HOME and Socio Emotional Development

Law Of Attraction For Kids

Smart Parenting Guide

Get Instant Access

Scores on HOME are also associated with social development. A major component of social competence is the ability of a child to enter into and sustain social relations. Bakeman and Brown (1980) followed 21 preterm and 22 full-term Black low-income children from 9 months to 3 years of age. The Responsivity scale from the Infant-Toddler HOME predicted both social participation (involvement with others) and social competence (ability to navigate the social world smoothly, gaining both material and emotional goods from others in socially acceptable ways). Other studies also indicated that the quality of the home environment in general, and Responsivity in particular, are related to adaptive social competence during early and middle childhood (Jordan, 1979; Lamb et al., 1988; Tedesco, 1981). A good example is a study of behavior problems in very low-birth weight Dutch children (Weiglas-Kuperus, Koot, Baerts, Fetter, & Sauer, 1993). They found that HOME scores at ages 1 and 3% years were correlated with clinician ratings of behavior problems. Scores on the HOME at 3% years also were correlated with the total problems score on the Child Behavior Checklist.

Although not actually an index of social competence per se, having an internal locus of control is considered salient for good mental health and adaptive functioning (Rotter, Chance, & Phares, 1972). We reported low, but significant, correlations between the Early Childhood HOME and locus of control orientation at age 6 to 8 years (Bradley & Caldwell, 1979a). More recently we examined relations between the Early Adolescent HOME and self-efficacy beliefs for European American and African American children ages 10 to 15 (Bradley & Corwyn, 2001). We found low to moderate correlations for self-efficacy beliefs pertaining to both school and family but nonsignificant relations for self-efficacy beliefs pertaining to peers. This latter finding was not surprising in view of the fact that self-efficacy beliefs tend to reflect experiences in particular situations (in this case peer groups) (Bandura, 1997).

One of the most intensive investigations of the relation between HOME and children's social and behavioral competence was a prospective longitudinal study involving 267 high-risk mothers from Minnesota (Erickson, Stroufe, & Egeland, 1985). Securely attached infants who later showed behavior problems had mothers who provided less support and encouragement during problem solving and families that scored lower on the Learning Materials and Involvement subscales from Infant-Toddler HOME. Relatedly, anxiously attached infants who later showed no behavior problems had mothers who were more supportive, and provided clearer structure and better instruction during tasks.

Their mothers also had better social support and better relationships. Likewise, their families scored higher on the Learning Materials and Involvement subscales. From first through third grade children were rated on peer competence and emotional health by their teachers (Stroufe, Egeland, & Kreutzer, 1990). The ratings were averaged; and this mean rating was regressed on 6-year Middle Childhood HOME, 21/2-year Infant-Toddler HOME, kindergarten rank, child functioning in preschool, and infant attachment classification. All variables in the model, save attachment classification, made a significant contribution. In general, the findings tend to support Bowlby's (1958) general model of development in which both the total developmental history and current circumstances are given important roles in social competence.

We analyzed data from a multi-site study of 549 low-birth weight children which illustrates some of the potential complexity of the relation between home environment and adaptive social behavior during the first 3 years of life (Bradley et al., 1995). This study, involving Infant-Toddler HOME at 1 year and Early Childhood HOME at 3 years plus three measures of adaptive social behavior at 21/2 to 3 years showed that: (a) correlations between 3-year Early Childhood HOME and social competence tended to be higher than correlations with 1-year Infant-Toddler HOME, though not uniformly so; (b) different HOME subscales were related to different aspects of adaptive social functioning; (c) there was little evidence that parental nurturance (e.g., acceptance, responsivity) during infancy was more strongly associated with 3-year adaptive social behavior than was parental nurturance around age 3, but apparently cognitive stimulation (e.g., learning materials, variety) at age 3 was more important than at age 1; and (d) social behavior was predicted better by a combination of support and stimulation factors than with either alone.

Using data on children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) ages 3 to 15 years, we examined relations between HOME scores and parent-reported behavior problems. Findings from the HLM analysis of growth trajectories of behavior problems revealed a complex set of relations. Both Learning Stimulation and Spanking were related to the level of behavior problems for all three ethnic groups studied (European American, Hispanic American, and African American) but Maternal Responsiveness was only significant for African American children. Moreover, there were several ethnicity by age interactions. In a related study of adolescents, Bradley, Whiteside-Mansell, & Corwyn (1997) found that scores on most subscales from the Early Adolescent HOME were related to parental reports of adolescent considerateness versus hostility in the home. The total score was also related to task orientation among European Americans (Bradley & Corwyn, 2001).

We also examined the relation of both Infant-Toddler HOME and Middle Childhood HOME to classroom behavior at 10 to 11 years of age as assessed with the Classroom Behavior Inventory (CBI; Bradley, Rock, Caldwell, & Brisby, 1989). A few significant correlations emerged between Infant-Toddler HOME and the three dimensions tapped by the CBI. Many more emerged between the Middle Childhood HOME and classroom behavior. Both Active Involvement and Family Participation were moderately correlated with consideration, task orientation, and school adjustment. Responsivity also was correlated with consideration and adjustment. We also used the data to examine three models of environmental action: Model I (primacy of early experience), Model II (predominance of contemporary environment), and Model III (cumulative effects in stable environments). Though all three models received some support, the strongest support was for Model II. The importance of the early environment was supported in terms of significant partial correlations between Responsivity and considerate classroom behavior, even with the intervening environment controlled. Similar results were obtained for Variety. The salience of the contemporary environment received greatest support in the case of the family participation and active involvement subscales and classroom behavior (task orientation, consideration, adjustment). The relation of involvement to considerate behavior seems largely a function of the cumulative effects of parental involvement.

