The quality of a child's family relationships plays a crucial role in its development and researchers have found fairly consistent evidence linking parenting styles to children's social behaviour. Children from families that are characterized by more conflict and lower expressiveness and cohesiveness tend to show more mental-health problems than other children. Recently researchers have begun to look more closely at pre-school children as it is believed that this is when many problems start to develop. There is an increasing range of methods available to psychologists to assess feelings and emotions in this age group and a team of researchers in Switzerland and Germany used puppets to study 153 children. They found that the children's representations of the family environment were the only predictor of good and bad changes in the children's mental state between the ages of five and six. A large number of negative parental representations at five predicted an increase in conduct problems at six and a large number of positive parental representations at five predicted an increase in good behaviour at six.
Stadelmann, Stephanie ... [et al] - Associations between family relationships and symptoms/strengths at kindergarten age : what is the role of the child's parental representations Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry October 2007, 43(10), 996-1004