Archives for Developmental Psychology
I popped off at Laptop Dad, like he popped off at his daughter, like his daughter popped off at him. Interesting, huh? See how that works? Chain of fools. I regret the tone but stand behind the content of my last post. So here's a voice of reason to say it all better. Today's guest post is by my friend Dr. Lara Mayeux, a developmental psychologist who studies kids' peer relations at the University of Oklahoma, and mother of two young daughters (read about her wishes for them here). If you want to read original research into parenting styles and child outcomes, Lara suggests looking for Nina Mounts (parenting and peer relationships); Joan Grusec (parenting and social and emotional development); Robert Larzelere (discipline and research methodology); Laurence Steinberg (adolescent development). Diana Baumrind is one of the pioneers in the study of parenting styles; a lot of subsequent research has been based on her work. ***** By Lara Mayeux I have to get this off my chest: I’m really, really tired of seeing parents celebrated for their bad parenting choices. Parenting is hard. I get that -- I have two kids under the age of five. And none of us is perfect, and we shouldn’t expect each other to be. But there’s a big difference between allowing parents some room to screw up, and actually cheering them on when they’ve made a mistake. And I’m telling you, this laptop-shooting dad—he made a mistake.
By now you’ve probably seen the viral video by folk hero du jour, the father who put several bullets into his teenaged daughter’s laptop because she put up a whiny, disrespectful post on Facebook. (If you haven’t seen it yet, click here.) The girl's post complained about how her parents made her work soo hard and how she hated having to do chores and how instead of making her get a job, her parents should pay her for everything she does around the house and blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc. basic teenager bitching and moaning. Well, this made daddy soo angry that he posted a video online of himself sitting in a field, cigarette smoldering in one hand, his voice trembling with rage, telling his daughter everything that was wrong with the post, and how disrespectful she is, how hard he worked as a kid, and how he warned her about posting stupid stuff of Facebook. Then, to punish her, he pulls out a gun and shoots several rounds into her laptop. I hate this video. I hate this man. I hate his indignant self-righteousness and thin skin. I know teenagers can be aggravating, but they’re teenagers. They do stupid shit. They bitch and moan. They rail against authority. They get pissed at their parents. That’s all part of being a teenager. Parents’ job is to not to show them who’s boss or keep them in line, but to help them become grow up and become independent without hurting themselves or anyone else. In the scale of bad adolescent behavior, complaining about your parents ranks pretty low.
A friend is fretting about her 22-year-old son, who is living at home and, she fears, not getting it together. This is a family with plenty of dough. The boy is well-educated and has been well cared for, despite some dysfunctional family fun, which few of us escape in this world. My friend complains that he’s lazy and over-entitled. He hasn’t been knocking himself out to find a job, and he’s drinking too much. What’s a mother to do? she asked me, wondering if research might hold some answers. Is tough love the answer? Is this a predictable developmental stage? Were we all like that at 22? When did we finally grow up? I've been hearing lots about boomerang kids, who are of an age to be independent but can't seem to get out there and do it. Of course, the lousy economy and unemployment rate don't help and can't be downplayed. But is there something more? Don’t you wish I were about to give you the answers? I’m not and can’t. But here’s some food for thought.
New research finds a small but significant correlation between social anxiety and ability to recognize faces. Yes. Oh yes. I don’t have severe social anxiety, but I do have some, and this gave me an aha! moment about it. I have a terrible time remembering faces. Even famous people. I recognize George Clooney, easy. Matt Damon? Not so much. Meryl Streep, easy. Charlize Theron? Not so much. Put me in a large party and I spend a lot of time pretending I remember people who remember me. People tend to be hurt and offended when you don’t remember meeting them and I don’t blame them. If you remind me where or how we met, I might remember (although my memory is crappy in many ways so maybe not). Every party is a minefield of not recognizing people I don't know well. And this is not just a problem at parties. I didn’t recognize a neighbor the other day and what’s worse, I took a guess and was wrong. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I never made the connection between my anxiety about parties and facial recognition, but this information fits with the satisfying click of a puzzle piece set in place.
