Proceedings of Update Series
Challenges to Parenting: The Local Scene
It is an honour to be invited to share with the paediatricians about my views on parenting. Paediatricians play a very important role to influence the parents, as they are ready to take their advice on ways to promote their children's physical as well as psychological health.
I. Defining Parenting
Parenting can be simply defined as "the process or the state of being a parent".1 Once you have a child, you are involved in the process of parenting. However, it is not that simple and Morrison2 defined parenting as "the process of developing and utilising the knowledge and skills appropriate to planning for, creating, giving birth to, rearing and/or providing care for offspring". This definition implies that parenting starts when there is a plan for it and it involves not just bringing up the children but also providing care for them.
There are several characteristics of parenting. First of all, with the advance of medical knowledge and technology, parenting becomes a choice in life. Secondly, being a parent is a life-long commitment. Thirdly, it involves responsibilities as parents are responsible to take good care of their children physically as well as psychologically. Lastly, parenting involves not just the couple but all the family members since the birth of a child affects the whole family.
The quality of parenting depends on several factors. Firstly, the mature personality of the parents is the basic factor of good quality parenting. It also contributes to the stable and intimate marital relationship, which is the second factor of high quality parenting. Thirdly, the parents' motivation of having a child would affect their way of parenting. Fourthly, whether the pregnancy is planned or not is also an important factor as planned pregnancy implies better preparation to be a parent. Whether the parents' level of expectation on the child is appropriate will certainly affect their parenting quality. Parents' unrealistic expectation will exert pressure on children. Lastly, the child's temperament and physical attributes is also a factor. A difficult child with physical handicap will make the parenting task more difficult than an easy baby with adorable attributes.
II. Defining Parent-Child Well-Being
In a study by Shek,3 psychological well-being was defined "......in terms of the absence of manifested psychiatric symptoms or presence of positive mental health attributes or coping resources......indicators such as life satisfaction, meaning in life, hope, or self-worth should be the focus." (p. 55) In this seminar, we will take this definition for the word "well-being". Parent-child well-being refers to the state of the relationship in which both the parent and child enjoy and feel satisfied.
III. Summary of Some Local Newspaper Cuttings in Recent Two Years
The above newspaper cuttings suggest that some children are unhappy. It seems that their unhappiness is related to:
IV. Review on Some Local Studies on Parenting
In the study by the Boys' and Girls' Club Association of Hong Kong4 on "Why are some parents more irritable?" Five factors were identified to be related to parents' irritability. They were:
The study findings suggested that a supportive social environment was vital for the successful performance of the parenting role. The importance of social support was echoed in both the study on parenting stress and anger by Lam5 and that on mental health of parents by Kwok and Wong.6 The study on Hong Kong adolescents by Lai and McBride-Chang7 also suggested that a positive family climate might act as a buffer against developing suicidal ideation in adolescents.
The implications of the study results include: firstly, more community support would help to reduce the stress of parenting. Secondly, educational programmes on child development and parenting skills which include skills in communicating with children, dealing rationally and effectively with children's undesirable behaviour as well as methods of rewarding desirable behaviours were recommended. Lastly, parents should be helped to identify their irrational beliefs and negative thinking as well as stress coping strategies.
V. Paediatricians and Parenting
In Hong Kong, professional help from social workers and psychologists is not so easily "accessible" to parents. The professional that would be easily and willingly approached by parents for help is a medical doctor including the family doctors and paediatricians.
Paediatricians can certainly help by giving advice on helping parents understand children's needs and behaviours, parenting skills and correction of parents' irrational beliefs and negative thinking. They can also help by referring the parents who are in need to appropriate services, which include family services, Family Life Education programmes and mental health services etc.
1. Brooks, J. The Process of Parenting (2nd Ed). Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield, 1987.
2. Morrison GS. Parent involvement in the home, school and community. OH: Chas E Merrill, 1978.
3. Shek DT. A longitudinal study of the relations between parent-adolescent conflict and adolescent psychological well-being. J Genet Psychol 1998;159:53-67.
4. The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong. Why are some parents more irritable: a study of cognitive and social correlates of anger proneness in parenting, 1992.
5. Lam D. Parenting stress and anger: the Hong Kong experience. Child and Family Social Work 4, 1999:337-46.
6. Kwok S, Wong D. Mental health of parents with young children in Hong Kong: the roles of parenting stress and parenting self-efficacy. Child and Family Social Work 5, 2000:57-65.
7. Lai KW, McBride-Chang C. Suicidal ideation, parenting style and family climate among Hong Kong adolescents. Int J Psychol 2001;36:81-87.
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