Findings by Bakeman and Brown (1980); Lamb et al. (1988); Erickson, Stroufe, and Egeland (1985); Mink and Nihira (1987); Bradley, Caldwell, Rock, Barnard, Gray, et al. (1989), Caughy, DiPietro & Strobino, 1994, and Bradley and Corwyn (2000, 2001) suggested that particular parenting practices may interact with both particular child characteristics (e.g., quality of attachment, difficult temperament, self-efficacy beliefs, level of disability) and broader ecological factors (e.g., marital quality, support from extended family, participation in day care, family conflict, overall family style) to affect the course of social development. Moreover, the study by Plomin, Loehlin, and DeFries (1985) showing little relation between HOME and behavior problems in adopted children but a significant, yet small (.23), relation for nonadopted children suggests that genetic factors may play a role.

Perhaps it would be fair to characterize studies of parenting/child development relations done prior to 1980 as Generation 1 studies. Most studies done during that era were focused on simply establishing that relations obtained between particular dimensions of children's home experiences and particular components of their behavioral development. Studies done between 1980 and 2000 might similarly be described as Generation 2 studies in that many were concerned with moderators of key parenting/child development relations and issues such as genetic mediation of environmental effects. As the twenty-first century commences, there appears to be a new generation of studies emerging: those concerned with the mechanisms that account for relations between key aspects of the environment and particular child development outcomes. Illustrative of this new generation is a new study we have undertaken. In this study we examined the relation between having opportunities for productive activity (operationalized as access to objects and materials and exposure to potentially enriching activities and events) during infancy and early childhood and behavior problems during first grade. We tested the hypothesis that high levels of opportunity for productive activity early in life would reduce behavior problems downstream because it fostered self-control in children. The hypothesis derived from Bronson's (2000) argument that a child's motivation for self-regulation emerges as the child is able to manipulate objects and engage in tasks that engender a sense of control or agency. The hypothesis also follows from self-determination theory.

Ryan and Deci (2000) contend that self-regulation emerges as a by product of engaging in intrinsically motivated activities. Specifically, frequent exposure to a variety of objects, people, and situations (especially under the guidance of adults or more accomplished peers) not only helps satisfy the motives for curiosity and mastery but gradually promotes attention focusing, volitional control, and strategic planning. Using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care, we found evidence to support this hypothesis for both mother-reported and teacher-reported externalizing behavior, controlling for child temperament, family SES and size, and maternal responsiveness (Bradley & Corwyn, 2005).

In overview, both developmental and cultural theory stipulates that the social and physical conditions children encounter at home are implicated in their social competence and emotion regulation. Findings from our studies (and those of others) using the HOME support these propositions. Nurturant, responsive care, begun in infancy not only seems to increase the likelihood of social participation in children but also the quality of their interactions with others. There is suggestive evidence it may even launch the inter-generational transmission of nurturance (at least in the form of considerate classroom behavior during middle childhood). Not surprisingly, these social experiences also seemed to reduce the likelihood of externalizing behavior on the part of children. However, research also suggests that the precise impact of such experiences have on social behavior depends on what the child brings to the parent-child relationship. Evidence suggests there may be somewhat different effects depending on whether a child is securely or insecurely attached. Just as important, results from our studies suggest that social competence and social behavior reflect not only the quality of children's social environments but the amount of stimulation and support for learning those environments afford as well. Children living in environments rich in objects and activities tended to show fewer behavior problems both at home and at school. It appears that environments rich in opportunities for learning and enjoyment foster self-control.


Knowing what parents do is one thing, knowing how it matters in the lives of children is quite another. In his tantalizing book, Altering Fate, Lewis (1997) made much of the fact that it is extraordinarily difficult to predict the course of individual lives. It is not just that the measures of parenting and the measures of children's characteristics are imperfectly reliable. It is not just that developmental theory is imprecise. It is not even just that there are a myriad biological and contextual factors that impinge on development. Lewis (1997) argued that predicting the course of individual development is difficult because accidental occurrences pervade our real lives. He also argued that predicting the course of development for any given person is difficult because humans are conscious beings; thus, part of our fate is in our own hands. We make meaning of what we experience and we make choices that affect our lives.

Transactional and general systems theories of development (Ford & Lerner, 1992; Sameroff, 1983) portray development as a joint function of both what the environment affords a person by way of experiences and what the person brings to the environment by way of capabilities and behavioral tendencies. As an example, Bradley, Caldwell, Rock, Casey, and, Nelson (1987) found that, for low-birth weight infants, home environment in combination with child medical status predicted 18-month Bayley scores better than either did alone. A study of language delayed, Down's syndrome, and normally developing children by Wulbert, Inglis, Kriegsmann, and Millis (1975) offered yet another view of the transactional process. A high correlation (.76) was obtained in the combined sample, attesting to the impact extreme scores can have on correlations. The results are ambiguous with respect to direction of causality. It could result from effects of the children's low capabilities on the richness of the environment that these children are afforded, as well as from effects on the children's capabilities by an environment in which stimulation and support for development are far below average.

Developmental theory also stipulates that the meaning a child makes of any particular action on the part of parents is conditioned by the full tableaux of experiences within the family and in those other micro-contexts in which the child spends time (e.g., child care, school, peer group) (Bronfenbrenner, 1995). Family life is complexly organized and its influence on the lives of children involves a myriad of interwoven processes. At the moment when it is encountered, a specific parenting action operates at the foreground of a child's conscious awareness. That action is set against a background of other actions, objects, events and conditions occurring both in and through time. It is this background, together with the foreground, that determines the meaning a child makes of the specific action. Unfortunately, the vast majority of studies on parenting do not consider the impact of each child's background of experience when examining particular types of parenting actions, opting instead to treat all other experiences as if they somehow don't matter or balance out. Such an approach is inconsistent with both theory and research.

