Is a child's behavior a reflection of their parents?


Fact Box

  • A 2015 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 57% of Hispanic respondents, 54% of Black respondents, and 40% of White respondents see their children’s “successes and failures as a reflection of their parenting.” 
  • Pew Research also reported that 71% of parents want their children to grow up to be “honest and ethical,” with 54% wanting them to be “financially independent.”  
  • Civil parental liability refers to the fact that in most states, “parents are responsible for all malicious or willful property damage done by their children.” However, in 42 states, parents can also be criminally responsible for their children’s actions under the framework of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” 
  • The CDC relates that children are at a “greater risk” for developing behavior and conduct problems such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) if they are “exposed to other types of violence and criminal behavior, when they experience maltreatment or harsh or inconsistent parenting, or when their parents have mental health conditions.”

Chad (Yes)

A child’s behavior is a reflection of their parent’s behavior. Current science points to personality and character being half nature (genetics) and half nurture (environment and situations). 

When discussing ‘nature,’ parents are the only players involved, giving the child one-hundred percent of their genetic materials (half from the mother and half from the father.) So, if parents are genetically predisposed for certain emotional or physiological traits, then it is likely that their children will also be.   

When it comes to ‘nurture,’ things get a bit more complicated, but for the most part, parents create the environment their children grow up within. They cannot control all factors that affect genetic expression and epigenetic effects during development. However, they can consciously affect many of them based on where they live, the lifestyle they choose, how they interact with the child, and much more. For a large part, young children imitate their parents in speech, behavior, preferences, and attitude. 

But these effects last much longer than just early developmental stages. Parents are the ones who set the trajectory for a kid by instilling morals and ethics, or lack thereof. Although a parent’s influence wanes in later years, parents are still the primary social net and center of their support network through adulthood.  

We cannot blame every fault in the child’s behavior on their parents. However, we generally know that when parents display negative personality traits like anger, racism, or violence, their children are likely to show those same traits. So, act the way you want your children to act and treat people around you the way you want your children to treat the people around them.  

Maha (No)

Parents are responsible for everything related to their children--from their emotional well-being to their physical needs. However, one thing they can’t be held entirely accountable for is their children’s behavior.

More than parents, society itself has a say in what ‘well-mannered’ children are. It deems children who are quiet, polite, and easy to command as ‘well-behaved.’ 

However, research has uncovered that such thinking is age-inappropriate and highly likely to teach children bad habits. For instance, making a child sit quietly for a long time forces them to go against their nature. 

By forcing them into submissive behaviors, children may suffer from a lack of creativity and develop a skewed understanding of consent. 

Societal expectations aside, children behave in specific ways due to their surroundings and the people in them. For example, children freeze when uncomfortable, anxious, or scared. Their mood may also change based on how they feel physically. 

Another reason parents aren’t the reason for children’s behavior is their own unavailability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), parents of children under six years spend an average of 2.24 hours caring for and helping their kids. This is because both parents are more likely to be busy working. In fact, BLS reports that 62.3% of married-couple families have both parents employed.  

Finally, children themselves should be accountable for their behavior and actions, something that will prepare them for the real world and ensure they become adults who take responsibility for their actions. 

So, instead of blaming and shaming parents, it’s time to offer them grace and empathy. After all, they’re learning and growing too.

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