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6.1: Parenting styles

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    39233
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    Developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the development of children's social and instrumental competence since at least the 1920s. One of the most robust approaches to this area is the study of what has been called "parenting style." This Digest defines parenting style, explores four types, and discusses the consequences of the different styles for children.

    Parenting Style Defined

    Parenting is a complex activity that includes many specific behaviors that work individually and together to influence child outcomes. Although specific parenting behaviors, such as spanking or reading aloud, may influence child development, looking at any specific behavior in isolation may be misleading. Many writers have noted that specific parenting practices are less important in predicting child well-being than is the broad pattern of parenting. Most researchers who attempt to describe this broad parental milieu rely on Diana Baumrind's concept of parenting style. The construct of parenting style is used to capture normal variations in parents' attempts to control and socialize their children (Baumrind, 1991). Two points are critical in understanding this definition. First, parenting style is meant to describe normal variations in parenting. In other words, the parenting style typology Baumrind developed should not be understood to include deviant parenting, such as might be observed in abusive or neglectful homes. Second, Baumrind assumes that normal parenting revolves around issues of control. Although parents may differ in how they try to control or socialize their children and the extent to which they do so, it is assumed that the primary role of all parents is to influence, teach, and control their children.

    Family consisting of a father, mother, and two children
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): How parents interact with their children relates to their parenting style[1]

    Parenting style captures two important elements of parenting: parental responsiveness and parental demandingness (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Parental responsiveness (also referred to as parental warmth or supportiveness) refers to "the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children's special needs and demands" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). Parental demandingness (also referred to as behavioral control) refers to "the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys" (Baumrind, 1991, pp. 61- 62).

    Baumrind’s Four Parenting Styles in Depth

    Categorizing parents according to whether they are high or low on parental demandingness and responsiveness creates a typology of four parenting styles: indulgent, authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Each of these parenting styles reflects different naturally occurring patterns of parental values, practices, and behaviors (Baumrind, 1991) and a distinct balance of responsiveness and demandingness.

    The four parenting styles categorized by demandingness and support. 

A style with low levels of demandingness and support is labeled, "uninvolved."

A style with high levels of demandingness and support is labeled, "authoritative."

A style with low levels of demandingness and high levels of support is labeled, "permissive."

A style with high levels of demandingness and low levels of support is labeled, "authoritarian."

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Four parenting styles. Other, less advantageous parenting styles include authoritarian (in contrast to authoritative), permissive, and uninvolved.[2]

     

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Four parenting styles. Other, less advantageous parenting styles include authoritarian (in contrast to authoritative), permissive, and uninvolved.[2]

    • Indulgent parents (also referred to as "permissive" or "nondirective") "are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). Indulgent parents may be further divided into two types: democratic parents, who, though lenient, are more conscientious, engaged, and committed to the child, and nondirective parents.
    • Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. "They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive, but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive, who are highly intrusive.
    • Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor and impart clear standards for their children's conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62).
    • Uninvolved parents are low in both responsiveness and demandingness. In extreme cases, this parenting style might encompass both rejecting-neglecting and neglectful parents, although most parents of this type fall within the normal range. Because parenting style is a typology, rather than a linear combination of responsiveness and demandingness, each parenting style is more than and different from the sum of its parts (Baumrind, 1991).

    In addition to differing on responsiveness and demandingness, the parenting styles also differ in the extent to which they are characterized by a third dimension: psychological control. Psychological control "refers to control attempts that intrude into the psychological and emotional development of the child" (Barber, 1996, p. 3296) through use of parenting practices such as guilt induction, withdrawal of love, or shaming. One key difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting is in the dimension of psychological control. Both authoritarian and authoritative parents place high demands on their children and expect their children to behave appropriately and obey parental rules. Authoritarian parents, however, also expect their children to accept their judgments, values, and goals without questioning. In contrast, authoritative parents are more open to give and take with their children and make greater use of explanations. Thus, although authoritative and authoritarian parents are equally high in behavioral control, authoritative parents tend to be low in psychological control, while authoritarian parents tend to be high.

    Consequences for Children

    Parenting style has been found to predict child well-being in the domains of social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, and problem behavior. Research in the United States, based on parent interviews, child reports, and parent observations consistently finds:

    • Children and adolescents whose parents are authoritative rate themselves and are rated by objective measures as more socially and instrumentally competent than those whose parents are nonauthoritative (Baumrind, 1991; Weiss & Schwarz, 1996; Miller et al., 1993).
    • Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all domains.
    • In general, parental responsiveness predicts social competence and psychosocial functioning, while parental demandingness is associated with instrumental competence and behavioral control (i.e., academic performance and deviance). These findings indicate:
    • Children and adolescents from authoritarian families (high in demandingness, but low in responsiveness) tend to perform moderately well in school and be uninvolved in problem behavior, but they have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression.
    • Children and adolescents from indulgent homes (high in responsiveness, low in demandingness) are more likely to be involved in problem behavior and perform less well in school, but they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression.[3]

    In reviewing the literature on parenting style, one is struck by the consistency with which authoritative upbringing is associated with both instrumental and social competence and lower levels of problem behavior in both boys and girls at all developmental stages. The benefits of authoritative parenting and the detrimental effects of uninvolved parenting are evident as early as the preschool years and continue throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. Although specific differences can be found in the competence evidenced by each group, the largest differences are found between children whose parents are unengaged and their peers with more involved parents.

