New study: Preschoolers empowered with responsibility


McGill and UdeM researchers team up on child-rearing study

Children whose parents listen to their perspective and encourage them to make decisions do better in school — academically and socially.

A new study published in the Journal of Personality, co-authored by researchers from McGill and Université de Montréal, reports that preschoolers who are offered choices and encouraged to take on responsibilities are empowered by their parents. This pattern of parenting — called autonomy supportive — was shown to lead to high academic and social adjustment in eight-year-olds. Teacher reports and standardized tests demonstrated that a flexible and responsive parenting technique that focused on the child's perspective, explaining the rationale for requests, providing choices and not using controlling language, improved children's social and academic skills.

"Autonomy support was found to increase the odds of children being both high in social and academic adjustment, as well as high in both social adjustment and in reading achievement," explain co-authors Richard Koestner, a professor of psychology at McGill University, and Mireille Joussemet, a professor of child clinical psychology at Université de Montréal.

Study results held true regardless of socio-economic status, gender or IQ. The study interviewed mothers of five-year-olds to measure the level of autonomy support and other parenting dimensions. Three years later, the study looked at the children's social adjustment and achievement in reading and math in grade three. "Maternal autonomy support measured in kindergarten was positively associated with social adjustment, academic adjustment and reading achievement in third grade," says Koestner, stressing this as their most important finding.

The Koestner-Joussemet article is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality. To receive a PDF of this article, please contact the Journal by journalnews [at] (email). The Journal of Personality publishes scientific investigations in the field of personality. It focuses particularly on personality and behaviour dynamics, personality development, and individual differences in the cognitive, affective and interpersonal domains.

About McGill University

McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university and has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill has 21 faculties and professional schools which offer more than 300 programs from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. McGill attracts renowned professors and researchers from around the world and top students from more than 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education environments in North America. There are approximately 23,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students. It is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities. McGill's two campuses are located in Montreal, Canada.