Parenting styles and the impact on children
Since the early 1920’s, developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the development of children. The most common approach for this study has been looking at what is called the “parenting style.” This article intends to define parenting styles, examine the different styles and consider the consequences or impact of the different styles for children.
Parenting can be defined as “the rearing of a child or children, especially the care, love, and guidance given by a parent.” In reality, parenting is a complex activity that involves a number of different behaviours and actions that work alone and with one another to influence your child’s behaviour and actions. It is difficult to look at one parenting action alone as a definition of that person’s parenting style; it is all the interactions and behaviours together that will determine the child’s well being. In order to look at the different parenting styles it is important to remember that these styles consider normal variations in parenting and do not look at the deviations and they also revolve around the assumption that the primary role of all parents is to influence, teach and manage their children.
No two parenting styles are the same and even within the broad categories I am going to explain, there is tremendous variation that is dependent on many different variables, such as circumstance, mood, current activity, etc. Research suggests that parenting style predicts a child’s well-being in the areas of social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development and problem behaviour.
The first parenting style is the authoritative or democratic parent. This parenting style is considered to be the most balanced and effective and perhaps should be the one we aspire to but is also the one that requires the most patience, time and energy, thus making it the most difficult to master. These parents help children learn to be responsible for themselves and to think about the consequences of their behaviour. They do this by providing clear, practical expectations for their children and reasonable explanations for why they expect their children to behave in a particular manner.
Authoritative parents are aware of their children’s behaviour and they ensure that they follow through on rules and expectations but do so in a caring and loving manner. They look for the good that their children do and spend time reinforcing the good behaviour, as opposed to focusing on the bad. Children with authoritative parents are given choices and are made responsible for their choices and any consequences that follow. Children are listened to and their opinions are respected, though the final decisions tend to rest with the parent. These parents tend to be assertive, without being restrictive and their methods of discipline are supportive, rather than punitive.
The consequences of this behaviour style are children who are socially competent, assertive, responsible and cooperative. As parents who have an authoritarian or democratic style give choices based on a child’s ability, their children tend to be relatively well balanced, demonstrating independent behaviours and good decision making skills. They are generally more socially and academically capable and have good levels of self-esteem.
The next type of parenting style is the permissive or indulgent parent. Permissive parents give up most of their control to their children and make few, if any, rules. The rules that are made are rarely reinforced consistently and the children are not given clear boundaries and expectations for their behaviour. The intention of these parents is to make their children feel free, so routines generally do not exist and the child’s behaviour is accepted, regardless of what they are actually doing. Children are given many choices, even when they are incapable of making good choices and these parents often do not get involved with their child’s misbehaviours, even when someone else is involved, such as the school or a neighbour.
The permissive parents tend to be non-traditional and are very lenient. The results of this parenting style is to create children who are not mature, are unable to self-regulation their behaviours and are unable to deal with confrontation. Children and adolescents from permissive homes are more likely to be involved in problem behaviour and generally perform less well in school, but they often have relatively high levels of self-esteem, as well as good social skills and lower levels of depression.
The authoritarian parenting style involves parents who always try to be in control, exerting their control on the children. Very strict rules are established and there is generally little expression of warmth and affection. Authoritarian parents have strict standards of conduct and tend to be very critical of their children for not meeting those standards. Children in these homes are told what to do and they are given few, if any, choices or options.
In addition to this, authoritarian parents do not give explanations for their answers or decisions and children are not expected to question the rules or commands, with answers such as, “because I told you to” or “I said so” being given in response to questions. There is generally little attention given to good behaviour and each small misbehaviour is noticed and focused on. Children are often punished harshly for even the smallest infraction, particularly for not following the rules.
So what is the impact of this parenting style on the children? Children with authoritarian parents usually do not learn to think for themselves but tend to perform averagely in school and are rarely involved in problem behaviours. However, these children often have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.
Finally we have the neglectful or uninvolved parenting style, where the parents are detached from their children in a way where structure and discipline are almost non-existent. These parents are generally uninterested or incapable of taking responsibility as parents. In extreme cases, this parenting style might encompass both rejecting and neglectful parents, although most parents of this type fall within the normal range. Uninvolved parents do not set rules or limits for their children and don’t spend time with them or participate in their lives. A child with no rules and no involved parent is left to raise him or herself. This can have devastating effects on the development of the child, as these children perform most poorly in all domains.
Related articles: Better parenting – How to move towards a democratic parenting style