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Parenting Styles and Child Outcomes

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Through the long history of research on parenting, small but significant correlations have been found between parenting style, on one hand, and children’s typical behaviors, on the other. Briefly, authoritative parenting has been associated with many positive outcomes in young children: adaptability, competence and achievement, good social skills and peer acceptance, and low levels of antisocial or aggressive behavior. Of particular interest to us in this chapter, authoritative parenting seems to promote positive self-development, especially high self-esteem and the capacity for self-regulation.

The children of authoritarian parents are more likely to be irritable and conflicted, showing signs of both anxiety and anger. They are conforming (self-controlled) with authority figures, but are not socially skillful and are susceptible to being bullied (e.g., Ladd & Ladd, 1998). They tend to have low self-esteem, and although they exhibit self-control with authorities, they may lack self-regulation when not being observed, so that they are unlikely to get caught.

Permissive parents are more likely to have children who exhibit uncontrolled, impulsive behavior and low levels of self-reliance. They are low on cognitive competence and social agency, and high on aggression, especially in family interactions. In some studies they have had high self-esteem, apparently when parents exhibit high levels of warmth, but many studies suggest that warmth combined with demandingness is more certain to be associated with self-esteem (see Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

Finally, the children of neglecting/uninvolved parents are likely to be impulsive, to show high levels of both externalizing problems (e.g., aggressiveness) and internalizing problems (e.g., depression), and to have low self-esteem.

Be cautious in interpreting these relationships between parenting style and child outcomes. The strength of the associations is modest, cueing us that many factors interact with parenting and modify its effects.

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