Scholarly article on topic 'Redefining Social Competence and its Relationship With Authoritarian Parenting'

Redefining Social Competence and its Relationship With Authoritarian Parenting Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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{Children / "Social competence" / Parenting / "Authoritarian parenting"}

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Ikechukwu Uba, Siti Aishah Binti Hassan, Sakina Mofrad, Rohani Abdulla, Siti Nor Yaacob

Abstract The aim of this paper is two folds, these includes redefining children's social competence and its relationship with authoritarian parenting. Literatures dating back from January 1969 to April 2010 were explored using key words. The paper argued that situational contexts must be taken into consideration in any attempt to define social competence. The need to discover the underlying mechanisms behind the acquisition of social competence among African children, and the development of new measures of social competence were recommended

Academic research paper on topic "Redefining Social Competence and its Relationship With Authoritarian Parenting"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 1876 - 1880

WCES 2012

Redefining social competence and its relationship with authoritarian


Ikechukwu Uba a*, Siti Aishah Binti Hassanb, Sakina Mofradc, Rohani Abdullad, & Siti

Nor Yaacobe

a e Department of Human Development and Family studies, UPM, Malaysia b Department of Guidance and Counselling, UPM, Malaysia c Department of Psychology, School of Health & Natural Sciences, Sunway University, Malaysia


The aim of this paper is two folds, these includes redefining children's social competence and its relationship with authoritarian parenting. Literatures dating back from January 1969 to April 2010 were explored using key words. The paper argued that situational contexts must be taken into consideration in any attempt to define social competence. The need to discover the underlying mechanisms behind the acquisition of social competence among African children, and the development of new measures of social competence were recommended.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu Keywords: Children, Social competence, Parenting, Authoritarian parenting

1. Introduction

Literatures from different spheres of intellectual discuss has found children without well-developed social competencies at risk of developing both depression and anti-social behaviours (Kim & Cicchetti, 2004; Prelow, Loukas, & Jordan-Green, 2007). In line with the above, the term social competence has been variously defined by scholars. The expression was defined by Shaffer, Burt, Obradovic, Herbers and Masten (2009) as a child's performance in relevant developmental tasks, while Bierman and Welsh (2000) defined the construct as the social and emotional skills children need for positive developmental outcomes.

Despite the varying definitions of social competence, scholars are yet to reach a consensus on the actual meaning of the term. Moreover, most scholars neglected the situational context necessary for the achievement of social competence. Although some of these scholars highlighted salient issues in the maintenance and sustenance of social competence, however, none captured a generally acceptable definition of the term. Luthar (2006); Serbin and Karp (2004) revealed that the quality of parenting children enjoy either function as a protective or risk factor in their development of psychopathology, competence and resilience. In the same vein, Bradshaw, O'Brennan and McNeely (2008) noted that socio-emotional competencies play a significant role in the advancement of positive youth development and in the inhibition of risk during childhood and adolescence.

* Corresponding Author name: Ikechukwu Uba. Tel.: +6-019-321-1584. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.395

2. Development of social competence

In explaining social competence, different theoretical postulations were employed by scholars in highlighting the effect of parenting cm children's social competence. Social learning theory provides a credible explanation in the discussion. The theory accentuates learning by observation and reinforcement, which children take into their future interactions with others in their peer groups, classrooms, and eventually their family relationships (Bandura, 1977). More so, attachment theory accounted for other processes by which parenting may lead to social competence by arguing that secure relationships with caregivers in early childhood predicted later competence in multiple domains (Berscheid & Regan, 2005; Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005).

Social competence is also associated with attachment security and early secure attachment among infants and has been shown to predict competence during childhood (Shaffer, et al., 2009). As a way of maintaining social competence, Amayo (2009) claimed that most Nigerian parents tell their children stories about Nigerian traditional beliefs and customary practices; thereby sharing the rituals of their religious adherences, which demonstrate inherent resilience, industry and respect for people.