To illustrate how these multiple levels of the environment operate to determine the meaning of a parental action for a child, let us begin with a representative action (i.e., a specific action that operates in the foreground of a child's conscious awareness). Suppose Eddie, Jr. attempts to get Dad's attention, but that Dad is only vaguely responsive to Eddie's question because Dad is busy watching television. Eddie's experiences with Dad in the area of communication may lead Eddie to conclude that Dad is not a very responsive communicator (i.e., at a specific level of communication, the child may judge Dad to be nonresponsive). But, the meaning Eddie makes of this action probably will not only depend on how responsive Dad is in this specific domain (communication), but also on how responsive Dad is in general to Eddie's needs and interests. Eddie's reaction is likely to be conditioned by Dad's general level of responsiveness (i.e., responsiveness across subdomains such as responsivity to distress, responsiveness in play, and so forth). Most domains of the environment that directly involve the child (e.g., parental responsivity, object stimulation, the structuring of learning opportunities) appear to function both at a general (across subdomains) level and at a more specific (within subdomains) level in terms of their influence on behavior.

Minimally, to understand how a particular aspect of parenting affects child behavior or development requires that one control for other theoretically salient aspects of parenting and home context. Ideally, it requires that one look for key interactions between environmental dimensions. Recently, we have conducted several studies of children's behavior and competence that illustrate the potential importance of controlling for one aspect of parenting when examining the potential "influence" of another. As stated earlier, when we examined the potential impact of having opportunities for productive activity on problem behavior, we included maternal responsiveness in the model as well in that theory suggests that responsiveness is connected to externalizing behavior. As it turned out, having more opportunity for productive activity reduced the likelihood of behavior problems even with maternal responsiveness controlled. But the reverse was not true. Similar findings emerged when we analyzed NLSY data. Specifically, when learning stimulation, maternal responsiveness and spanking were used in an HLM model to predict behavior problems, learning stimulation and spanking were significant but not maternal responsiveness. By contrast all three were significant predictors of vocabulary attainment and reading comprehension (Bradley et al., 2001).

What a child makes of a particular parental action also reflects how the parent treats other household members in similar situations, as research on differential treatment of siblings as shown (Plomin & Daniels, 1987). That is, the child will compare his or her treatment to the treatment given others. To follow our scenario regarding Dad's low level of communicative responsiveness to Eddie, Eddie's reaction to Dad's failure to fully respond to his bid for attention will depend on the Eddie's belief about how responsive Dad is to siblings, the other parent, or whoever else lives in the house. In effect, there is an across persons level of parental action that affects how a child makes meaning of a particular parent action; that is, it generates social comparisons among family members. Moreover, as Feinberg, McHale, Crouter, and Cumsille (2003) have shown, perceived inequitable treatment affects how siblings respond to one another.

A child's reaction to a particular parent action also is a function of the overall ambiance or style (e.g., the overall amount of conflict present, the degree of optimism or cohesion in the family, a general style of interaction among family members, an overall level of organization or harmony) present in the home. As a rule, these pervading conditions are more distal than behaviors aimed directly at the child by other household members present; albeit, there are exceptions such as background noise. Ambient conditions indirectly affect children and they moderate the effect of direct exchanges between children and those persons and objects in the home environment (e.g., a high level of background noise reduces the effectiveness of parental attempts to teach the child, a high degree of parental conflict may reduce the effectiveness of parental attempts to nurture the child). Darling and Steinberg (1993) proposed, for example, that parenting style is best viewed as a context that modifies the influence of specific parenting practices. Mink and Nihira (1986) identified three types of family style and, for each family type, a different set of relationships between particular parenting behaviors and children's behavioral development emerged. Cummings, Zahn-Waxler, and Radke-Yarrow (1981) observed that toddlers exposed to frequent marital conflict reacted more intensively to later episodes of parental conflict than children who experienced less frequent conflict. We examined family conflict as a potential moderator of the relation between parental actions and developmental outcomes for children in early adolescence. For the three different ethnic groups studied (European Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans) we found evidence that level of family conflict moderated relations between experiences at home (maternal responsiveness, learning materials, variety of stimulation) and adolescent outcomes. Although there was not complete consistency in findings across the three groups, in all cases it was children in families with higher levels of conflict that responded more to each type of experience (Bradley & Corwyn, 2000). It is not just aspects of the social environment that provide salient background for the influence of parental actions. Research on noise indicated that persistent intensive auditory stimuli has physiological consequences and may be inimical to task performance and interpersonal exchanges (World Health Organization, 1980).

As children grow older, they are increasingly able to integrate information from multiple sources (levels) within the home and to develop ideas about their meaning. Children construct a generalized set of expectancies and motivational propensities to act in accordance with the general level of responsiv-ity, object stimulation, structured learning opportunities, and the like, that are present. Children also are aware of the specific ways that their environments are responsive or not so responsive, stimulating or not so stimulating, and so forth. They can discriminate among the various types of responsivity present, each of which may have different salience for various behavioral systems. Likewise, as children become older and they can comprehend more distal and general conditions. Accordingly, those conditions become more salient for behavioral development. Indeed, as children grow older, what they make of parental actions also increasingly reflects the features of the environment outside the home (e.g., the conditions present in the peer group, at school, or in the neighborhood, even images on TV) at even more distal levels. It is not unusual, for example, for an adolescent to judge his or her parents' actions in light of his or her perceptions regarding how friends are treated by their parents in similar situations. The adolescent may judge even a mild reprimand as being too controlling or the continuation of attentiveness as too smothering.

