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There is a number of factors that are responsible for shaping child’s behavior. This write up will specifically look at those factors that are external. Socially, children, just like is the case with every human being, need acceptance in the larger society. Porter (2008) notes that children will automatically seek to behave in certain ways that are approved or expected of them by their peers and the larger society. In other cases, certain external circumstances like those prevailing at home may influence the child to behave otherwise. An example is a situation in which a child continuously experiences domestic violence between his/her parents. Children from such families may exhibit behaviors like bullying of their fellow children. This write up will look at the various factors that influence child’s behavior.
According to Major (2012), child’s behavior can adversely be affected by physical, mental, and sexual abuse. It even becomes more severe when the person who abused the child is a close relative or a person known to the child. Studies have shown that children who have been victims of any form of abuse are most likely to engage in the same act at their later stages of life. Such children may also have to experience a long period of anger and depression, which may be expressed through behaviors like isolation or aggressiveness because of the strong need to pay back.
Porter (2008) also noted that in today’s society, the concept of race is understood as a social category, which is different across societies and cultures, making individuals occupy different statuses in life. Children from all over the word are affected by such practices as racial disparity and racial prejudice, which either discriminates against them or/and their families. Racial prejudice is practiced at both individual and institutional levels. This means that children whose environment is characterized by heterogeneous societies have to experience some form of social stress. This may be directly on children or through their parents and it is what negatively impacts the behavior of children. Racial factors thus affect the child’s eating habits, activity levels, and substance use and abuse. Additionally, research has also linked the minority children to such behaviors as submissiveness, dependence, and poor life skills compared to the Caucasian children (Essa, 2009).
Porter (2008) describes gender as culturally defined roles and behaviors attributed to both boys and girls. He noted that in every society today, the girl-child and the boy-child are made to believe that they are to behave in certain ways. The boy child is socialized into playing masculine roles in the society. This makes them portray such behavioral characteristics as being courageous and aggressive. On the other hand, the girl-child is socialized to perform feminine roles. The girls are, therefore, submissive, emotional, and empathetic in nature. In addition, gender assigned roles differ among the societies. This results in a different amount of social and psychological pressures experienced majorly by the girl-child. For example, the expectations on the African-American girl-child might be very different from those placed on their peers in the Western world (Essa, 2009).
Lowenstein (2005) noted that a number of researches that have been done to find out the effect of single parenting on the child’s behavior have always yielded a positive result. According to him, a relationship exists between parenting and children’s psychological dysfunction. That is, children from single parent headed families exhibit numerous behavioral problems compared to those from families headed by both parents. The findings have linked this disparity in psychological stability of children to the fact that single mothers are exposed to anxiety, depression, and health problems, mostly resulting from poverty. These factors adversely affect their parenting styles, making children grow up with various behavioral problems. In most cases, such parents adopt hash parenting styles leading to dysfunctional children (Lowenstein, 2005).
Ethnicity and Culture
Studies have also shown that there is a link between the family’s level of acculturation and child development. Ethnicity, on the other hand, affects children’s type of defense and how children deal with such emotional challenges as anger, fear, depression, and anxiety. According to Smith & Mosby (2003), cultural beliefs of the parents act as a guideline to how they control the behavior of their children. The two scholars gave an example of Jamaica, where hash parenting and strict control of children by the parents has been linked to poor outcomes of the psychological adjustments of their children and adolescents. The increase in anti-social behaviors among children in such societies emanate from the loss of self-worth by the youth and their inability to adjust psychologically.
Studies have shown that children whose parents are religious or those who go to church are better behaved or adjusted than other children. The only exception to this may be a situation in which parents regularly involve themselves in conflict because of the differences in their religious believes. Wenner (2011) reported a study by John Bartkowski which had found out that religion shapes children’s behavior in a very noticeable way. His findings showed that religion greatly improves the parenting skills of the parents and circulates norms and values that are self-sacrificing and pro-family. This enables the parents to instill positive behaviors in their children through establishing stronger relationship with them.
Divorce and Re-marriage of Separated Parents
According to Lowenstein (2005), the effect of divorce on children is dependent on the kind of relationship which used to exist and which continues to exist between the parents. He observes that in a case where the divorced parents continue to involve themselves in conflicts, children are affected negatively, leading to developing a number of behavioral problems. Lowenstein (2005) notes that children undergoing such experiences will most likely experience extreme sadness and self-blame. However, in cases where parents prepare their children and avoid such conflicts, fewer behavioral problems are experienced by children. Additionally, whenever a divorced parent re-marry, the behaviors of the children from the original marriage will largely depend on the effect of both their parents and the new partner.
The impact of bereavement on the behavior of children, to a larger extent, depends on their age. However, it is normal for children to be extremely good and difficult immediately after the death of their loved ones. Essa (2009) noted that some children will normally isolate themselves while some may be extremely inquisitive after the bereavement. Some children may want to believe that it is others’ fault that they lost their loved ones and, as a result, try to ignore everybody. The affected children may have to live with the memories of their friends for a long period of time, leading to a traumatized and a depressed life.
Major (2012) noted that there is an enormous impact of age on the child’s behavior. According to her, any child at the age of 1-4 tends to believe that they have the right to get whatever they want in life. This is the major determinant of a child’s behavior at this age. She added that children at the age of 4 to11 have come to accept the fact that the ability of those around them to supply their needs may at times be limited. This stage begins when a child joins elementary school, where they learn to share what they have with other children. It is at this stage that the child also comes to the knowledge of rules which begin to guide their behavior. Finally, at the age of 11 to 18, children begin to learn common societal laws. They are thus socialized into behaving in certain ways allowing them to fit into the society.
In conclusion, it is clear that these factors have remarkable impacts on the behavior of the child. Though addressing them may require a long time, it is something that is possible.