Practically all cultures prepare children to be socially competent (Tomasello, 2007; Vygotsky, 1978). Therefore, some scholars have argued that the growth of social competence during childhood is a bye product of major strides in other domains (Cole, Martin, & Dennis, 2004). These domains include symbolic thought, focused attention, empathy, and emotion regulation abilities that supports children's social engagement within a cultural context (Marshal & Fox, 2006). Within these domains, obedience and reverence were highlighted in high- background cultures, while boldness and management were stressed in low- background cultures (Han, 2010). Children from particularly high- background cultures were supported to use ingenious cues; however those from low- background cultures were supported to use more verbal language.

More so, high- background cultures typically cherished introverted behaviours rather than assertive behaviours, implying that generally apprehensive and reserved behaviours are often related with peer recognition in high-background cultures, whereas it is usually associated with peer rejection in low-background cultures. The findings essentially authenticated earlier socio-cultural methods and the culturally responsive quality of social competence. Given the above scenario, Kaiser and Rasminsky (2003); Rogoff (2003) suggested significant misunderstandings or problems when cultural consideration are not examined in the understanding and promotion of social competence.

Available evidence suggest that the link between early care-giving and social competence is universal (LeVine & Norman, 2001) implying that children utilize early experiences in their development of social competence. In line with this view, studies conducted by Crosnoe (2007); Escarce, Morales and Rumbaut (2006) advocated the use of Eco-cultural theory in explaining differences in social competence. The theory therefore suggests that warm and supportive parenting helps in the nurturing of robust social skills that act as protective factors in many communities. In variance with Eco-cultural theory, cultural pathways model (Greenfield, Keller, Fuligni, & Maynard, 2003) revealed that the interaction parents have with their children may promote social competence in some cultures, while impeding them in other cultural settings. Therefore, there is a need to address the antecedents of social outcomes in relation to specific cultural contexts. Behavioural indicators of children's social competence include pro-social behaviour, isolation, and aggressive behaviour (Diener & Kim, 2004).

3. Methods

Ebsco host database was accessed using key words such as social competence, authoritarian parenting and children. Accordingly, the search was restricted to children. Not all studies identified the practice areas from which the study sample was drawn; as such these studies were not reviewed. The findings of the reviews are referred to later in the paper. The search was completed in April 2011 and was restricted to papers published from 1969 to 2010. The literatures were supplemented by a manual search of current periodicals from the UK, United States of America and Nigeria. In all, over 51 papers and texts were consulted. Of this number, 15 papers were primary research studies detailing the main sources of social competence among children. The resultant literature trail revealed inconsistencies among scholars on a consensus meaning of social competence.

4. Parenting

Parenting practices are defined as mechanisms used by parents to ensure children attain socialization goals (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). Generally, parenting has been extensively studied in human development (Baldwin, Mclntyre, & Hardaway, 2007). Particularly strong evidence abounds in the literatures to affirm parenting quality as a predictor of both behavior problems and successes in various domains of social competence in early childhood (Masten, Burt, & Coatsworth, 2006). Essentially, parenting is an important determinant of several aspects of children's outcome (Gadeyne, Ghesquiere, & Onghena, 2004) such as optimism (Baldwin, et al., 2007), motivation (Gonzalez & Wolters, 2006), externalizing problem behavior and attention problems (Gadeyne, et al., 2004). Parenting types or styles include: authoritarian, permissive, neglectful and authoritative parenting, with important disparities existing among these styles of parenting.

In the view of Baumrind (1971), authoritative parenting is superior to other styles of parenting. In the classification of these styles of parenting, Baumrind revealed that authoritarian parenting was exemplified by high prospect of obedience and submission to parental regulations and instructions. In the argument raised by the scholar, the situation children find themselves was described as unfair and threatening. Permissive parenting the scholar contended was characterized by low expectations of behaviour. In this case, a permissive parent is afraid to correct his or her child. On the other hand, neglectful parenting essentially was described as a parent not being aware of his/her children until something tragic or unpleasant happens to them, while authoritative parents the scholar asserted holds high prospects of the child's behaviour, while permitting the child to talk about those prospects.

