General Aspects of Parenting and Theory ofMind

As its title indicates, this chapter discusses the relation between broad, general approaches to parenting and children’s theory of mind. It is therefore the chapter that maps most closely onto the material considered in Chapter 3. The remaining chapters focus on more specific aspects of the parenting-theory of mind relation.

This chapter is divided into four sections. It begins with one of the major topics of Chapter 3, parenting styles. Because a full assessment of styles is rare in the literature, this section also considers studies that have examined at least one of the dimensions that define styles—for example, warmth or control.

Not all general approaches to parenting fall under the styles/dimensions heading. The second section of the chapter considers a variety of other approaches that fit the general but not the styles classification. A major topic under this heading is parents’ socialization of emotion understanding.

The third section of the chapter addresses one of the topics considered in Chapter 3: socioeconomic status (SES). We saw there that SES is associated with on-the-average effects in the general parenting literature; the question now is whether similar effects emerge when theory of mind is the child outcome of interest.

With SES, the variations across families are relatively minor. The final section of the chapter discusses three more serious departures from the typical family situation: the effects of forms of parenting that fall outside the scope of normal and expectable variations in the parent-child relationship (e.g., physical abuse); the effects of parental mental illness (e.g., depression, schizophrenia) on parenting and on children’s development; and the effects on development when parents are absent from the child’s early life, that is, the development of children in institutional settings.

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