    Family consisting of a father and two children
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Children benefit from involved parents[4]

    Differences between children from authoritative homes and their peers are equally consistent, but somewhat smaller (Weiss & Schwarz, 1996). Just as authoritative parents appear to be able to balance their conformity demands with their respect for their children's individuality, so children from authoritative homes appear to be able to balance the claims of external conformity and achievement demands with their need for individuation and autonomy.

    Another Way of Looking at Parenting Styles

    Lemasters and Defrain (1989) offer another model of parenting. This model is interesting because it looks more closely at the motivations of the parent and suggests that parenting styles are often designed to meet the psychological needs of the parent rather than the developmental needs of the child. [5]

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Lemasters and Defain Parenting Styles[6]

    Style

    Description

    Possible Outcomes

    Martyr

    Will do anything for the child; even tasks that the child should do for himself or herself; may use all they do for the child to guilt the child into compliance

    Child learns to be dependent and manipulative

    Pal

    Wants to be the child’s friend; lets children do what they want and focuses mostly on being entertaining and fun; sets few limits

    Child may have little self-discipline and may try to test limits with others

    Police officer/drill sergeant

    Focuses primarily on making sure that the child is obedient and that the parent has full control of the child; may scold or punish child for not doing things right; struggles to allow child to grow and learn to make decisions independently

    Child may have a lot of resentment toward parent that is displaced on others

    Teacher-counselor

    Pays a lot of attention to expert advice on parenting and who believes that as long as all of the steps are followed, the parent can rear a perfect child

    Puts all responsibility of outcomes on parent

    Athletic coach

    Helps the child understand what needs to happen in certain situations and encourages and advises the child about how to manage these situations; does not intervene or do things for the child; sets consistent and objective rules

    Child is supported and guided while they learn firsthand how to handle situations

    Check-in Time!

    Which parenting style were you raised in? If you are a parent now, which style are you? If you are not a parent, which style do you believe you will follow? How did your parent’s parenting style impact you as a child, and as an adult today?

    Influence of Sex, Ethnicity, or Family Type

    It is important to distinguish between differences in the distribution and the correlates of parenting style in different subpopulations. Although in the United States authoritative parenting is most common among intact, middle- class families of European descent, the relationship between authoritativeness and child outcomes is quite similar across groups. There are some exceptions to this general statement, however: (1) demandingness appears to be less critical to girls' than to boys' well-being (Weiss & Schwarz, 1996), and (2) authoritative parenting predicts psychosocial outcomes and problem behaviors for adolescents in all ethnic groups studied (African-, Asian-, European-, and Hispanic Americans), but it is associated with academic performance only among European Americans and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic Americans (Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992; Steinberg, Darling, & Fletcher, 1995). Chao (1994) and others (Darling & Steinberg, 1993) have argued that observed ethnic differences in the association of parenting style with child outcomes may be due to differences in social context, parenting practices, or the cultural meaning of specific dimensions of parenting style.[7]

    The Development of Parents

     

    Check-in Time!

    Think back to an emotional event you experienced as a child. How did your parents react to you? Did your parents get frustrated or criticize you, or did they act patiently and provide support and guidance? Did your parents provide lots of rules for you or let you make decisions on your own? Why do you think your parents behaved the way they did?

    Psychologists have attempted to answer these questions about the influences on parents and understand why parents behave the way they do. Because parents are critical to a child’s development, a great deal of research has been focused on the impact that parents have on children. Less is known, however, about the development of parents themselves and the impact of children on parents. Nonetheless, parenting is a major role in an adult’s life. Parenthood is often considered a normative developmental task of adulthood. Cross-cultural studies show that adolescents around the world plan to have children. In fact, most men and women in the United States will become parents by the age of 40 years (Martinez, Daniels, & Chandra, 2012). People have children for many reasons, including emotional reasons (e.g., the emotional bond with children and the gratification the parent–child relationship brings), economic and utilitarian reasons (e.g., children provide help in the family and support in old age), and social-normative reasons (e.g., adults are expected to have children; children provide status) (Nauck, 2007).

