Influences on Child Development

By Marguerite Putney, June 1, 2015

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Child Rearing

Different styles of child rearing affect the development of the child. The parents’ responsiveness to their child, the levels of demands they place on their child and the type of discipline they use will affect their child’s self-esteem, academic achievement and self-control.

Some examples of parenting styles:

Authoritative parenting:

  • Their demands of their children are reasonable and appropriate.

  • They are willing to explain rules to their children and listen to their children’s feedback.

  • They treat their children with respect and warmth.


  • Children have higher self-esteem.

  • Children are less likely to use substances.

  • Children have higher academic achievement.

Authoritarian parents

  • They have high expectations of their children.

  • They feel no need to explain their demands or rules to their children.

  • They are not responsive to their kids.

  • They often model aggression, sometimes use spanking as punishment.


  • Children are often withdrawn and distrustful.

  • Children can bully and be more aggressive as a result of receiving physical punishments..

  • Children have a lower level of self-esteem.

Permissive parents

  • They demonstrate lots of warmth and acceptance of their children.

  • They have very few demands or rules for their children.


  • Children have poor self-control.

  • Children are self-centered and impulsive.

  • Children have poor social skills (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 13).
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Family Structure

The structure of the family can affect a child’s development. Whether the child is raised by two parents or a single parent, has siblings or not, experiences divorce or the loss of a parent, is adopted or in the foster system are all factors that can impact the child’s development.

Only children

  • Show high achievement.

  • Well adjusted.

  • Strong character.

  • Positive attitude.

Children of Divorce

  • More likely to drop out of high school.

  • Less likely to go to college and more likely to drop out of college.

  • More likely to be depressed as adults.

  • More prone to substance abuse.

  • More likely to develop delinquent behavior.

  • 50% more likely to get pregnant as a teen.

Children who have lost a parent

  • Society offers more support for these children than children of divorce.

  • Fair better academically and emotionally than children of divorce.

Children with Step-Parents

  • Academic achievement slightly lower than intact families.

  • Likely to irritate/annoy step-parent to chase them away.

  • 60-67% of 2nd marriages end in divorce.

Children with Gay/Lesbian Parents

  • No discernible difference from heterosexual parents.

Adopted Children

  • Benefit from learning about their birth family or culture.

Foster Children

  • Only 50% graduate high school or get a GED.

  • Only 2% go to college (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 13).
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Peer Relationships

Peer relationships can begin when children are quite young. Children can developed an attachment to their peers who can serve another support for them.

  • Adolescents need free time with their peers to develop independence from parents.

  • Socializing with peers without supervision increases the likelihood of:

    • Criminal behavior.

    • Teen sexuality and pregnancy.

    • Drug and alcohol use.

  • Riskiest time for adolescents to get into trouble is 3:00-6:00 in the afternoon, when they have the least supervision (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 14).

  • Secure attachment with parents leads to feeling more confident in relationships with peers.

  • Secure attachment with their peers leads to adolescents who are more sympathetic and more positive.

  • Relationships with peers affect some aspects of the child’s future romantic relationships (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 10).

  • Peer rejection is associated with academic underachievement.

  • “Peer acceptance is most directly affected by children’s own behaviour” (Hay, 2015).

  • Peer acceptance in earlier childhood is a predictor of later peer relationships (Hay, 2015).

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Children today are spending more time engaged with media which reduces the amount of time they spend on homework and being outside.

  • There is a link between TV watching and obesity, which affects 20% of children

    • Media encourages and promotes mindless eating.

    • Commercials for high calorie food encourage eating (Cook, 2010).

  • Children spent more than 7.5 hrs a day on media.

  • Heavy media use affects attention span.

  • Multitasking with media (homework & media) reduces the amount of time children can focus on one thing.

  • Heavy entertainment media results in children who are less happy and more bored.

  • In families with rules regarding media usage, kids watch 3 hrs. less per day.

  • Violence in media, especially in video games is linked to aggressive behavior in children (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 14).
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Alcohol, Narcotics, Drugs and Tobacco Use

The use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco by children and adolescents or members of their family can impact their physical and emotional health as well as academic success.

Alcohol Use

  • Widespread use among teens; 35% have had a drink by age 15.

  • 14% of young adults between 14-20 yrs. have engaged in binge drinking (more than 4 drinks in 2 hrs. for girls, 5 drinks in 2 hrs. for boys).

  • Risks of underage drinking:

    • Death: 5,000 young adults under the age of 21 die each year in alcohol related deaths.

    • Accidents: in 2008, more than 190,000 visited an Emergency Room for alcohol related accidents.

    • Brain damage: brain is still developing into the 20’s, excessive use can damage the brain.

    • Increased risk of physical and sexual assault, both as perpetrator and victim. ("Underage Drinking", n.d.).

Narcotics and Drug Use

  • 9% of 8th & 10th graders report drug use in last 30 days.

  • 25% of 12th graders report drug use in last 30 days.

  • Cocaine use has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

  • Marijuana use linked to lung damage and memory loss.

  • Hallucinogens linked to difficulties in learning and retaining information (Levine & Munsch, 2014, Chapter 15).

Tobacco Use

  • Tobacco use by teens has been declining in the last 40 years.

  • 1 out of 7 high school seniors has smoked in the last month.

  • Smokers die an average of 10 years earlier than non-smokers.

  • Leading preventable cause of death in our country (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

Children in families affected by Substance Abuse

  • 25% of children are exposed to substance abuse.

  • More likely to drop out of school.

  • Increased chance of becoming addicted themselves (Adger et al, n.d.).


See references here.