A mother impacts a child’s self-worth more than a father, reveals a recent study conducted by two city professors. It was found that children with responsive mothers were more self-assured than those with demanding ones.
On the other hand, having a responsive or a demanding father was found to contribute marginally to a child’s self-worth.
The study defines a child’s self-worth as an idea of himself or herself, constructed from beliefs one holds about themselves and the responses of others. Positive self-worth motivates a child to achieve more, while a negative one pulls her down. It defines a responsive mother as an empathetic one, who has time to listen to her children and has a calm disposition.
“In the Indian context, mothers spend more quality time with children in comparison to the fathers. The mothers have a greater impact on children’s self-image,” said Giselle D’Souza, associate professor at St Teresa’s Institute of Education, Santacruz, one of the researchers.
Though a father’s role in shaping a child’s self-worth is a lot less than a mother, it does not imply that he has no role in a child’s development, said D’Souza. “We did find that a child’s self-worth was even higher if both parents are responsive,” she added. “If fathers start spending an equal amount of time as mothers with the child, they could also make a significant difference in enhancing his self-worth,” she said.
The study evoked mix reactions from parents. Gayatri Srivastava, a mother teenagers from Khar, said, “It’s not that fathers don’t play any role. It is just that the time a child spends with father is less than what he would spend with the mother.”
Dhruvi Acharya, whose son Malhar is a Class 8 of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Bandra, disagreed. "Both parents play separate roles in a child's life. While I am more concerned about their health, my husband is more involved with their sports activities.”
Academicians pointed out that experience of parents with their own parents also makes a difference. “The kind of experience that parents have had with their parents goes a long way in shaping up a child’s personality,” said Reeta Sonawat, Head of Human Development at SNDT College, Churchgate.
(Inputs by Rishma Kapur)