It might be reasonably easy for social scientists to predict human behavior and development if it weren't for four stubborn facts about human beings: (1) we are conscious, (2) we construct expectations, (3) we have the capacity to split attention when confronted with arrays of simultaneous and sequential information, and (4) there is an inextricable but complex link between cognitions and emotions. Accordingly, the road from experience (however it might be directly measured) to response (however incompletely measured) can be hard to follow, criss-crossed as it is by a myriad of personal interpretations. Wachs (2000), in his clever book Necessary but not Sufficient, makes this point brilliantly. Theory is perhaps a step ahead of empirical science in making the complex road from experience to response clearer. The availability of large data sets and sophisticated statistical procedures may help empirical science close the gap over the next decade or so.


In 1999 Jared Diamond was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Guns, Germs, and Steel (subtitled "The Fate of Human Societies"). Few books in recent memory have had the impact of this remarkable treatment of the last 13,000 years of human history. The lesson from this convincing and exhaustive review is singular: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments" (p. 25). Specifically, Diamond presents the case that societies became dominant because of their proximity to plants that could become arable crops and animals that could become domesticated; context was everything. Having spent over a quarter century traipsing into homes all over America and beyond and in discussions with others interested in children's home environments throughout the world, I have become acutely aware of the power of context in shaping the actions parents take in behalf of their children. One of the things we have learned from our experience with the HOME is that life is incredibly diverse within and across groups, be they social class or cultural (a point made by Bloom, 1964, over 30 years ago). One of the most memorable home visits made using the HOME involved a large Mexican American family in Los Angeles. During the visit, there were 14 persons present, at one time or another, from the large, tightly knit extended family group. The home was rich with language and personal exchanges between family members, and it was also rich with joy. The family offered a strong contrast to the family situation of a young Mexican American mother in San Diego, separated from the father of her only child and living with her father, who was separated from her mother. The young mother's discomfort with her living arrangement was readily apparent. So keen was this discomfort, she did not even bring her child's toys to her father's home.

In 1984, Belsky published a paper on parenting in which he argued that parenting is a joint function of the parent's own history, the context in which parenting occurs, and the characteristics of the child. Our experience with HOME provides ample evidence of the relevance of Belsky's parenting process model. Scores on the Inventory are correlated with nearly everything (one might say confounded with nearly everything): race, family structure, neighborhood, parental personality and competence, parental history. Many of the items on the HOME Inventory index objects and parenting practices more common to better educated, wealthier families (Bradley et al., 2001). Indeed, in our recent analyses of data from the NL SY, we found that each of four major components of socio-economic status (parental education, occupational status, family income, and family wealth) influence multiple aspects of parenting above and beyond what the other three contributes (Bradley & Corwyn, 2003). Most investigators have found low-to-moderate correlations between HOME and social status variables (Adams et al., 1984; Bradley et al., 2000; Bradley, Caldwell, Rock, et al., 1989; Bradley, Mundfrom, et al., 1994; Brummitt & Jacobson, 1989; Caldwell, 1967; Hollenbeck, 1978; Kurtz et al., 1988; Nihira, Tomiyasu, & Oshio, 1987; Noll, Zucker, Curtis, & Fitzgerald, 1989; Pascoe, Loda, Jeffries, & Earp, 1981; Rogozin, Landesman-Dwyer, & Streissguth, 1978; Sahu & Devi, 1982; Saxon & Witriol, 1976; Yeung et al., 2002). However, the strength of association sometimes can be quite modest (.24), as a study of working mothers from Italy attests (Fein, Gariboldi, & Boni, 1993). Results indicated that, in cultures with a highly defined class structure such as India, the link between social status and parenting practice is likely to be tight (Kurtz et al., 1988). By comparison, in societies with more mobility across classes and nearly universal access to education (but not employment), the association may be weaker.

Studies show that scores on HOME reflect many factors in addition to parental social status (Bradley & Caldwell, 1978), including parental personality (Allen, Affleck, McQueeney, & McGrade, 1982; Bergerson, 1989; Fein et al., 1993; Pederson et al., 1988; Reis, Barbera-Stein, & Bennett, 1986), parental substance abuse (Fried, O'Connell, & Watkinson, 1992; Noll et al., 1989; Ragozin et al., 1978), parental IQ (Longstreth et al., 1981; Plomin & Bergeman, 1991), family structure (Bradley et al., 1982, 1984), parental knowledge about child development and attitudes toward child rearing (Reis et al., 1986), social support (Bradley et al., 1987, 1989; Wandersman & Unger, 1983), psychosocial climate of the home (Bradley et al., 1987; Gottfried & Gottfried, 1984; Nihira, Mink, & Meyers, 1981; Wandersman & Unger, 1983), presence of traumatic events (Bradley et al., 1987), and a variety of other community and cultural factors. Ragozin, Landesman-Dwyer, & Streissguth (1980) also observed a birth order effect on Involvement and Variety.

HOME scores also vary as a function of maternal age (Coll et al., 1986, 1987; Field et al., 1980; Luster & Rhoades, 1989; Reis et al., 1986; Schilmoeller & Baranowski, 1985; von Windeguth & Urbano, 1989). Reis and Herz (1987) even found that younger teens (13 to 16 years old) had lower scores than older teens (16 to 19 years old). Coll and her colleagues found that, even with total child care support and stress controlled, older mothers scored higher on HOME. But, the parenting practices of young mothers are not uniformly worse than those of older mothers. We conducted a study of 193 mothers ranging in age from 15 to 24 years (Whiteside-Mansell, Pope, & Bradley, 1996). Each mother was assessed with the HOME when their infants were 12 months old and again when their children were 36 months old. A cluster analysis was performed on the HOME subscale scores for both ages. Results showed that the majority of young mothers had HOME score profiles similar to those of older mothers. However, four of the five clusters had some HOME scores that were at least one standard deviation lower than those of older mothers. These profiles were related to maternal competence and family context as well as to children's development.

