parenting style and child happiness

580When you have children you can expect everyone you know (and a lot of people you don’t!) to have opinions about how you should raise them. Parenting styles can be predictive of the kind of person your child grows up to be, so it is important to think about what you are doing and where you might have learned your ‘natural’ parenting skills. It is important to remember that neither nature nor nurture are entirely repsonsible for your behaviour, and it is possible to change course when you recognise where you’d rather be as a parent.

The three most recognised parenting styles have been classified by developmental psychologists as ‘authoritarian’, ‘permissive’ and ‘democratic’. Other classification systems use ‘authoritative’, ‘authoritarian’, ‘indulgent’ and ‘neglectful’. While neither system is set in stone and ther is considerable overlap, both rely on indentifying characteristics of parent-child interaction which include: levels of affection, methods of discipline and control, expectations and communication styles.

‘Authoritarian’ parenting is very much parent-directed and involves the expectation that rules will be obeyed. It is characterised as less affectionate than other parenting styles and parental communcation style is directive. The child may grown up with a very distinct idea of their place in the world, but with little sense that they have any control over their lives. John Bowlby’s attachement theory would describe such children as either avoidant or anxiously attached, as they may have experienced non-existent or inconsistent affection and thus not been able to rely on their parents in times of need. Authoritarian parenting may in extreme result in abusive behaviour when physical discipline is the mode of control. The ends result may be an obedient child on the surface, but fear and deception of the parent will occur.

‘Permissive’ parenting is the opposite. It is very much child-directed (or Indulgent) or when dysfunctional is neglectful. Paradoxically, this style of child-rearing can also result in a child that has no sense of control over thier life because no guidelines for successful social intergration have been supplied, or have been inconsistent. Similarly, it may result in insecure attachment styles. Permissive parenting can be regarded as abusive when it results in neglect of the child’s safety and growth needs. The child may grow up with little self-control and as a result, be unhappy. When the parent has also been neglectful, the child may also have low self-esteem.

‘Democratic’ parenting is above all resepectful of the needs of the child. children can have a say in their lives when it is appropriate, but parents must lead when safety or lack of experience is an issue. It is characterised by affectionate relationships and provides a secure base from which a child can explore the world. This style of parenting gives a child more sense of control over their own lives. Under Bowlby’s nomenclature, the child is securely attached. Democratic parenting lead to children with good self-esteem who are capable and respectful of others.

What’s your parenting style?


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