About CELFFaculty, Fellows and StaffCalendar of EventsResearch & Working PapersWork-Family ResourcesHome

Correlates in Parental and Child Behavior: Homework Directives and Participation Structures at the Family Table

Ann Michelle Foster


Marjorie Harness Goodwin

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 55


Making use of video footage of the every day lives and routines of three dual wage earner families from UCLA’s Center for the Everyday Lives of Families, this paper provides three case studies of the way in which patterns of family communication, the conversational actions of parents in their interactions with each other and with children, influence the behavior of their children. Two contexts in which parent/child negotiation occurs, homework and family dinner conversations, are examined. Parents in all three families whose data informed this paper use various styles of directives during homework interactions, both to get their children to complete the work at hand and to enforce the parents' standards of how the work should be done. These alternative styles correlate with different child behaviors during the homework activity. When there is conflict or a lack of clarity regarding obligations and duties in the home, it often surfaces in speech patterns during homework interactions. Alternative patterns of communication arise in the midst of family dinners as well. Children's participation in mealtime conversation may be closely monitored by parents, through the use of guiding questions that prohibit the child from straying from parent-controlled topics, or children may be denied the right to participate at all. Parents’ authoritative use of directives is correlated with children's use of impolite structures when seeking to gain the floor. By way of contrast, participation structures in which children's rights to speak are monitored, but children's speech is ratified and elaborated upon when children are given the floor, are correlated with children being more conscious and respectful of conversational norms in the family, and result in a greater likelihood of children using polite forms when they wish to participate in talk. Parental conflict and lack of respect between spouses correlates with a similar lack of respect displayed by children to their parents. While this seems like a somewhat obvious relationship, close analysis of how parental behavior directly affects that of their children may bring to light effective strategies of managing parental stress and ways of helping a family run more smoothly.

Home | About Us | Faculty, Fellows & Staff | Calendar of Events
Research & Working Papers | Work-Family Resources