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Written by:  Odile Fredericks
Date: May 16, 2012

New research from N.C. State University released today underscores the power of parents in shaping their children. The study found that the U.S. and Great Britain share common risk factors that increase the chances that children will develop behavior problems, but parents are key to warding off these problems in both countries.

On the other hand, the study found that Britain's social welfare programs don't appear to mitigate those risks.

"This study tells us that parents are important in households, regardless of the strength of the welfare state," said Dr. Toby Parcel, a professor of sociology at NC State and lead author of a paper in a statement.

So what are the risk factors? In both countries, male children, children with health problems and children with divorced mothers were more likely to have behavioral problems.

The researchers found that stronger home environments – those that are intellectually stimulating, nurturing and physically safe – decrease the likelihood of behavior problems in both countries, he said.

"We wanted to see whether the role of parents was equally important in both societies," Parcel said, "because the argument has been made that more developed welfare states – such as Great Britain – can make the role of parents less important, by providing additional supports that can help compensate for situations where households have more limited resources.

The researchers – from NC State, California State University Northridge and the University of Illinois – evaluated data from a 1994 study of children between the ages of five and 13 in the U.S. and a 1991 study of children in the same age range from England, Scotland and Wales.

As children grow, so do our parenting skills. Visit our Babies/Toddlers, Preschoolers, School Kids and Teens/Tweens pages on to keep up with the latest parenting news, opinion, strategies and resources.


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