Parenting Styles and Parent-Child Interactions
Our knowledge of the influence of family practices on children’s academic motivation is limited because most research on parent variables has focused on interactions between mothers and their children. There are various reasons for this, including the fact that mothers are often more available to participate in research. A great amount of research substantiates the idea that maternal attachment is critical for children’s development. As researchers have begun to explore fathers’ influence, it has become clear that both mothers and fathers affect children’s achievement and motivation (Eccles et al., 1998; Meece, 2002).
Researchers have identified important differences in parenting styles which have differential consequences for children’s development (Baumrind, 1971; Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Four different styles have been identified that differ with regard to parental control, responsiveness, democratic communication, and nurturance. An authoritarian parenting style is characterized by high control, low responsiveness, and low nurturance. These parents set rigid rules and use strict discipline to assure compliance. Children with authoritarian parents have little authority and opportunity to negotiate decisions. Authoritative parents also set clear standards and limits for behavior, but they provide rationales for rules and decisions. These parents communicate more openly with their children, and encourage their children to take responsibility and to regulate themselves (i.e., autonomy supportive). On the other end of the continuum, are two types of neglectful parenting styles. Permissive-indulgent parents are highly responsive to their children, but place few demands on them. Rules are not consistently enforced and children are left to regulate their behaviors. Last, permissive-indifferent parents are emotionally detached, and not involved in their children’s lives.
Research has shown that parenting styles can make a difference in children’s academic motivation. In general, motivation is enhanced when parents allow children to have input into decisions, state expectations as suggestions, acknowledge children’s feelings and needs, and provide children with alternatives and choices (Dornbusch, Ritter, Liederman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987). In contrast, parenting practices that are either too controlling or too permissive can undermine children’s motivation and achievement. The positive influence of authoritative parenting is generally found across different ethnic groups in the United States, although White and Hispanic adolescents may benefit the most from authoritative parenting (Dornbusch et al., 1987).
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