Psychology, Department of



Julia C. Torquati

Date of this Version



Published in Social Development 13:4 (November 2004), pp. 551–569. Copyright © 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Used by permission. ‘The definitive version is available at”


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.