Two decades ago we looked at the relationship of HOME and an array of demographic factors in a racially diverse sample (Bradley & Caldwell, 1984a). We found two things: (a) no one demographic factor accounted for much of the variance in HOME scores, and (b) all the demographic factors we used put together accounted for only about 50% of the variance. We repeated this study with a much larger and even more diverse sample (Bradley, Mundfrom, et al., 1994). We did it in response to a study that erroneously concluded that income accounted for most of the difference in HOME scores (that study totally confounded race, area of residence, and social class). In our analysis using data from the Infant Health and Development Program (1990) Study, we essentially reproduced the findings from the earlier study: No one factor accounted for more than about 20% of the variance and a substantial amount of variance was left unaccounted for (see Table 20.2).

In an effort to better understand how culture and socio-economic status operate to shape the character of parenting and the parenting environment, we have undertaken several lines of investigation. One of the most comprehensive efforts was a collaborative study involving 11 investigators from six sites in North America (Bradley et al., 1989). In this study, correlations between HOME scores and 2-year Bayley scores were higher for European Americans than for African Americans and Hispanic Americans. However, by age 3, the correlation between child IQ and the Responsivity subscale was higher for African Americans than for European Americans, and there were no other notable differences between these two groups. The pattern of correlations for Mexican Americans was different from other groups. Reminiscent of results for poor children in rural Mexico (Cravioto & DeLicardie, 1976), correlations with social status and mental test scores were very low. Also in keeping with previous studies, HOME was found to significantly predict 3-year IQ (from .30 to .47) when it was entered into a regression equation after socio-economic status. More recently we used multiple waves of data from NLSY to investigate the relation between SES, parenting, and child development (Bradley & Corwyn,

TABLE 20.2 HOME and Demographic Factors

Variance Accounted for

12 Months

36 Months

Demographic Variable



Black vs. White



Black vs. Hispanic






Maternal education



Gestational age



Marital status



Maternal age









Note. From Bradley, R. H., Mundfrom, D. J., Whiteside, L., Caldwell B. M., Casey, P. H., Kirby, R. S. & Hansen, S. (1994). The demography of parenting: A reexamination of the association between HOME and income. Source: Nursing Research, 43, 260-266.

Note. From Bradley, R. H., Mundfrom, D. J., Whiteside, L., Caldwell B. M., Casey, P. H., Kirby, R. S. & Hansen, S. (1994). The demography of parenting: A reexamination of the association between HOME and income. Source: Nursing Research, 43, 260-266.

2003). We found that SES was related to HOME scores for European American, African American, and Hispanic American families for children ages 4 through 14 (mostly low to moderate relations). Moreover, aspects of the home environment such as learning stimulation and maternal responsiveness tended to mediate relations between SES and child outcomes at all ages in all groups.

According to Hui and Triandis (1985), "the continuum of universality-cultural difference of a construct closely parallels the construct's level of abstraction" (p. 134). In other words, group similarities are greatest when total scores, or subscales, are analyzed, while item-level analysis is more precise in detecting group differences. For that reason, we recently began exploring data from the NLSY to investigate item-level differences by sociocultural group and poverty status. The original NLSY sample included 6,283 women who were between the age of 14 and 21 in 1979. The sample was selected to be nationally representative; however, there was deliberate oversampling of African Americans, Hispanics, and poor European Americans. Data from this sample has been collected every 2 years. Beginning in 1986, NLSY also included a child supplement which contained short forms of the four versions of HOME. We found that what children experience day to day and week to week in the households of Hispanic Americans, European Americans and African Americans are quite different from infancy through adolescence. Overall, Hispanic American and African American home environments were somewhat less supportive and stimulating than were the home environments of European Americans and Asian Americans, even when controlling for poverty status. These differences likely reflect cultural and economic legacy as well as continued macro-level sociopolitical factors such as racism. However, poverty status almost always had a greater affect on aspects of the home environment than did ethnicity. A surprising, but perhaps the most salient finding, was that the effect of poverty status was proportional across ethnic groups for all HOME short form items. Table 20.3 displays a few examples of the pervasive differences in home experiences for poor and non-poor families.

One could argue that information based on the HOME short forms collected in connection with NLSY represents a first phase of constructing a topography of the parenting environment. Certainly, it is a small first step, but the effort is perhaps more significant than is initially obvious. Determining the significance of any aspect of parenting requires an understanding of the full context of parenting. What we know about parenting and its effects from existing surveys and anthropological accounts gives nothing like the full mapping of this context. As a complement to this empirical bit-mapping of children's home experiences, we reviewed over 70 studies conducted outside the United States that utilized HOME (Bradley, Corwyn, & Whiteside-Mansell, 1997). Although there were notable exceptions, HOME total scores were similarly correlated with family structure, family status, and child outcomes across cultures. However, ethnic group differences relating to HOME subscales were quite

