Keywords: character, behavior, parents, peer group, parenting, attachment, adverse childhood experiences, cultural issues, Nigeria.

Introduction.

Character Influence: Parents or Peer group? Parents are not the only source of influence on children’s characters, it include inputs from peers schools, teachers, television, etc. When a child’s character and behavior is good, the parents take all the glory. But when the child’s character and behavior is bad, parents tend to blame the peer group. So who actually has the upper hand in influencing the character of the child, the parents or the peers?  

Character is actually an aspect of someone’s personality. It actually differentiates one person from another person. It includes moral values. Character is developed gradually through learning and experiences, like religious beliefs, parental influences and other early interactions. Character is actually influenced by biological and environmental factors.

We all know the meaning of parents, but not everyone knows what peers stand for. A peer group comprises of individuals or persons who share certain characteristics and interests. They are more likely to share age, social background and status, etc.

So let us attempt to answer the question of who is better in Character Influence, Parents or Peer group in Nigeria?

The biological influence on character.

1. Genetic factors:

  • These are factors inherited from parents. These play a great role in forming character. It is important to note that the environmental factors can determine if a genetic trait will manifest or not. For example, genetic factors may become manifest or not, depending on the quality of parenting a child gets. But also genetic makeup can also have influence on the environment.

2. Other biological environmental factors:

  • They can also include traumas in childhood.

Environmental factors and character influence                                                                

The environmental factors that can influence the formation of character include attachment issues, parenting issues, cultural factors and peer group issues. Research documents that family is the most influential in the character development of the child while the peer are highly influential.

I. Attachment issues.

  • Attachment is an emotional tie between a child’s primary caregiver and the child. Most often, the primary caregiver is the mother.
  • Attachment phase starts at the last three months of pregnancy when the baby is still in the womb. And it lasts through out the first 1 to 2 year after birth of the baby. But for some, it can extend up to 3 years.
  • There is secure and insecure attachment.
  • Attachment to parents is very critical to the formation of moral values and conscience.
  • Adolescents, who have secured attachments to their parents, are less likely to become delinquent.

II. Parenting issues.

1. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs):
  • Early life experiences such as physical, psychological abuse and neglect, as well as sexual abuse can cause irreversible brain damage. This can affect behavior permanently.
  • Research has shown that adopted children from parents who are stable and brought into a dysfunctional home, will become delinquent. So an adopted child into a dysfunctional home has 3 times risk of being a criminal.
2. Parental roles:
  • In the Holy Bible, parents are given the role in training the child in the way that they should follow.
  • Early childhood is the best time to socialize children. And parenting variables account for up to 50% of the child’s out come.
  • Research has shown that there are connections between parental behaviors and child’s negative behavior at home and outside.
  • If parents have good character, the child will imbibe it. The role of the father and mother is the most important thing needed in child character building.
3. Parenting styles:
  • This includes authoritative parenting. Here there are clear rules and directives. Parents show love, warmth and responsive to the child’s needs. Communication is key. This type of parenting is the most beneficial to the child’s development. It predisposes to good character formation.
  • Authoritarian parenting. Parents make demand of high obedience to rules, but not responsive to the child’s needs. There is no open communication. This type of parenting is not child friendly and can lead to negative social behaviors.
  • Permissive parenting. The parents make few demands from the child and do not expect compliance. They provide little direction for the child, but are warm and responsive to child. Permissive is also not favorable to the child development.  It can predispose to child delinquency.
  • Neglectful parenting. They are not responsive and not demanding of their child. They are disengages from their child. This is very harmful to child’s development. This can predispose to substance abuse and other externalizing behaviors with the child.
4. Parenting styles in the 21st century:

a. Concerted cultivating parents:

  • These parents deliberately interfere in their child’s development. So they structure the child’s leisure to be in line with the child’s talent. They have open communication with the child. The parents are seriously involved with the child’s academics. They ensuring that their child gets the best teacher that will pay special attention to their child.

b. The Helicopter parents:

  • These parents over protect their child and even do problem solving for the child. For example, a parent will ensure that his or her child cheats with answers during exams in any way possible. So they make inappropriate strategies to ensure that the child succeeds. Some Nigerian parents can relate. This prevents the child’s independence and assuming responsibilities in different spheres of life. This can cause social anxiety on the child.
  • Helicopter parenting is actually a form of authoritative parenting. But these parents are too concerned and intrusive into the child’s education and future.

c. Tiger parents:  

  • They impose a very strict control on the child, and use very harsh disciplinary measures. They use shaming method to promote success and they want an exceptional child. Even though they are loving and warm, they do not care about the child’s emotions. They do not engage in communication with child. This can cause social anxiety and lower academic engagement for the child.
  • Tiger parents are a combination of authoritative and authoritarian parenting.

d. Over parenting:

  • Although these parents mean well for their child and are excessively warm, they excessively control the child. They also do problem solving for the child. This can lead to procrastination and externalizing behavior in child.
  • These parents combine the permissive with authoritative and authoritarian parenting.

III. Cultural factors in predicting character Influence of Parents or Peer group.

  • Parents aim to ensure that their children are competent members of the society, via parenting methods.
  • So authoritative parenting is more practiced among the western cultures. This is because the western cultures tend to promote personal development and independence.
  • Authoritarian parenting is seen more in none western cultures, where communalism is practiced like Nigeria.
  • But parenting practices changes with socioeconomic and political structure, as well as technology. So parents tend to push children harder in a society that places much value on education. So with income inequality and too much emphasis on education, parents are over parenting. This is done in an effort to manage the uncertainties that may arise. Parents stressed by economic factors can disrupt parenting.
  • Also, with the rising incidence in kidnapping and other forms of dangers, parents are tending to be more controlling.
  • Family structure can also affect parenting. For example, marital stress can affect parenting.

IV. Peer group influence.

  • The peer group serves as information, feedback and support group. It gives children the opportunity to discuss, experiment, etc.
  • Peer group helps the adolescent socialize, reinforce or punish behaviors.
  • It also helps to increases self confidence and reinforces good behavior. But some peer groups can pressure the adolescents into negative behaviors, such as substance abuse and risk taking.
  • But then, some of the children’s behaviors are affected by what they learnt from their parents. So if parents teach their children how to empathize, the children will be more considerate with their friends’ feelings.
  • The relationship between parents and child can reduce or increase the influence the peer group can give. Even parental monitoring of the child’s activities and knowing who the friends are, can protect the child against peer pressure.
  • Young adolescents who are already at the risk of delinquency or antisocial behavior are more likely to imbibe negative influence from bad peer groups.

Conclusion.

Character Influence: Parents or Peer group? Parental influence on the child’s behaviors starts when the child is still in the womb, during the attachment period. This parental influence continues with the child from the home and even after he or she has left the home. Strong peer influence occurs much later, during the adolescent age. By this time, the parents have already established a strong hold on the child, either positive or negative.

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