Almost every day, we encounter young children in public places with their parents. While one may not sit and observe the relationship between the parent and child, some may wonder how the parent interacts with the child when at home or in a different public setting. Depending on the level of treatment we observe while in the presence of the pair, one may assume a particular type of treatment occurs in the private sector of that child’s life based solely on how the child is treated in the public sector. Understanding that most parents do not want to expose their homes or children, it is difficult to determine the degree of interaction that truly occurs in private settings.
Evaluating the Public Sector
The most common setting one finds parents with children is often in the neighborhood supermarket. With this in mind, Atkin (1978) chose to observe families with children in a natural supermarket setting, leaving out any intervention of the researching team. He specifically looked at how parent-child pairs interacted when choosing a breakfast cereal to purchase. Knowing that self-reports would be an inaccurate measure, he chose a “direct observation” method to observe the participants in his study. The observations were conducted in 20 supermarkets in inner-city and suburban areas of Detroit and Lansing, Michigan. Subjects were defined as all families with a child between the ages of three and 12 who were considering which cereal to buy. The responsibility of the observer was to record a description of the parent-child exchanges on a form. They also marked whether some sort of conflict had occurred between the parent and child, and if both the parent and child appeared happy with the outcome of the situation. It was discovered that when children merely asked for the cereal, the parents were more likely to say no than when the child demanded the cereal. Since the observers never confronted the parents about their reactions towards the request or demand, it is difficult to conclude why a simple demand was rewarded more over a polite request from the child.
As time and research methods progressed, researchers began to examine other factors that could potentially influence how a parent and child interact with one another. The amount of stress a parent endures while raising young children was also examined by Crnic and Greenburg (1990) and how those stresses impact how parents and children interact with one another and ultimately how children behave in general due to the interactions they have with their parents. They specifically looked at child/mother pairs, and only mothers who currently had five year old children. 74 mothers were sent questionnaires involving open-ended questions regarding daily stressors they experience in raising their children and whether their children have behavior problems. They were then instructed to travel to the university where the research was being conducted and were placed in a room with a one way...