TABLE 20.3

Percent of Households Affording Children Stimulation of Various Types













Birth through 2 years

Child has 10 or more books







Reads to child 3/week or more







Child has 7 or more cuddly toys







3 through 5 years

Child has 10 or more books







Reads to child 3/week or more







Helps child learn numbers







Helps child learn alphabet







Helps child learn shapes/sizes







Taken to museum monthly or more







6 through 9 years

Child has 10 or more books







Reads to child 3/week or more







Child has musical instrument







Child gets special lessons







Taken to museum monthly or more







With father outdoors 1/week or more







Discuss TV programs with child







10 through 14 years

Child has 10 or more books







With father outdoors 1/week or more







Discuss TV programs with child







Child has musical instrument







Child gets special lessons







Taken to museum monthly or more







common; and item-level analysis was the most useful in detecting these differences. Several instances of culturally inappropriate items were found. For example, "Parent introduces interviewer to child," "Child has free access to musical instrument," and "Family member has taken the child on a trip over 50 miles from home" were considered inappropriate for Caribbean households (Dubrow, Jones, Bozoky, & Adam, 1996). Moreover, items from the Responsivity subscale were problematic in several Asian studies. Aina, Agiobu-Kemmer, Etta, Zeitlin, and Setiloane (1993) dropped the Acceptance subscale since Yoruba culture places little value on independence, and Nihira et al. (1987) found the items not reflective of the different emotional aspects of parenting in Japanese. Not surprisingly, European studies mirrored those from the United States and Canada.

It is difficult to summarize what we know about the influence of context on parenting. In one sense, it is safe to say that context (physical, social, political, historical, economic) has a pervasive influence on what parents do, how they do it, how often they do it, and what it means in the lives of their children. Yet, it is clear that no one aspect of context (the closest exceptions perhaps being certain aspects of climate and economics) has a consistent effect across all groups. That is because every aspect of context itself has context and creates context for the others. It is also, as Kitayama (2002) says, often difficult for us as social scientists to penetrate to the most essential aspects of context when examining behavior and development. Lack of access to certain critical resources clearly matters in almost every instance. Extreme environments (climatic, emotional) also tend to have fairly predictable impacts. Beyond that, contextual effects tend to vary as a function of other aspects of context; and their average effect appears modest.


Bronfenbrenner's (1995) bioecological theory and Belsky's (1984) process model of parenting have provided useful frameworks for guiding research on parenting and child development. During the 1990s, several scholars have provided additional framing for those interested in more fully delineating how the resources available to families (or lack thereof) are implicated in parenting and child functioning (Conger, Wallace, Simons, McLoyd, & Brody, 2002; McLoyd, 1990). Generically, these frameworks can be organized under the rubric, family process models of parenting. They attempt to explicate how the resources available to parents affect parental mood, expectations, and mental health, which in turn affect quality of parenting (i.e., a cycle of exchanges between parent and child) and how that helps shape the course of behavioral development. In these models, very specific mechanisms linking the availability of resources to child adaptive functioning are stipulated. This has the advantage not only of offering something closer to an explanation for observed relations but also in designing interventions directed at forestalling or enhancing key processes. These models have been particularly useful in helping to explicate the relation between poverty and maladaptive behavior. An interesting recent use of family process models is a study by Yeung and colleagues (2002). These researchers found evidence for distinctly different paths linking family income to child outcomes depending on the outcome. The link to child achievement was primarily mediated by allowing the child greater access to stimulating experiences; the link to behavior problems was mediated through parental distress and negative parenting. Our analyses likewise implicate learning stimulation as a mediator of the link between family income and achievement test performance (Bradley & Corwyn, 2003). However, our analyses simultaneously controlled for and tested the effects of family financial assets (wealth), maternal education, and occupational prestige.

Learning stimulation was a significant mediator for all four types of socio-economic resources. However, its role as a significant mediator depended upon the age of the child and ethnicity. In our analyses we also simultaneously controlled for and tested the effects of maternal responsiveness as a potential mediator. When child behavior problems was used as the outcome variable, we found evidence that learning stimulation mediated relations between SES variables and behavior problems to at least as great an extent as did maternal responsiveness (typically more so). Moreover, we allowed for testing of direct effects as well; that is, effects unmediated through learning stimulation and maternal responsiveness. Our findings showed that there were often significant direct effects even when testing for these two mediators, which suggests that there are additional unmeasured mediators for both child achievement and behavior. Our findings attest to the value of examining what might be termed "full assets" models even if one 's principal interest is in one type of asset (family assets tend to covary and they tend to covary in somewhat different ways depending on culture). It also attests to the value of investigating models with direct as well as indirect (mediated) effects.


In a recent paper, Tanfer and Mott (1997) argued that changes in family patterns, brought on by changes in social and economic conditions, "signal a weaker commitment of women to men and of men to women; a weaker commitment by the partners to their relationship, and very possibly a weaker commitment to their children" (p. 2). Trends from the past half century seem clear and compelling: smaller families, fewer and delayed marriages, increased divorce, delayed childbearing, advancing numbers of children growing up in single-parent households. Growth in materialism, stresses from work, and the rising cost of rearing children almost certainly conspire to reduce the value of children and adults' commitment to them. More and more, status (and fulfillment) is derived from outside the home, outside the role of parenting.

According to parental investment theory, "the responsibilities of caring for young, often unruly children would seem to require putting one's needs and desires on the back burner so that one can attend to the needs of one's offspring" (Bjorklund & Kipp, 1996, p. 181). The ability to inhibit one's own impulses to leave one's offspring to their own resorts, by extension, requires that one derive pleasure in caring for the child and that one identify one's own well-being with the well-being of the child (Marsiglio et al., 1997).

