"I am not a role model," basketball player Charles Barkley declared in a Nike commercial in 1993. "I'm not paid to be a role model. I'm paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball, doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
That was a somewhat controversial statement almost 20 years ago, but now there's research to back Barkley up. He and other professional athletes are definitely not role models, Simon Brownhill, an education expert at the University of Derby, tells the Independent in London.
In fact, he says, kids are not even aware of what role models are until they are well past the age of being starstruck by athletes and other celebrities. Their behavior is more influenced by their parents and teachers.
The Independent reports Brownhill surveyed 178 men who work in preschools and elementary schools, asking them if they see themselves as role models. Most, he found, could not clearly define the term "role model."
Children were similarly confused.
"The results from this study suggest that children aged 8 or younger are still finding their feet in the world and do not have a clear understanding of what a role model is," Brownhill tells the Independent. "The men surveyed in the study, who work with young children every day, supported the idea that children are more likely to be influenced by people who are their own age, who share the same experiences and who live close by, such as friends and family, rather than by actors or sports stars."
Brownhill tells the Independent men are not automatically role models to children. That status has to be earned, he says. And, in some cases, he adds, role models can have a negative impact on children's lives.
This excerpt taken from the original story by Ellen Branagh published by The Independent.