Role Modeling


“Our children are our mirrors.”

“Like father, like son.”

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

These sayings may seem like common sense, but we often don’t pay attention to what extent parents influence their children. According to social learning theory posits by Bandura (1977), individuals learn through social context, such as observation and direct instruction. That is, children learn to ‘model’ or emulate the behaviors, attitudes and skills of others. Typically, parents and those models that are most influential are labeled as “role models”.


Role models and parental influences have been shown to be extremely important in terms of the development of aggressive behavior, materialism, and achievement attitude.

Here are some classic psychology and social experiments that highlight the aspects of parents as role models:

Aggressive Behavior—The Bobo Doll Experiment (Bandura, Ross, and Ross, 1961) An experiment conducted by researchers from Stanford University tested children between 3 to 6 years old. In the aggressive condition, each child was first shown an adult model act aggressively (i.e., kicking, hitting, or throwing) towards a Bobo doll[1]. On the other hand, in the non-aggressive condition, the child was shown an adult model playing appropriately with other toys and the Bobo doll was completely ignored. Then, the children from both conditions were invited to play with the toys. The researchers found that the children exposed to aggressive model were more likely to act in aggressive ways than those who were exposed to the non-aggressive model. The implication of the study suggested that children learn social behavior such as aggression through the process of observation learning.


Materialism—Materialism and Marketplace Knowledge (Clark, Martin, and Bush, 2012) A lot of parents are concerned about spoiling their children or children becoming materialistic. Materialism is a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. In addition, marketplace knowledge refers to the knowledge of consumer related factors such as prices, stores, and shopping. It has been shown that family communication structures have an impact on adolescents’ lev