Specific of Emotional Experience of Child-Parent Relations and Child-Parents Interactions in Older Preschoolers

Abstract

There is a wide range of classifications of family upbringing types and the corresponding diagnostic tools in Russia as well as worldwide. But the counseling practice requires age-specific models of child-parent interactions that take into consideration a child’s own activity, his (her) emotional experience of relationships with his (her) parents. The scope of the research is the connection between actual child-parent interactions and specific of the child’s emotional experience of his (her) relations with the parents. The article also mentions several innovative diagnostical tools.

General Information

Keywords: diagnostics of parent-child interactions, older preschoolers, emotional experience, Parents' Essay, diagnostic play

Publication rubric: Parent-Child Relationship

For citation: Shvedovskaya A.A. Specific of Emotional Experience of Child-Parent Relations and Child-Parents Interactions in Older Preschoolers [Elektronnyi resurs]. Psychology Review, 2010. Vol. 2, no. 2010-1

Full text

The problem

There is a wide range of classifications of family upbringing types and the corresponding diagnostic tools in Russia as well as worldwide. But the counselling practice requires age-specific models of child-parent interactions that take into consideration a child’s own activity, his (her) emotional experience of relationships with his (her) parents.

The scope of the research is the connection between actual child-parent interactions and specific of the child’s emotional experience of his (her) relations with the parents. From the parent’s side the specific of parent’s inner position was considered.

The aim of our research was twofold: to describe types of child-parent interactions in families of older preschoolers and to create appropriate diagnostic tools. It was assumed that psychological specific of child-parent interactions is the result of the correlation of positions of both interaction partners – a child and a parent.

To operationalize this assumption a complex model of child-parent interactions was developed. The model includes a child’s personal activity and his (her) image of the parents as one of the main factors of child-parent relationships development. The structure of child-parent relationship is composed of the following components:

  • Motivational (main motives; values; personal orientation on self, partner or the object of the activity);
  • Behavioural(sources of conflicts and resources of their settlement, typical ways of influencing the partner, sanctions, control and monitoring style, support types, copings);
  • Cognitive (attributions of interactions effectiveness, self-assessment and assessment of the partner, expectations);
  • Affective (emotional relationships, respect as admitting partner’s weakness or power, attachment, satisfaction with relationships, sensitivity and empathy, emotional support, emotional involvement).  

Method

To reveal the specific of a child’s experience of family relationships diagnostic play and projective method “Drawing of the family” were used. Diagnostic play was based on (Karabanova O.A., 1997; Shvedovskaya A.A., 2003, 2005):

  • Special selection of toys and the other play materials;
  • Combination of directive and indirective tactics that provides an opportunity to act out a child’s actual experiences;
  • Design of diagnostic assessment criteria of play actions to analyse the specific of a child’s perceptions of family relations.

The most dramatic markers of a child’s experience of family disharmony are: the ways of solving conflict situations modeled in the game, choice of play characters, number of aggressive characters, emotional attitude to play characters or actions.

Data on parents’ position in parent-child relationships were collected using modified “Parent’s essay” in the form of unfinished sentences (Burmenskaya G.V., Zakharova E.I., Karabanova O.A. et al., 2002; Shvedovskaya A.A., 2005). The sentences are combined into 9 scales:

1. “Open” sentences reveal general vector of a parent’s position, provide information on the parent’s emotional experiences, meaningful features of the child’s image.

When I think about my child…

Most probably he (she)…

I always notice that…

2. “Child’s comparative assessment” scale displays the parent’s attitude to his (her) child compared with the other children, i.e. a parent’s notions on social norms and standards, perception of his (her) child’s communicative and personal qualities in social interactions, child’s conformity to the age developmental norms. The scale gives the opportunity to conclude if the child is an unconditioned value for the parent.

Compared with the other children of his (her) age…

When he (she) and me are among the other children…

3. “Meaningful child’s features” scale outlines the main child’s qualities that are important for the parent.

The main trait(s) in my child’s character is (are)…

My child is good at…

4. Scale “Positive child’s features” outlines the child’s features and traits accepted and appreciated by the parent. These may include facial features and physical health; child’s skills, knowledge, achievements; specific of behaviour and activity; obedience; intellectual, moral, emotional qualities, willpower; expressions of gender identity. 

