Most psychologists have said that children's behaviour is largely influenced
by genes and parent's upbringing. Freud the psychologist placed parents at
the centre of the child's universe.
Genes are responsible for 50% of our
behaviour. This conclusion was the result of years of study by behavioural
scientists. People are nervous, friendly, unsociable and so on because of
their genes. Therefore the other half of a person's character must be due to
the home environment shaped by the parents. `That was how I was raised!' is
a common response.
Yet researchers have not been able to find conclusive evidence of this
parental influence. Nervous parents do not always have nervous children, and
confident parents do not necessarily have confident children. In other
words, it is not always true that children turn out according to the way
they are raised.
There is a new theory that gives a different view of how a child's
personality is shaped. It is shaped more by the child's peers than his
parents. Growing children try to distance themselves from the adults in
their home environment. They are more interested in keeping up with other
children than copying their parents. They want to be like others in their
age group. They are influenced by their peers where food, clothes, language
and other aspects are concerned. A child who refuses to eat his spinach
would often do so if he sees another child accepting the spinach. Mothers
who try to set an example by eating spinach heartily often fail to persuade
their children to eat the hated vegetable.
Sometimes growing children are not accepted by their peers. They become
miserable when this happens. A survey showed that 9% of the adolescents
questioned blamed their parents for their unhappiness. More than 33% blamed
their peers. If this observation is true, then parental influence is less
important than what it was thought to be.
Children learn a lot about growing up from their peers. What children
pick up from other children is as important if not more important than what
they pick up at home. What is the evidence for this?
There are several examples of children being different from expectations.
Surveys of children of immigrants show that the majority of them do not
speak with their parents' accents. Other surveys show that children of deaf
mute parents learn how to speak as well as children whose parents speak to
them from the day they were born. Adopted children develop few traits
similar to their adoptive parents and in different directions from their
natural born siblings in spite of being raised in the same way.
Other observations stress on how children behave differently when they
are at home from when they are in school. Negative behaviour at home does
not mean negative behaviour at school. Children who refuse to do the
smallest chores at home could bring home school reports praising them for
being helpful in school The ones who are timid at home are quite capable of
being in control or even aggressive among friends.
Children are not as delicate as many believe them to be. They are not
easily damaged, by their parents' mistakes. Furthermore, children can be
cruel to one another. The world out there is tough for children. But they
find ways to adapt themselves to it.