Parental Influence on Popularity

Parental Influence on Popularity

Highschool. The place where (for most of us) popularity mattered the most. I remember waking up every morning at 6 AM so I could slap a whole face of makeup on, and thoroughly straighten my hair. Thankfully, those days are over, and now university students stumble around in their pyjamas and unwashed hair without too much judgement being passed unto them by their fellow peers. Regardless of how you might perceive popularity now, you might look back and wonder why you were, or weren’t well liked among your peers. Or perhaps you want to raise children with high peer competency levels, but are unsure about how much influence you as a parent have on their popularity.

There are several factors that influence how well a child is accepted by peers, such as; social behaviour: those more engaging in social interactions with peers are generally more liked. Cognitive skills: those that were more advanced in cognitive development had a higher peer acceptance rate. Temperamental characteristics: those that were more aggressive were excluded from group activities. And while all of these can contribute to a popularity of a child, the most important factor is parental interaction.

In a study done on middle class families, parents were asked about their involvement on initiating peer contacts for their children. The results from the parents that had direct involvement in facilitating their child’s peer contacts were then split into  three “monitoring scores” that the parents could fall into. 1) Directly monitored, 2) Indirectly monitored, and 3) Unsupervised (Golter & Ladd, 1988). Parents were shown to facilitate their child’s peer contacts by initiating friendship, this consists of arranging meetings or ‘play dates’. Parents were assessed on monitoring their child’s peer relations by encouraging their friendship and/or enabling proximity to their friends. It was also discovered that in families with two parents, mothers were significantly more likely to initiate peer contacts than fathers were.

Children at the school in which this study was conducted at were conditioned by sorting pictures of their favorite foods into three categories. 1) A lot, 2) Kinda, and 3) Not much. In the actual study, the children were then expected to perform the same task with pictures of their class mates.

The results of the study concluded that children with parents whose monitoring skills fell into “Directly monitored” had a higher peer competency rating, and were preferred “A lot” by their classmates. Congruently, children whose parents were indirectly monitoring  their child’s peer relations were generally less liked by their classmates, and had “more negative nominations, and lower average group-acceptance scores”(Golter & Ladd, 1988).

These results are supported by Anne Fletcher and Carol Johnston, in which it was observed that children that were less liked by peers exhibited behaviours such as arguing, fighting, lying, rule-breaking, cheating, and destroying others belongings. It was also observed that mothers of children who had these behaviours were less likely to help their child make friends, or support them in making friends. It’s believed that this behaviour is perhaps a snowball effect from prior experience in negative interactions with peers.

Childhood is a delicate time in terms of social cognition development, and while parental involvement isn’t the only influence on peer competency, it’s important to encourage children to make healthy and efficient bonds.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

Ladd, G. W., & Golter, B. S. (1988). Parents’ management of preschooler’s peer relations: Is it related to children’s social competence?. Developmental Psychology, 24(1), 109.

Hollingsworth, H. L., & Buysse, V. (2009). Establishing friendships in early childhood inclusive settings. Journal of Early Intervention, 31(4), 287-307

Johnston, C. A., & Fletcher, A. C. (2014). Prediction of maternal use of friendship facilitation strategies in middle childhood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships


7 thoughts on “Parental Influence on Popularity

  1. Most of university students are in their early 20s and this is maybe the reason why we feel this topic more related to our past social life. If we think about parents’ role in our social performance in high school in this way: their reaction and attention to students’ relationship with others is the feedback in the loop of emotion progress, then we might find out that parental attention is the reward for those young minds. In the years of secondary education, teenagers are still largely relying on their parents. If their parent decide to move to another city, what most likely they could do is to give up the current relationship with peers and leave. So as it says, without the feedback and encouragement from parents, the friendship or affinity with peers may no longer seems important or attracting to the teenagers.
    Logan, D. E., & King, C. A. (2001). Parental facilitation of adolescent mental health service utilization: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 8(3), 319-333. doi:10.1093/clipsy.8.3.319


  2. Hey Dakota, our topics for this week were some what related in terms of relationships between children. It seems that the personality of the children has a big influence on the formation of relationships depending on how social each child is. In the study I looked at it was shown that the more social children were better at making friends, maybe these children picked up social habits from their parents. It seems likely that children who’s parents were directly involved in the formation of relationships between the children would be more social on there own as well.


  3. Cool topic, i liked it. Parenting is so important, like you said, for the development of children. I’m curious how the parenting monitoring style would apply to teens. The end of your post seems to me to be about “fitting in” and being “agreeable” for how liked a child was by their peers. The study done on middle class families, where you mentioned that families with two parents, mothers initiated peer contacts as opposed to fathers. I’m curious with single parents families (single mom as compared to single dad) how they would do? I believe what is lacking in some homes and what connects to happiness is the time parent(s) and the child(ren) spend together (


  4. Interesting read!! This reminded me about the MAOA gene. In developing male children the MAOA gene can be related to anti-social behaviour. If children are born with low levels of the MAOA gene, they are more likely to have anti-social characteristics, but if the child grows up in a well loving, nurtured environment, they are less likely to exhibit anti-social behaviours. If the individual is born with high levels of the MAOA gene, and in a non-loving, nurtured environment, they will still exhibit some anti social behaviours, but it will not be as severe as the individual growing up in the non-loving environment, with low levels of the MAOA gene.

    Siegler, Robert S., Judy S. DeLoache, Nancy Eisenberg, Jenny Saffran, and Susan Graham. How children develop. New York: Worth Publishers, 2014.


    1. Hello Ashley! Thank you for the reply! Your comment reminds me of the maternal effects on rats! We talked about it before in Psych 1000, and also in Child Development, but it was discovered that how a mother rat cares for her pups affected how stressed and handle-able they were as adults! If the mother was more devoted, and spent more time grooming, and caring for her pups, and laid in a more receptive way for her pups to suckle, they exhibited less stress and were more sociable with other rats. 🙂


  5. Interesting topic, but I found it hard to find information on. Good job for hunting it out. I think a large part of how liked a child is by his peers has to do with who he is as a person to. But in relation to the topic, children do develop a large part of their personality traits from watching their parents, especially at a young age. Also, some researchers believe that children inherit around 40% of their personality from the genes they receive from their parents. (Dr. David Funder) “People who carry a certain gene that affects seratonin have a higher risk of developing anti-social behaviour” (D. Funder) So which genes one receives from their parents could actually have some effect on how social their children are. In the end, I think a Childs social popularity relies on a large variety of factors, including genes, environment, how involved the parents are (like you mentioned), and anything else that may contribute to why a child is socially adventurous or not.


    1. Hello Rachel! Thank you for the reply! I agree, I also think that who the child is as a person determines how they turn out. I’m actually in Paul Vaseys Issues in Sexuality class, and we learned a while ago that gender atypical children who become non-heterosexual in adulthood might actually be the ones influencing their parents behaviour. Because perhaps a male child is born exhibiting feminine characteristics, the father becomes hostile and distant, but become preferred by the mother. It was thought that the parents influence the behaviour of gender atypicality, and thus sexual orientation in later life, but Vasey mentioned he believes the roles are reversed! 🙂


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