Baumrind (1971) further argued that parental rules and instructions forced on the child are fair and articulated under authoritative parenting. In summary Baumrind (1971) maintained that authoritative parents raise accomplished, eloquent, happy and kind children. In essence, the scholar argued that authoritative parenting leads to social competence. In variance with the views held by Baumrind (1971), within the last decades there is a growing recognition and emphasis on the socio-cultural facet of social competence. Scholars have shown that features of social competence are genuinely prejudiced by culture, and that cultural knowledge is crucial particularly in the understanding of social competence (Rogoff, 2003). In the contention of Rose-Krasnor (1997), social competence is classified into three: theoretical, index and skills level. The scholar suggested that in reviewing social competence through the sphere of culture, cultural unpredictability may be greatest at the skills level and diminishes while moving up via the prism.

The quality of parenting children receive has therefore been numerously pin pointed as both a risk and protective factor in their growth of psychopathology, competence and resilience (Luther, 2006; Serbin & Karp, 2004). In consonance with Serbin and Karp (2004), theory and data suggest that parenting experiences engenders the development of behavioural patterns in children that are carried forward into adulthood, and eventually into the parenting of their own children (Serbin & Karp, 2004). Fischer, et al. (2010); Rubinstein (2003) maintain that authoritarianism encompasses attitudinal intolerance, inflexibility toward new experiences, and elevated aggressive penchant toward those who violate social norms.

Although, studies are consistent with Baumrind's (1971) claim that favours authoritative style of parenting (Xu, et al. 2005). However, other studies (Leung, Lau, & Lam, 1998) suggest that authoritarian style is associated with beneficial outcomes for Asian American families, particularly with regards to higher academic achievement. Authoritarian parenting comprise corporal and psychological punishment, exaggerated control of children, asserting power, or reducing warmth and nurturance as a function of specific situational cues (Coplan, Hastings, Lagace-Seguin, & Moulton, 2002).

Emerging studies therefore suggest that traditional parents mainly reinforce the value of unquestioning obedience from their children. This particular allusion is true of African cultural values. However, for western children, these parental behaviours may conflict with the need for developmental autonomy (Erikson, 1959; Park, Kim, Chiang, & Ju, 2010). According to Galindo and Fuller (2010) a family's social-class may condition child's acquisition of social competencies, with implication on classroom settings, including a child's cognitive development.

5. Results

The appraisal of the term social competence is complicated, because the term is often too simplistically stated. This paper therefore argues that social competence must be viewed as a continuum along which children may be evaluated as socially competent or not, depending on the situational context they find themselves. A single incident, therefore, may not necessarily qualify as a lack of social competence. However, a lack of social competence maybe accounted for through the aggregation of deficiencies in various areas in a particular society. Following inconsistencies discovered in the literatures on the definition of social competence, this paper therefore attempted a cursory definition of the term. Social competence is defined as the functioning of a child in different developmental tasks specified in a given society or culture. The paper thus argues that social competence is relational in nature and as such varies from one society to another. Per se, the workable definition of the term above recognized the situational nature of the construct as encapsulated in the present paper.

6. Discussions

Though the procedure fundamental to competent behaviours are alike across societies (Han, 2010), however the specific behaviours connected with social competence demonstrate cultural disparity. In high-background societies, such as Japan, China, Russia, and Brazil, social individuality and group attention are valued, while individuality and personal interest are valued in low-background societies, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Italy. In view of the above situational differences in societies and countries across the globe, previous scholars that attempted a definition of social competence clearly neglected the situational nature of the word, hence the lack of a generally acceptable definition of the term. This is essentially one of the gaps found in the literatures that the current review filled. In line with the above, contemporary reviews of literatures by Zins, Bloodworth, Weissberg and Walberg (2004) revealed a rising body of methodically based study supporting the robust impact improved social and emotional behaviours can have on achievement in school and eventually in life.

In line with the above, despite Baumrind (1971) assertion that authoritative parenting was better than authoritarian parenting, however, evidence from the African hemisphere suggests that children whose parenting were authoritarian still emerged socially competent. Hence the question that arises is why that is the case. In line with the above, further studies is necessary to discover the underlying mechanism behind the acquisition of social competence by African children. Hence this paper contends that differential situational contexts may warrant different shades of social competence. The paper thus recommends the development of new sets of instruments for the measurement of social competence across cultures and societies, bearing in mind the situational nature of the construct social competence.


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