Children's perceptions of family relationships as assessed in a doll story completion task: Links to parenting, social competence, and externalizing behavior

Deborah Laible, Gustavo Carlo, Julia Torquati, Lenna Ontai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Scopus citations


This study was designed to examine the links between parenting, children's perceptions of family relationships, and children's social behavior. Seventy-four children (M age = 6.01 years; 39 boys; 35 girls) and their parents took part in the study. Children completed relationship-oriented doll stories that were coded for coherence, prosocial themes, and aggressive themes. Parents completed a report of their child's social behavior, a parenting scale, and a number of demographic items. Teachers also completed measures of children's social competence and externalizing behavior. Warm parenting predicted both a child's representation of prosocial themes in the doll stories and social competence, whereas harsh parenting predicted both a child's use of aggressive themes in the doll stories and a child's externalizing behavior. These findings support the idea that children are constructing models of relationships out of the early interactions with caregivers, and that they use these representations to guide their social behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-569
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 8 2004


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