Parenting is the process by which adults socialize the infants, children, and adolescents in their care. Methods such as monitoring, emotional closeness, discipline, control, and demands are used to shape society's younger members so that they behave appropriately for their future role in society. Parenting is at once both a careful dance between child and parent and a process that is heavily influenced by the larger social context. Urie Bronfenbrenner is well known for developing his ecological model, which describes the role of contexts such as family, peers, schools, and political climate in human development. Thus, social scientists no longer study parent-child interaction in a vacuum. Rather, the family is best understood as a social system with subsystems, including parent-child, marital, and sibling systems, that is enmeshed in the larger social context.
From time to time researchers have questioned how important parenting is to long-term outcomes for children. The answer over and over has been a resounding ''very important.'' With such a broad constellation of influences on the developing child, how can one be so sure that differences in what average parents do really matters? The answer lies in the fact that parents affect their children directly and indirectly. Parents shape children by interacting with them directly. In addition, parents act in concert with institutions such as peers, schools, and media. Parents determine the neighborhood children are raised in, for example, which sets in motion a chain of events that heavily influences a child's future identity.
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