Concerns about parental investment in children span many decades and many disciplines, from evolutionary biology (Trivers, 1972) to economics (Becker, 1991) to psychology (Hertwig, Davis, & Sulloway, 2002). Each decade and each discipline has put its own stamp on the issue, but there is consensus on one belief: investing in children entails costs. As the trend toward disinvestment in family and child rearing has accelerated (Popenoe, 1993), our research has focused more intensively on parental involvement in the lives of children. We constructed a measure called Parents' Socioemotional Investment in Children (PIC; Bradley, Whiteside-Mansell, Brisby, & Caldwell, 1997). The PIC assesses four components of investment: acceptance of the parenting role, delight in the child, knowledge/sensitivity, and separation anxiety. A study done on 137 mothers of 15-month-old children revealed that PIC was related to the quality of caregiving, maternal depression, neuroticism, agreeableness, social support, the quality of the marital relationship, parenting stress, and perceived child difficultness.

Because of increased concerns about parental involvement in the lives of children, we examined factors that predicted three component scores from PIC (acceptance, delight, and knowledge/sensitivity) when children were 15 months old (Corwyn & Bradley, 1999). Predictors were chosen based on Belsky's process model of parenting (Belsky, 1984) and conceptions about fathering discussed by Doherty, Kouneski, and Erickson (1998). They consisted of income to needs, marital quality, mother's employment, mother's work strain, father's work strain, child's compliant behavior (adaptive social behavior inventory), and child's developmental competence (Bayley scores). Results were somewhat different for mothers and fathers. For fathers, the child's Bayley score, and father's work strain had negative influences on both acceptance while marital quality had a positive influence. Maternal employment and father's work strain were negatively correlated with paternal knowledge/sensitivity. Child temperament and being employed had negative impacts on maternal acceptance. Marital quality was positively associated with maternal knowledge/sensitivity and father's work strain had a positive impact on maternal delight. Overall, such findings are reminiscent of the findings of Woodworth, Belsky, and Crnic (1996).

A major reason for being concerned with parents' level of investment in their children is the belief that high levels of investment will redound to the benefit of children. However, the likelihood that parental investment matters for children at least partly depends on whether the parent's level of investment remains reasonably constant through time (Bloom, 1964). Accordingly, we were concerned with the stability of parental investment (Corwyn & Bradley, 2002a). To examine this issue, it was necessary that we first establish factorial invariance of PIC over time in that evidence for rank order stability through time would have equivocal meaning in the absence of factorial invariance. In a sample of 102 mothers who completed PIC when their children were 15 and 36 months of age, we found strong evidence for factorial invariance for both Knowledge/Sensitivity and Delight. However, we found evidence that one item from the Acceptance scale was less valid at 36 months. Given these results, we found evidence for substantial rank order stability from 15 to 36 months on all three components. To an extent, this was both good news and bad news. The good news: Because parental attitudes concerning investment tend to be stable, it is more likely that parents whose initial attitudes regarding investment are positive will persist in doing things in behalf of their children to the extent that investment attitudes shape their behavior. The bad news: It may be more difficult to change negative attitudes given that they tend to remain fixed. More recently, we have examined the stability of responses to PIC subscales for fathers as well as mothers (Corwyn & Bradley, 2002b). We investigated the stability of five constructs (i.e., protection, sensitivity, delight, proximity, and acceptance of the parenting role) of mothers' and fathers' socio-emotional investment in the child during early childhood (from 15 months of age to 36 months of age). Three types of stability were assessed: factor structure stability, mean level stability and rank order stability. All five constructs showed acceptable factor structure stability for both parents. The only significant mean level changes were decreases in proximity and protection among mothers. All constructs showed significant rank order stability for both parents with mothers consistently showing higher rank order stability than fathers.

The relation between parental attitudes and parental behavior remains murky (Holden & Buck, 2002). In an effort to more fully understand how attitudes regarding parental investment may help to shape parenting behaviors, we examined factors connected with paternal efforts to help prepare children to get ready to go to kindergarten. The participants were fathers of children in Head Start. Using Belsky's process model of parenting as a broad frame and Palkovitz's (2002) notions about generative fathering as a more specific frame, we selected the following variables to predict fathering behaviors such as reading to the child, sharing stories with the child, involving the child in daily activities, and involvement in Head Start: family conflict, family cohesion, marital quality, parenting stress, delight (from PIC), biological relationship to child, residency status, parenting efficacy, father's relationship with his parents. Although significant predictors varied as a function of what fathering behavior was used as the dependent variable, the father's sense of efficacy, the quality of his relationship with the child's mother, and his level of contact with his own mother tended to be the most consistent predictors. All and all they corroborate the assertion that situation/context plays a significant role in these relations (Holden & Buck, 2002).


For Americans, the twenty-first century began with a bang—literally. Two words conjure scorched images of life in the here and now, life as we did not realize it was: Columbine and September 11th. Both focus the mind on what family means and the awesome responsibility of parenting in an uncertain world. For those of us interested in the welfare of children, these events made immediately clear that the science of parenting has yet to equip parents with all the tools needed to assure that children thrive. In their aftermath, the American Psychological Association put out a book that addresses issues about how children respond to violence, terrorism, and natural disasters (La Greca et al., 2002). In that volume there is some useful advice, based on clinical experience, on how to help children cope with the aftermath of terrifying events. But, from the book, it is also clear that there is little in the way of science regarding what parents actually do to assist their children in such times or whether it is effective. Moreover, the book does not even address a myriad of other circumstances that may severely disrupt a child's sense of emotional security and move the child on a less adaptive personal life trajectory. Such research is a major need for the future. Parents need more than a solid scientific base for rearing children under more or less benign circumstances. They need a solid scientific base for helping their children cope with trouble, be it bullies, acts of terror, natural disasters, predators—whatever.

