“The apple never falls far from the tree” is a popular saying meant to describe striking similarities between parents and their children. But does this also account for the level of children’s optimism and that of their parents? Do children copy their parents’ attitudes towards life and therefore experience similar optimism eventually leading to a happy or unhappy life?
A study by Hasan and Power (2002) attempted to answer this question. They analysed the relation between the mothers’ expectancies, the mothers’ parenting practices and their children’s optimism, pessimism and symptoms of depression. The participants were given questionnaires to assess the parenting dimensions control, structure, support and autonomy granting as well as the optimism, pessimism and depressive symptoms of both mother and child.
Indeed, mothers who expected negativity in their own life had children who also tended to anticipate things to go wrong in the future. It is possible that those rather pessimistic mothers influence their children through a process called modelling by which children copy the behaviour exhibited by a primary caregiver. During their childhood, they might internalise these qualities into their own beliefs leading to a pessimistic view of the world. Apart from that, the possible genetic component of optimism and pessimism should not be underestimated, meaning that parents may unintentionally pass on their genes accounting for a specific outlook on life.
C.W. (Group 1)
Hasan, N. & Power, T. G. (2002). Optimism and pessimism in children: A study of parenting correlates. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26 (2), 185-191.