Parental Personality

Parenting also reflects transient feelings as well as enduring personality traits (Belsky and Barends, in Vol. 3 of this Handbook; Lamb and Easterbrooks, 1981). Features of personality favorable to good parenting might include empathic awareness, predictability, nonintrusiveness, and emotional availability (Martin, 1989). Perceived self-efficacy is also likely to affect parenting because parents who feel competent are reinforced and thus motivated to engage in further interaction with their infants, which in turn provides them with additional opportunities to read their infants' signals fully, interpret them correctly, and respond appropriately; the more rewarding the interaction, the more motivated are parents to seek "quality" interaction again (Teti and Candelaria, in Vol. 4 of this Handbook).

Within the normal range, characteristics such as self-centeredness and adaptability will be especially pertinent to infant caregiving. Adult adaptability may be vital in the first few months when infants' activities appear unpredictable and disorganized, their cues less distinct and well differentiated, and infants themselves generally less "readable." Self-centeredness can lead to difficulties when adults fail to put infants' needs before their own (Dix, 1991). Middle-SES married women who are more preoccupied with themselves, as measured by physical and sexual concerns, show less effective parenting patterns in the postpartum year (Grossman, Eichler, and Winikoff, 1980). Self-absorbed, these mothers may not show sensitivity to their infants' needs (Cowan and Cowan, 1992), a situation that also seems prevalent among teen mothers (Osofsky, Hann, and Peebles, 1993).

Negative characteristics of personality, whether transient or permanent, are likely to affect parenting infants adversely. For example, depression might reflect an enduring psychological characteristic, or it might be fleeting, as in response to economic circumstances or even the birth of the baby (Zahn-Waxler, Duggal, and Gruber, in Vol. 4 of this Handbook). Depressed mothers fail to experience—and convey to their infants—much happiness with life. Such feelings no doubt diminish responsiveness or discoordinate interactions (Tronick and Gianino, 1986), and so depressed parenting may have short- as well as long-term consequences for infants (Lyons-Ruth, Zoll, Conell, and Grunebaum, 1986). Field (1984) observed that in face-to-face interactions infants of depressed mothers showed less positive and more negative facial affect, vocalized less, protested more, and seemed to make less effort to change or improve their lot than did infants of nondepressed mothers. Thus aspects of adult personality help to shape parenting.

Furthermore, through intergenerational transmission, by means of genetic or experiential pathways, purposefully or unintentionally one generation may psychologically influence the parenting beliefs and behaviors of the next (Van IJzendoorn, 1992). For example, a mother's experiences with her own mother may have long-range effects on her own personality and parenting (Smith and Drew, in Vol. 3 of this Handbook). Mothers who report having had secure and realistic perceptions of their attachments to their own mothers are themselves more likely to have securely attached infants (Cummings and Cummings, in Vol. 5 of this Handbook; Main, 1991).

A dynamic view suggests that personality factors that influence parenting are also molded by contemporary experiences. Thus infants as well as contextual settings help to shape parental beliefs and behaviors.

Confident Kids

Confident Kids

Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.

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