The most striking thing we have learned from our long years of studying parents and children, is how diverse life is "in the moment" for children. This "fact" has consumed us as we have struggled to develop measures that are useful representations of that broad phenomenon called parenting (a.k.a., the home environment). What, among the myriad acts, objects, conditions, and events that constitute the home environment, should be included in measures of parenting? What indicators are telling enough across the broad diversity of families in America and throughout the world that they capture what is most salient about parenting? With family life so bound up with history, culture, community, and place, it seems impossible that any one measure (given that it contains only a limited census of indicators) could sufficiently capture what is most salient about parenting for all groups and all situations. But, without "marker" measures or indicators, how can we construct an integrated science of parenting, a theory of environment-development relationships that is anything more than parochial? This dilemma would seem to lead to a kind of "Sophie's Choice" regarding which strategy to keep and which to leave behind; but should not. It has led us to recommend a dual strategy for studying parenting: It is what we call an inside and outside strategy with regard to marker measures of key parenting domains. The inside strategy means looking inside the measures themselves and, more specifically, looking at the issue of measurement invariance across groups. Using such techniques as confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and multitrait-multimethod analysis, we are looking at whether the internal structure of measures is similar across groups and whether a measure links with similar constructs across groups (Whiteside-Mansell, Bradley, Owen, Randolph, & Cauce, 2003). Initial results suggest similarities in some of the behaviors commonly coded in mother-child interaction paradigms for European American and African American families, but not complete isomorphism. The outside strategy is to supplement marker measures with outside indicators that may be particularly revealing of a parenting domain in a particular group. Perhaps, the best example of the outside strategy in our own research has been our work with children with disabilities. In those studies, we added items to the Infant-Toddler, Early Childhood, and Middle Childhood versions of HOME that were designed for families having children with various types of disabilities. The thought was that these children may require additional things from their environments in order to do well. Our findings showed that the items on the HOME generally worked well in predicting how children would do on standard measures of social and cognitive functioning but, as the severity of the disability increased, the additional items became more useful in predicting the course of development (Bradley et al., 1989). When approached by researchers from other cultures, we now routinely recommend gathering information on parenting indicators of local value in addition to those found on the HOME, then analyzing data from the standard HOME and from the additional items in tandem. In addition to recommending the outside strategy with regard to the measurement of parenting, we also have begun examining the relation between parenting and children's development within cultures (e.g., our studies using the Early Adolescent HOME and our recent studies involving NLSY). There is convincing evidence for the value of within-group analyses for building a comprehensive science of human development (Garcia Coll et al., 1996).

If the past is prologue yet only dimly foreshadows what is to come, then one may wonder what the future of parenting science holds. The realities of child rearing in the twenty-first century present extraordinary obstacles to definitive research, with complexity and diversity in arrangements compounding the ordinary problems of linking particular parenting practices to the trajectory of development in highly evolved, phylogenetically advanced organisms living in rich, multilayered contexts. The challenge requires longitudinal designs with repeated measures of all the caregiving environments in which a child spends a meaningful amount of time (Friedman & Haywood, 1994). In the NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development, we have constantly been concerned with the combined effects of child care and home or school and home (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2003). As a result we often include measures of both contexts in a single analysis aimed at understanding children's development. Constructing a useful knowledge base for parenting in the twenty-first century also requires a more integrated, holistic view of children. The evidence is compelling that children are not just people with behavior problems or people who regulate their emotions or people who possess a certain level of physical or academic competence (Zaff et al., 2003). The goals of parents and of cultures recognize the integrity of development and how developmental systems feed offone another. Yet most studies of parenting fail to take account of the dynamic interplay among these systems. Just as we have argued that one cannot usefully examine aspects of parenting in isolation from one another (children don't just experience one aspect of parenting separately from the rest), so it is important that we construct studies that do not consistently isolate one component of development from the others.

One way to find the whole child again in studies of development may be to use person-centered approaches to research to complement our current almost exclusive reliance on variable-centered approaches. The person-centered approach has made significant contributions to research on resiliency, personality and adolescent behaviors, but has not been equally utilized in parenting research. We recently used a person-centered strategy as a way of better understanding how socio economic status influences child behavior (Corwyn & Bradley, 2005). We found support for all three propositions of the person-centered approach outlined by Bergman (2000); that models likely do not apply to everyone, relations are frequently not linear and patterns of values often have more meaning than variables considered individually (Bergman, 2000).

As the future intrudes into daily life with ever increasing speed and persistence, the job of parenting will rely less on prescriptions and more on flexible problem-solving strategies aimed at finding the best fit between long-term goals for a child, the child's current needs and capabilities, and what the environment affords by way of demands and opportunities. Parenting science must move quickly to develop new theories and methodologies just to keep up.


Abelson, R. (1981). Psychological status of the script concept. American Psychologist, 36, 715-729.

Adams, J. L., Campbell, F. A., & Ramey, C. T. (1984). Infants' home environments: A study of screening efficiency. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 89, 133-139.

Aina, T. A., Agiobu-Kemmer, I., Etta, E. F., Zeitlin, M. F., & Setiloane, K. (1993). Early child care, development and nutrition in Lagos State, Nigiria. Produced by the Social Sciences Faculty, University of Lagos, and the Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), New York.

Allen, D. A., Affleck, G., McGrade, B. J., & McQueeney, M. (1984).

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Improving Your Marriage To Newlyweds Again

Improving Your Marriage To Newlyweds Again

Is Your Marriage Less Than What You Expected It To Be? Have You Ever Wished You Could Feel The Way You Did When You Were Newlyweds? Dont Worry, Were Here To Help! You Can Bring Your Marriage Back To Newlyweds Again! Just By Simply Reading This Easy Step-By-Step E-Book That All Married Couples Should Have

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment