INTRODUCTION The research on childhood development has become a major focus of psychologists over the past two decades. Much of the research is based on psychosocial development because there is yet so much information to be discovered in that area. Every child has an individual set of constructs that form his or her personality and no child faces the exact same situation as another in developing these constructs. Professionals have set out to discover how children form their personalities in the way that they adjust to the situations that form their lives. One situation it seems that many professionals agree that shapes a child’s personality at a young age is that in which the child is left alone after school. The child has only peers to look to in these crucial hours that lead to the development of whom he or she becomes as one journeys into adulthood. These kids have commonly been referred to as latchkey children in research over the past 20 years. Children who do not have a parent or other adult to look to in these afternoon hours are often “vulnerable to fears and anxiety, to isolation and interpersonal relationship difficulties” (Long & Long, 1982, as cited in Lovko, 1989). Observed on a deeper level, these emotional issues can have severe behavioral consequences as the child attempts to overcome the feelings by lashing out with negative behaviors. In a more recent article, Pettit (1999) points out that those adolescents who have low parental monitoring are at greater risk to develop behavior problems than their supervised counterparts. The elementary school years are a crucial time for a child’s psychosocial development. These are years when a child’s behavior is being formed by the personality he or she has developed by watching those by whom one is surrounded. A child’s behavior qualities are more readily observed in greater abundance when that child is facing a problem in need of being solved. The social support [of family] a child receives is an important element in helping deal with problems (Garmezy, 1993, as cited in Berger, 2003). It is important to know a child’s family background in assessing the components that form his or her behavior. There are many differences in children that make them distinct from one another. The most significant difference I have observed is each child’s overall behavior. Even though two children may have very similar behavior patterns, there are also very different behaviors they exhibit. The children I have observed come from the same two schools in south St. Joseph and have mostly the same friends, but yet something has made them so different. That something, I believe, is the how a child relates to his or her family. The purpose of this study is to discover if time spent with their immediate families affects a child’s overall behavior and what aspects of family time seem to mold a child’s behavior the most.
Observation data was collected from 15 children from a medium size daycare center whose ages ranged from six to ten years old. Survey data was also collected from the childrens’ parents.
A packet containing a parental consent letter, a survey and a copy of the checklist for viewing purposes was sent home with each parent. The survey (see Appendix A) contained questions that refer to the amount of time parents spend with their children and to the activities they participate in together. The checklist (see Appendix B) listed positive and negative behaviors I observed in the participants in preceding months. Two manila envelopes, one labeled for signed consent forms and the other for parental surveys, were hung in a central location in the daycare to which parents returned the information. Candy was also given to the participants at the conclusion of the study.
Permission to conduct the survey and observation was asked of the daycare director previous to designing the method. The packet was sent home with the parents one week prior to the tentative start date of the observation. They were asked to return the surveys and consent forms within the week. Beginning the following week, the participants were observed for approximately two hours every day of the regular work week (Monday through Friday). When a participant exhibited a behavior on the checklist, a checkmark was placed next to that behavior. The number of checkmarks for each behavior could not exceed one mark per day per participant. Each behavior had the potential to have five checkmarks next to it by the end of the fifth day. At the conclusion of the study, each participant was given candy to show appreciation for participating in the study.
RESULTS A multiple linear regression was calculated to predict participants’ positive behavior based on the responses to each of the questions on the survey (see Appendix A) except question numbers nine and ten. A significant regression equation was found (F(2,11) = 9.025, p<.005), with an R2 of .621. Participants’ predicted positive behavior is equal to 2.182+1.060(RESPECTFUL) + 1.171(SELFISH). Positive behaviors increased as selfishness and respectfulness ratings increased. Only selfishness and respect ratings were significant predictors. A multiple linear regression was calculated to predict participants’ negative behavior based on the responses to each of the questions on the survey (see Appendix A) except question numbers nine and ten. A significant regression was found (F(1,12) = 7.256, p<.020), with an R2 of .020. Participants’ predicted negative behavior is equal to 13.784 - .495(HOURS A WEEK IN DAYCARE). Negative behaviors decreased as the amount of time participants’ spent in daycare increased. Only the number of hours a week the participants spent in daycare was a significant predictor.
DISCUSSION The purpose was to discover if time spent with their immediate families affects a child’s overall behavior and what aspects of family time seem to mold a child’s behavior the most. The hypothesis was that the majority of the replies to the surveys would significantly predict the childrens’ behavior. There were only three parts of the twenty-two parts of the survey that were significant in predicting the behaviors. The amount of time spent and quality of time spent with their parents seemed to have no affect on the childrens’ behavior (see Appendix A).The childrens’ overall positive behavior was dependent on only two parts of the survey; the parents’ rating of selfishness and respectfulness of their children. Five or above is a high score on the parents’ rating scale (five being the median score) and eleven or above is a high score on the behaviors checklist (eleven being the median score). The majority of the children with higher ratings of selfishness had higher scores of total positive behaviors. One of the positive behaviors those children had in common is that they all play well with other children, which is the opposite of selfishness on the behavior checklist. At home, children often have their own possessions of which they are very protective, leading to selfishness. While at daycare, children usually only have those toys that belong to the daycare to play with and are encouraged to play and share with other children, leaving little room for them to exhibit selfish behaviors. The children whose parents rated their personality as being highly respectful also had high total scores on the behavior checklist. Most of these children also showed respect at the daycare. Since other areas of the of the positive behaviors intertwine with respect (see Appendix B), those other areas normally earned high ratings as respect did. The participants’ overall negative behavior was dependent on only one part of the survey; the number of hours they spend in daycare. The more hours the participants spent in daycare, the less negative behaviors they exhibited. Children who spend much time in daycare quickly learn and are used to the rules, so their negative responses to happenings at the daycare are less than their counterparts who do not spend as much time learning the rules. The literature does not necessarily support these findings. Much of it pointed towards the idea that the quality of time that children spend with their parents dictates whether or not they will have a positive or a negative behavior. From this research, it is discovered that time with parents is an insignificant factor in determining a child’s behavior. Some of the limitations of the design and procedure could be the reason that the results do not agree with the literature. Some such limitations include a small number of participants were used, only one daycare center was observed, many of the children go to school together as well and results from surveys are sometimes biased. To further test these results and the opinion of the literature, a few changes could be made. The participants could be more varied. A larger number of children and children from several different size daycares could be used. Also, the daycare locations could be varied, using inner-city and suburban daycare centers. The behaviors chosen to monitor could vary greater, as well. To eliminate some of the bias caused by the surveys, children could be observed for a time with their parents then for the same amount of time away from their parents, using a behavior checklist. Parents of children often have busy lifestyles with little time left for interaction with their children between work, school and the daily demands of life. This research and other along the same lines can be very helpful in showing parents where to focus the majority of their efforts in assisting their children develop positive behaviors. These results can take some of the pressure from the parents who feel it very needed to spend much time every day with their child to nurture his or her positive behaviors, since the time spent together really has little to do with the formation of a child’s behavior.
REFERENCES Berger, K. S. (2003). The developing person: Through childhood and adolescence. New York: Worth Publishers.Lovko, A. M., & Ullman, D. G. (1989). Research on the adjustment of latchkey children: role of background/demographic and latchkey situation variables. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 18(1), 16-24.Pettit, G. S., Bates J. E., Dodge, K. A., & Meece, D.W. (1999). The impact of after-school peer contact on early adolescent externalizing problems is moderated by parental monitoring, perceived neighborhood safety, and prior adjustment. Child Development, 74, 465-474.