I like when my child…

In my child I admire…

The other scales are:

5. “Ideal expectations” scale

6. “Fears and sources of preoccupation” scale

7. “Actual requirements” scale

8. “Sources of difficulties” scale

9. “Life story (anamnesis)” scale

10. “Child’s interests” scale

11. “Situations of we-interactions” scale

“Parent’s Essay” in the form of unfinished sentences allowed revealing such aspects of the parent’s inner position as some traits of the child’s image; type of parental emotional acceptance of the child; cognitive image and emotional experience of parent-child interactions. Implementation of this method gives the opportunity to describe problems and difficulties in the child’s development as seen by the parents; to outline zones of conflict and unity in child-parent relationship as well as personal traits of the parent himself (herself).  

Results and discussion

The results of the research proved the active and procreative nature of a child’s position in interactions with parents. The peculiarities of emotional experiences of different types of parent-child interactions were described. A child’s position in collaborative activities with parents proved to be connected with the pattern of his (her) experience of relationship with the parent.

Harmonious type of interactions is characterized by mutual acceptance and coordination of the parent’s and the child’s action tactics, strong motivation to joint activity. The interaction roles are distributed in accordance with the activity contents. The parent can support a child in a difficult situation, accept his (her) initiative. Parental control deals with the meaning of the child’s actions. Both partners adequately assess the results of their actions, response to success or frustration.

Conflict type is characterized by discoordination of the parent’s and the child’s positions in interactions and cooperation, dramatic struggle for leadership and thus little success of collaborative activities. The parent is inclined to overestimate his (her) child’s abilities and pays less attention to child’s individuality, provides inconsistent leadership without sufficient amount of support. The child expresses his (her) protest, ignores the adult’s rebuke and initiative, striving for complete autonomy. In cases of failure both partners tend to blame each other.

Distant type is characterized by low involvement and reserved emotional interactions with the partner (“side by side” but not “together”), low motivation for collaborative activity even if it is quite successful. The parent is manipulative, consistent and ready for preventive support but does not take age and individual child’s characteristics into consideration. The parents emphasizes the child’s failures, criticizes him (her) alongside with rather indifferent attitude to his (her) success. The child accepts the parent’s leadership without any struggle.

Dominant interactions “Dominant parent – submissive child” are complementary. The authoritarian parent is the only leader; the interactions are ruled with the principles of power and obedience. The parent is inconsistent and non-constructive in his (her) guidance that results into collaborative activity failures. Although, the parent’s general attitude to the child is positive, his individual characteristics are considered. Negative affects are not pronounced in such dyadic interactions.

Dominant interactions “Dominant child – indulging parent” are also complementary in power and obedience distribution. The position of dominant child is egocentric. Conflicts in the dyad are minimalized. The parent accepts the child’s position, displays support and empathy, directs his (her) efforts on the child. The child makes use of the parent’s support that makes collaborative activities quite successful. The parent reacts to the child’s success and failure adequately but is inclined to blame himself (herself) in cases of failure.

The following patterns of children’s emotional experiences of family disharmony were described:

Disharmony in personal relations with the primary caregiver (usually, mother); Feeling of deprivation of cooperative interactions and affiliative needs; Feeling of feebleness in interactions with parents (inability to change anything, to make any influence on the parent); Feeling of lack of unity in the family.  

Such emotional experiences procreate different tactics in child-parent interactions. For instance, feeling of feebleness leads to inconsistency in the child’s behaviour, feeling of guilt, fear and frustration in cases of failure being rather indifferent to success of his (her) activities.

In the research sample the parents’ inner position is generally characterized with positive attitude to the child and acceptance of his personal traits. The parents’ requirements deal mainly with communicational and volitional spheres of children’s development. Popular sources of conflicts are child’s household duties, quite seldom it is child’s interests and personal traits. Parents’ expectations are usually connected with children’s educational achievements; preoccupations – with their discipline. 

Practical implications

The allotted psychological factors and conditions of child-parent interactions development as well as innovative diagnostic tools may be used in practice of family and children counseling with the purpose of optimization and correction of child-parent relationships.

Information About the Authors

Anna A. Shvedovskaya, PhD in Psychology, Head of Department of Information & Publishing Projects, Associate Professor, Age Psychology Department named after L.F. Obukhova, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3154-4601, e-mail: anna.shvedovskaya@mgppu.ru

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