the child’s overall behavioral turnout being shaped by the peers (p.712). On the other hand, Vandell (2000) proposes that everything that parent do and say has an irreparable effect on a child’s turnout (p.703). Based on this contracted debate, this discussion seeks to hold that the peers, as opposed to the parents, play a significant role in shaping the child’s overall behavioral turnout after infancy and early childhood.
The bulk of the behavioral turnout of a child is contributed to, by the child’s interaction outside of the home-environment. The outside-home socialization with the peers play a significant role in shaping the way a child is likely to turnout behaviorally, since it is though peer socialization, identification and assimilation that a child acquires behavior codes (Harris, 2000). Therefore, children behavior will differ from the behavior espoused, taught and imposed by the parents in the home-environment, based on the nature of the social peer groups that the child associates with outside of the home environment. It is such influences that determine the genetic behavioral variations between children and their parents, where children may possess contrasting and at time behaviors that are directly opposite those of their parents (Gopnik, 2016). Further, the non-genetic variation of behavior is also contributed to by the social peer group dynamics, considering the fact that the variations and differences within the peer group also contributes to variations of behavior within that social group (Harris, 2000). Therefore, the overall behavioral turnout of a child is influenced by the child’s interaction with a raft of social domains in the environment, which comprises of the peers, teachers, neighbors and the societal culture.
Nevertheless, this position has been refuted by counterarguments, which hold that as opposed to the peer social influence, parenting play a very important role in defining the overall outcome of a child’s behavior. According to the counterargument, parental influence is most dominant as the determinant of the child’s behavior, because the parental interaction with a child is the primary domain that shapes how a child interacts with the external environment and the peers (Vandell, 2000). In this respect, for example, the way a child in shaped behaviorally within the home-environment can influence a child not to join the wrong social groups when they attain the age of adolescence. Additionally, the right approaches of parenting during a child’s adolescence can also influence the child from turning to the wrong groups (Levine, 2016). Consequently, the parental influence on parenting does not only have a lasting impact starting with the parental approach during infancy and early childhood, but also continues to have a strong and lasting impact even in the post infancy and early childhood stages. Further, culture, which is an aspect that transmitted from the parent to their children, is a fundamental factor that shapes and defines a child’s overall behavior turnout (Gopnik, 2016). Consequently, the environment outside of the home is perceived as influencing a child through the parental influence, since it is the parents that introduces their children to the culture which generally shapes the child’s overall behavior. Further, the counterargument holds that the variations in the behaviors depicted by children from those of their parents are informed by the genetic confounding factors, which attributes different temperaments, competencies and developmental traits (Vandell, 2000). Parents apply different parenting approach for their children, based on the developmental and behavioral nurturing needs of each child, while exposing the children to a generally similar home, familial and cultural sub contexts, which effectively informs the children’s overall cultural orientation. Nevertheless, the perceived differences in the behaviors of children born and bred by the same parents are attributable to these genetic confounding factors, which allocate different genetic developmental characteristics such as temperaments, competencies and developmental traits to each child (Gopnik, 2016).
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Although the counterarguments have defended the position that parents plays an important and dominant role in shaping their children’s behavior, such counterarguments have not been able to make compelling and convincing arguments. This is because, the overall outcome of a child’s behavior is well explained by the peer socialization theory. For example, the peer attribution to the dominance in shaping a child’s behavior can explain both the behavior possessed by a child, which match or fail to match those of their parents. For example, the matching of aggressive or kind and respectful behavior for a child whose parent has the same behavioral trait can simply be explained by the genetic predisposition of the child, as opposed to the parental effort in shaping the child’s behavior in this fashion (Harris, 2000). Therefore, the genetic confounding factors, as opposed to the parenting approach, accounts for the children’s behavior that matches those of their children.
On the other hand, the explanation of the children behavior tha6t do not match those of their parents, according to the peer socialization theory, is informed by the diversity and behavioral variations of the outside-home environment which the child interacts with on a regular basis (Harris, 2000). Therefore, if a child regularly interact with peer social groups that have aggressive behavioral tendencies, the child is likely to be high influenced to adopt and manifest such behaviors, as the child tries to get assimilated and fit into the social group. The assertion is backed-up by the perceived tendency of children to distance themselves from their parental authority, control and guidance during adolescence (Levine, 2016). Most children in their adolescence tend to rebel their parents authority, rather opting to strengthen their attachment with their adolescent peers. Similarly, children will often speak their native language at home, but will learn, adapt and speak a new language commonly used by their peers outside of the home environment with much ease (Harris, 2000). Such behavioral characteristics are informed by the children’s need to fit into their peer social groups.
Consequently, the assumption that parental upbringing is the major factor that accounts for the overall children behavior can be concluded to be wrong. This is because, what children learn within the home environment might not be relevant in the outside world, resulting in such children applying adaptive strategies that suit the outside world (Gopnik, 2016). Further, the need for adapting to the outside world can constitute even identical twins born and brought up in the same household to possess and manifest different behavioral traits, based on their outside world context, which each of the twins has to adapt to (Harris, 2000). Where such identical twins are brought up in the same household and they go ahead to possess and manifest similar behavioral traits, then it is because their genetic confounding factors, simply referred to as nature, shapes then to such behavioral manifestations.
Therefore, although the side of the debate holding that the peers, as opposed to the parents, play a significant role in shaping the child’s overall behavioral turnout after infancy and early childhood presents a strong argument, it does not seem to be possible to resolve the debate. The parental and the peer role in shaping the behaviors of children will continue well into the future. However, if the position that the social peer groups have a strong influence in shaping a child’s behavior after infancy and early childhood than the parental upbringing was considered more important, then it would become very necessary for parents to monitor their children’s peer social groups. In this respect, it will require parents to focus more on the nature of the social peer groups their children are involved with, as opposed to focusing on shaping their children’s behavior in the way the parents would desire.
The debate over whether it is the parental upbringing or the peer social domain that has a stronger is one which may not end in the foreseeable future. This is because, while the proponents of the parental upbringing rely on the premise of the parental transmission of culture and other home-context behavioral traits as vital for shaping the overall child’s behavior, the opponents hold that the peer social groups have the major impact on the child’s behavior post early childhood, especially starting in the adolescence. Therefore, the debate concerning the subject of child development after infancy and early childhood continues to raise controversy both in the academia and in the developmental psychology fronts.
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- Gopnik, A. (2016). The gardener and the carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Harris, J. R. (2000). Socialization, personality development, and the child’s environments: Comment on Vandell (2000). Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 711-723.
- Levine, R. (2016). Do parents matter?: Why japanese babies sleep soundly, mexican siblings don’t fight, and … american families should relax. Place of publication not identified: Public Affairs.
- Vandell, D.L. (2000). Parents, peer groups, and other socializing influences. Developmental Psychology, 36(6), 699-710.