A friend learning her way around her new iPad wonders if learning really is different as we get older. And what’s the deal with that? The short answer is yes, our ability to learn does change as we age. We get slower. We have diminished capacity in our working memory as we age. That is, you can’t throw too much stuff at us at once. As a rule, it takes older people longer to learn things than it does young people. And older people might never get as good at new stuff as younger people can, no matter how long they study. Hm, yeah, that’s no fun. I read that in an article discussing evolutionary theory, which also gave me this cheering thought, about allocation of psychological resources: In childhood, the primary allocation is directed toward growth; during adulthood, the predominant allocation is toward maintenance and recovery (resilience). In old age, more and more resources are directed toward regulation or management of loss. The older you get, the more of a bummer evolutionary theory can be. So let us skip, instead, over to educational psychology, and an article titled “Age-related differences in the relation between motivation to learn and transfer of training in adult continuing education.” This article argues, through a literature review and a re-crunching of statistics, that motivation is key to learning, and that older adults are just as motivated to learn as younger ones.
“When does trying to protect them become overly restricting? Is there a happy balance?” A reader posed that question about raising kids earlier this week and it’s a good one. We recognize a helicopter parent when we see one, especially by the time their kids are teenagers. But how about when they’re younger? Are there red flags in parenting style that might mark the beginning of overprotective parenting? What is overprotective? How is it measured? My disclaimer here: I have no children, my parents were pretty laissez-faire. I’m just throwing all this out there. You tell me if it makes sense. I looked at a number of studies that mention overprotection and found that frequently, overprotection is assessed by the protected. In other words, researchers ask children if they feel their parents are overprotective; or they ask people who have had strokes if their caregivers are overprotective.
It’s Anti-Bullying Week and this year’s theme is Stop and Think—Words Can Hurt. Interestingly, for all our focus on how to stop kids from bullying each other, we have precious little research addressing what parenting styles are likely to produce bullies. Because, let’s face it, if your nine-year-old child is a bully, chances are very good you and/or the child’s other parent can take credit.
Much has been made in recent years of research indicating that willpower is an exhaustible resource. This research suggests that if we exercise self control for a few hours to resist Facebook and do our work, for example, we will have a hard time resisting that oh-really-I-shouldn’t brownie sundae. There’s a whole book based on this research: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is by one of the leaders in this research, Roy Baumeister. (With science writer John Tierney, because believe me, not all psychologists can write.) But here’s an interesting article in an open source journal pointing out how research on willpower has mostly been done on youngsters.
Today’s guest blogger is Lara Mayeux, PhD, a developmental psychologist and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. Lara studies peer relations among children and adolescents. Her specialty is popularity, which is a hot field of research; she co-edited a book of theory and analysis titled Popularity in the Peer System. The book is aimed at academics, but Lara is also a mother who here connects research and mother love. Today I taught a graduate class on attachment theory, and at the end of a particularly intense discussion about maternal sensitivity and fostering emotional security in children, one of the students looked at me and said, “It must be really hard to be a developmental psychologist and a mother.” My initial reaction was Yes, yes, it is, it’s the hardest thing. Thank you for letting me admit that. Being a developmental psychologist—an academic one, meaning teaching courses in the field and doing my own research as well—means that I’m aware of many of the (seemingly thousands) of ways I can screw up my own two little girls. But it also means that I understand the opposite—the ways in which I can try to facilitate healthy development and positive outcomes.
Before I could even enroll in community college, at age 41, I had to take a couple of summer semesters of “developmental algebra”—which was called “remedial” back when nobody cared about self-esteem. Yes, I anticipated it with as much horror as you might imagine. Not only that, but it was a 7:30 a.m. class. Every morning, all summer. I figured if I could make it through that, college would be a snap. My grasp of numbers is terrible. Calculators can only help so much when you can’t recognize an incorrect answer. I have to do the same equation over and over and get the same answer four out of five times before I’ll trust it. Surprisingly, I did not stink up the joint in that algebra class. It moved slowly, I worked my ass off and made “A”s. Even hung one of my tests on the refrigerator--it had “Nice work” written across the top in red. Then I enrolled in college algebra, where everything sped up and went to hell. Setting up algebraic equations was easy. They are, essentially, sentences, and that’s my stock-in-trade. But then the arithmetic would get me. I'd set up a good, solid equation, and somewhere in the execution, I’d take a wrong turn, putting a negative instead of a positive, transposing numbers, adding wrong. Stupid stuff that made me pound my head on my desk. And then, quadratic equations pretty much did me in. I could barely set up the equations, much less solve them. If basic equations were simple sentences, quadratic equations were James Joyce. My brain hurts just thinking about them. Why am I such a fumbler with numbers? New research suggests math agility is an innate skill.