The role of parental involvement in childrens social functioning has long been documented. However, research on the linkage between childrens health practices, parenting behaviour and social functioning, especially among children in middle childhood is limited. Thus, the main purpose of this study is to determine the predictors of parenting and health-related factors on social functioning among children. A total of 454 primary school students, aged between 10 to 12 years old, were selected from 15 schools in Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. The sample was selected using multistage cluster sampling method with probability proportionate to size (PPS) sampling technique. Result from the hierarchical regression analyses indicated that children with more involved mothers were more likely to report better social well-being; while health practices were not a significant predictor for social well-being. These findings implied that parental involvement, especially mother’s involvement played a distinctive role as compared to children lifestyle in developing children’s ability to form relationship with others as well as maintaining the relationship. Implications of the findings are discussed and recommendations for future research are made.
The significance of social functioning on the development of a child had been consistently highlighted in the literature. Generally, social functioning refers to the feelings, behaviour, relationships, goals and personal strengths of an individual (Hamilton & Redmond, 2010). Individual who has healthy social functioning is associated to better capability to regulate their own behaviour, develop empathy for others, and establish while sustaining social relationships (Hamilton & Redmond, 2010). Specifically, empirical evidence has showed that a healthy social functioning may gives a positive effect on various aspect of child development. For instance, positive social funtioning may be linked to enchanced ability to form relationship with peers, improved academic achievement, and high self-concept in terms of happiness, self-worth, and sense of belonging (Weare & Gray, 2003; Bernard, Stephanou, & Urbach, 2007). In contrast, children with poor social functioning is vulnerable to rejection due to their tendency of showing inadequacy, imcompetency or worthlesness, and lack of friendship. In addition, they are more likely to be unpopular and being criticized by their peers (Nijmeijer, Minderaa, Buitelaar, Mulligan, Hartman, & Hoekstra, 2008).
Literature posits that the development of children’s social well-being could be predicted by their lifestyles (National Institute for Children and Clinical Excellence, 2008). Children’s healthy lifestyle are influenced by their health promotion values, beliefs and practice (Pelto & Pelto, 1997). For instance, children who practices health promoting behaviour such as exercising, getting sufficient nutrition in meals, and getting enough sleep (Maclean, Glynn, Cao, & Ansara, 2004) were found to have positive social development and are able to understand the sentiment or opinion of others (Wooley & Rubin, 2006). In contrast, the practice of negative lifestlye will hinder positive social well-being. Past studies have noted that harmful acts that could lead to negative social functioning include choosing unhealthy food range, living a sedentary lifestlye, and living in a stressful condition (Maclean, Glynn, Cao, & Ansara, 2004). As a consequence of negative lifestyle, children are more likely to have difficulties to initiate and maintain relationship with their peers.