Oct 13, 2009

Are There Benefits To a Democratic Relationship?

Long-range Benefits of Democratic Relationships

Over the years I have come to believe more and more strongly that democratic relationships make people healthier--both physically and emotionally. They foster well-being, self-esteem, self-confidence and self-discipline.

On the other hand non-democratic relationships make people unhealthy. They produce both physical and emotional illness, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, aggression, rebellion, violence and lack of self-discipline. They produce delinquent, violent youth.

We see it in organizations. One study found that managers who use a democratic leadership style and practice "participative management" develop workers with high productivity and morale, low turnover, fewer grievances and low absenteeism. They feel better about themselves, like to go to work, have more self-esteem and self-confidence, less sense of powerlessness and fewer illnesses (Simmons and Mares, 1983).

We also see it in schools. In a study involving 600 teachers and 10,000 students from kindergarten through grade 12, the students whose teachers were trained in the skill of communicating empathic understanding (i.e. Active Listening) respect and regard for students as persons were compared with students whose teachers were not trained in those skills (Aspy and Roebuck, 1983). Students of the trained teachers were found to:
  • Miss fewer days of school during the year (four fewer days per child)
  • Make greater gains on academic achievement measures, including both math and reading scores
  • Be more spontaneous and use higher levels of thinking
  • Increase their scores on IQ tests (from kindergarten through fifth grade)
  • Make gains in creativity scores from September to May
  • Show increased scores on self-esteem measures
  • Commit fewer acts of vandalism to school property
  • Present fewer disciplinary problems
The study also found that teachers who were trained in the helping skills had classrooms in which there was:
  • More student talk
  • More student problem solving
  • More student verbal initiation
  • More verbal response to the teacher
  • More student asking of questions
  • More student involvement in learning
  • More eye contact with teacher
  • More physical movement
  • Higher levels of cognitive thinking
  • Greater creativity
Do parents who have learned the skills for creating democratic family environments also foster good health and well-being in their children?

Find out on tomorrow's post!

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