It’s a truism that parents tend to think their children are above-average. Julie Symth of the National Post has an interesting piece on what social psychology can say about this phenomenon. She details a new study by Andrew Wegner and Blaine J. Flowers of the University of Miami in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology entitled “Positive Illusions in Parenting: Every Child is Above Average.” Below we excerpt portions of Smyth’s piece.
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Parents have “unrealistically positive” views of their children and their relationship with their sons and daughters, according to a new study.
As well, the more parents rate themselves in a positive light, the more likely they are to have an inflated sense of their children’s abilities, behaviour and personality, the researches concluded.
Nine out of 10 parents rated their own offspring as better than an “average child” — they thought their children were smarter, more sensitive, funnier, more caring, according to the study, titled “Positive Illusions in Parenting: Every Child is Above Average.”
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, described how parents rated their children as above average on so many traits that it had to be more “illusory beliefs” than accurate reporting. In other words, parents did not list one or two things — their children’s intelligence or sense of humour, for example — as being better than average, but rated their child as superior on multiple levels.
The study was based on 78 parents in Miami, Fla.,mostly married women who had completed some level of higher education. All had children between two and five years of age.
The tendency to see children in such a positive way, regardless of their skills or behaviour, may also be due to societal pressures, said Andrew Wenger, a clinical psychologist specializing in children and families and the lead researcher on the parenting study. He said a culture that values instant gratification, individualism and competitiveness may encourage parents to hold unrealistic views of their family. He suggested that the societal emphasis on self-esteem could also be influencing modern parents.
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