FRIENDSHIPS THAT children make during their early years in school can offset bad behaviors they develop as a result from harsh parenting, according to a new study.
A study published Wednesday in Development and Psychopathology discovered a link between friendships in kindergarten and an improvement in the behavior of a child who has experienced punitive parenting.
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco studied 338 kindergarteners in six different public schools. They found that 10 percent of children had oppositional defiant disorder. The disorder usually develops during the preschool years, and children who experience it exhibit angry and irritable moods, lose their temper easily, are frequently and easily annoyed by others and exhibit argumentative and defiant behavior, especially toward adults and authority figures.
The disorder in young children is linked to an increased risk in antisocial behavior, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, criminal offenses and incarcerations in adolescence and adulthood.
Among the 10 percent of children who met the criteria for oppositional defiant disorder, 71 percent had been exposed to high levels of harsh parenting. Twenty-nine percent had been exposed to lower levels of harsh parenting.
However, researchers found that when the children who had been raised with punitive parenting were liked and accepted by the classmates, they displayed fewer combative behavioral traits. Among these students, 64 percent had fewer symptoms of the disorder than the children who were not liked or accepted.
Author of the study and assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, Danielle Roubinov said in a press release that “acceptance within one’s peer group creates opportunity for socialization and a sense of belonging that acts as a buffer against the impact of harsh parenting.”
“Healthy peer relationships may have an attenuating influence by modelling or providing children with feedback about the inappropriate nature of oppositional behaviors acquired from harsh interactions with parents,” Roubinov said.
In addition to having healthy relationships with classmates. A warm, supportive child-teacher relationship “may improve children’s self-regulation, positive emotionality and responsiveness to warnings about oppositional behavior.”
Based on these results, researchers believe that it may be beneficial to treat oppositional defiant disorder outside of the house and away from the family environment.
“There is a significant proportion of families for whom parent training is minimally effective,” Nicki Bush, author and professor in the UCSF departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics said. “Teacher programs that focus on managing difficult classrooms and providing support for at-risk children may be optimally timed to interrupt the developmental processes that lead to long-term poor outcomes and more severe psychopathology when ODD symptoms are left untreated.”
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