Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Perez

Second Advisor

Dr. Gabriel Ybarra

Rights Statement

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. George Rainbolt


There is currently not enough research that focuses on parental influences on children’s development of decision making in early childhood. During early childhood children are primarily situated in the family context and are likely learning about decision making through their interactions with parents. Previous research has suggested children begin to develop complex decisions-making skills in early childhood. Complex decision-making includes the ability to consider the future and social benefits for the self and others. Future-oriented decisions requires the difficult task of deliberating between sacrificing an instant reward for a larger reward in the future, while social-oriented decisions require the consideration of benefiting others versus yourself. The aim of this study is to evaluate the possible influences parents have on their children’s future and socially oriented decision-making abilities. This study uses the sociocultural approach to cognitive development to examine this process in 90 parent-child dyads (3 to 5 years old; 47 girls). Parents and children visited the lab on one occasion. Children participated in a solitary pretest, a parent-child interaction and a solitary posttest that involved making a series of socially- and future-oriented decisions about stickers. Children received a score of 1 or 2 for each decision to share or delay (i.e., future orientation). Video data will be coded for parent behaviors (i.e. provided verbal guidance, directed child’s actives, physical intervention, kept child involved in activity, displayed positive affect, displayed negative affect and engagement) and child behaviors (i.e. listened to directions, frustration with task, off-task, cooperation, display of negative affect, responsible for making decision, and engagement) on a 5-point scale (1 = to a minimal extent; 5 = to a great extent). We expected that parental responsiveness to help make decisions that consider the future (e.g., you can have one sticker now or two at the end of the game) and that consider others (e.g., you can have one sticker for yourself or one for you and one for a friend), and child task engagement and decision responsibility to be associated with children’s posttest decisions to share or delay. We found that by 4-years-old children have the ability to engage in executive functions (EF) and to consider social and future-oriented decisions. We also found that parents scaffolding techniques plays a role in their children’s EF development skills. Our finds also suggest that parents may have an influence on their children’s decision making to either share or delay, but only when they are actively providing responsiveness.