Children Take Risks If Their Parents Are Reliable and Predictable, Study Shows

In Education

The University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers emphasize the importance of parental presence for children’s growth and learning. Lack of “predictable support” hinders a child’s willingness to explore and take risks crucial for development. Predictable support means being there for the child, providing a safe home environment that encourages exploration and learning.

Children need supportive environment to be risk takers

Seth Pollak, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, emphasizes that a supportive environment with consistent meals and caring adults promotes discovery and learning for children.

Children who lack reliable parental support are less likely to take risks and explore the unknown, according to a recent report. Professor Pollak highlights the importance of feeling supported and safe to have the confidence to try new things. The fear of negative outcomes can deter children from venturing into unfamiliar territory. Feeling supported and secure allows children to take calculated risks and learn from their experiences.

In the study conducted by C. Shawn Green, a psychology professor at UW-Madison, more than 150 children aged 10 to 13 were assessed on their decision-making abilities. The children played a series of games that allowed them to take risks and explore potential gains. One of the games resembled a pair of casino slot machines, with one machine displaying a history of payouts while the other machine remained a mystery. Notably, investing in the mysterious machine carried more risk but also the possibility of a higher reward.

Risk taking in children depends on parental reliability

The study also included another game where children had to collect apples in virtual orchards. As players continued to pick from the same tree, the returns diminished. With a time limit, the question was whether players would switch to new trees with unknown rewards or stick to the familiar one. Surveys and assessments were conducted on both children and parents to measure the children’s stress levels and the predictability of their lives.

Children perceiving parents as unreliable were less risk-taking in games, avoiding the mysterious slot machine and changing apple trees. Therefore parental trust and predictability affect a child’s exploration and risk-taking.

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