How Peers & Parents Affect Behavior

By Carly Seifert
A child's desire to be in the popular group may influence her behavior.
A child's desire to be in the popular group may influence her behavior.

While many parents understandably wish they had the ability to mold their child into exactly who they want him to be, there are many factors that shape a child's behavior and personality. According to the American Psychological Association, the example put forth by a child's parents and peers bears significant influence on that child's social behavior, self-esteem, ability to cope or likeliness to engage in deviant behavior.

Parents Matter

Whether you like it or not, your child is watching your every move. According to KidsHealth, your little one is always learning from you and seeking to model your behaviors. If you want your child to behave respectfully, kindly and politely, the best thing you can do is model these traits for him. Be friendly and speak well of others, say "Please" and "Thank you" and show consideration for your child's thoughts and feelings. According to the American Psychological Association, the way you parent your child and your resulting attachment with him will also affect his social skills and ability to focus in school.

Coping Behaviors

Just because your child is always watching you doesn't mean you need to put forth a perfect image for her to emulate. KidsHealth also acknowledges the importance of letting your child know that it's okay to fail, and in doing so, teaching him coping skills. If your child sees you handling stress by yelling at those around you, your child may behave similarly when faced with her own stressful situations. Teach her that weakness and mistakes are okay by handling things calmly and apologizing when necessary -- a behavioral skill she will certainly need to learn in life.

Peers and Social Behavior

According to an excerpt from "Families, Schools, and Communities: Building Partnerships for Educating Children" by C. Barbour, N.H. Barbour, and P.A. Scully, peers have the ability to influence a child's social behavior -- especially as children spend less time at home and more time at school. Kids observe their peer groups and learn how to cooperate and navigate social situations. Peer groups also influence the way a child dresses, eats and what he knows and values.

The Popular Group

A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that peer groups considered by students to be popular were more influential than behavior of groups who were perceived as likable and nice. Children aim to imitate the behavior of kids from the popular group -- which may include positive social behaviors that benefit self-esteem -- or it may include demonstrating risky and aggressive behavior, stemming from the desire of the child to achieve popularity.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.