Social cognitive factors in parental coaching: mothers' reasoning about and suggestions for their children in social dilemmas
Parental management of their children’s peer experiences and skillful efforts to coach and advise their children with social problems has recognized benefits to children. Yet very little is understood about the reasoning and beliefs behind parents’ coaching and how coaching is related to parents’ broader social orientations. Mothers of 32 male and 39 female young adolescents were given a structured interview about hypothetical friendship dilemmas involving jealousy and the sophistication of their understanding of the dilemmas, their apparent self-efficacy, and their spontaneous references to advice they would give their young adolescent were coded from their responses. Mothers and young adolescents also provided self-reports of their relationship warmth and various aspects of child social adjustment. Mothers that made many suggestions to their children for handling the friendship dilemma had children who were generally less jealous and had higher social self-esteem. However, this was only true when the mother-child relationship was warm. The opposite pattern appeared in less warm mother-child relationships. In addition, coaching ideas were not related to the closeness of best friendships in offspring. Mothers with more sophisticated understanding of the social situation could produce more suggestions for their child on how to handle friendship dilemmas. Better understanding, in turn, was more characteristic of mothers with secure orientations toward relationships in their own life. Mothers that could produce more recommendations for their child were not necessarily mothers who felt efficacious in this area, contrary to expectations. Results represent a step toward a more complete understanding of the cognitions behind parental coaching and when it will be effective.