    A young mother and father sit with their infant in a park.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Parenthood has a huge impact on a person's identity, emotions, daily behaviors, and many other aspects of their lives.[8]

    Parenthood is undergoing changes in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Children are less likely to be living with both parents, and women in the United States have fewer children than they did previously. The average fertility rate of women in the United States was about seven children in the early 1900s and has remained relatively stable at 2.1 since the 1970s (Hamilton, Martin, & Ventura, 2011; Martinez, Daniels, & Chandra, 2012). Not only are parents having fewer children, the context of parenthood has also changed. Parenting outside of marriage has increased dramatically among most socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups, although college-educated women are substantially more likely to be married at the birth of a child than are mothers with less education (Dye, 2010). Parenting is occurring outside of marriage for many reasons, both economic and social. People are having children at older ages, too. Despite the fact that young people are more often delaying childbearing, most 18- to 29-year-olds want to have children and say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life (Wang & Taylor, 2011).

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Demographic Changes in Parenthood in the United States

    Characteristic

    1960

    2012

    Average number of children (fertility rate)

    3.66

    2.12

    Percent of births to unmarried women

    5%1

    41%3

    Median age at first marriage for women

    20.8 years5

    26.5 years2

    Percent of adults ages 18 to 29 married

    59%4

    20%4

    1. Ventura & Bachrach, 1999 2. Martinez, Daniels, & Chandra, 2012 3. Hamilton, Martin, & Ventura, 2012 4. Cohn, Passel, Wang, & Livingston, 2011 5. U.S. Decennial Census (1890-2000). 6. Wetzel, J. R. (1990).

    Galinsky (1987) was one of the first to emphasize the development of parents themselves, how they respond to their children’s development, and how they grow as parents. Parenthood is an experience that transforms one’s identity as parents take on new roles. Children’s growth and development force parents to change their roles. They must develop new skills and abilities in response to children’s development. Galinsky identified six stages of parenthood that focus on different tasks and goals (see Table below).

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Galinsky’s Stages of Parenthood

    Stage

    Age of Child

    Main Tasks and Goals

    Stage 1: The Image-Making Stage

    Planning for a child; Pregnancy

    Consider what it means to be a parent and plan for changes to accommodate a child

    Stage 2: The Nurturing Stage

    Infancy

    Develop and attachment relationships with child and adapt to the new baby

    Stage 3: The Authority Stage

    Toddler and Preschool

    Parents create rules and figure out how to effectively guide their children’s behaviors

    Stage 4: The Interpretive Stage

    Middle Childhood

    Parents help their children interpret their experiences with the social world beyond the family

    Stage 5: The Interdependent Stage

    Adolescence

    Parents renegotiate their relationship with their adolescent children to allow for shared power in decision-making

    Stage 6: The Departure Stage

    Early Adulthood

    Parents evaluate their successes and failures as parents

    1. The Image-Making Stage

    As prospective parents think about and form images about their roles as parents and what parenthood will bring, and prepare for the changes an infant will bring, they enter the image-making stage. Future parents develop their ideas about what it will be like to be a parent and the type of parent they want to be. Individuals may evaluate their relationships with their own parents as a model of their roles as parents.

    2. The Nurturing Stage

    The second stage, the nurturing stage, occurs at the birth of the baby. A parent’s main goal during this stage is to develop an attachment relationship to their baby. Parents must adapt their romantic relationships, their relationships with their other children, and with their own parents to include the new infant. Some parents feel attached to the baby immediately, but for other parents, this occurs more gradually. Parents may have imagined their infant in specific ways, but they now have to reconcile those images with their actual baby. In incorporating their relationship with their child into their other relationships, parents often have to reshape their conceptions of themselves and their identity. Parenting responsibilities are the most demanding during infancy because infants are completely dependent on caregiving.

    3. The Authority Stage

    The authority stage occurs when children are 2 years old until about 4 or 5 years old. In this stage, parents make decisions about how much authority to exert over their children’s behavior. Parents must establish rules to guide their child’s behavior and development. They have to decide how strictly they should enforce rules and what to do when rules are broken.

    4. The Interpretive Stage

    The interpretive stage occurs when children enter school (preschool or kindergarten) to the beginning of adolescence. Parents interpret their children’s experiences as children are increasingly exposed to the world outside the family. Parents answer their children’s questions, provide explanations, and determine what behaviors and values to teach. They decide what experiences to provide their children, in terms of schooling, neighborhood, and extracurricular activities. By this time, parents have experience in the parenting role and often reflect on their strengths and weaknesses as parents, review their images of parenthood, and determine how realistic they have been. Parents have to negotiate how involved to be with their children, when to step in, and when to encourage children to make choices independently.

    A parent drops off her children at the Child Development Center for the Community Parents' Night Out, Aug. 17. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Han Samuel)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Parents choose what schooling opportunities to offer their children.[9]

    5. The Interdependent Stage

    Parents of teenagers are in the interdependent stage. They must redefine their authority and renegotiate their relationship with their adolescent as the children increasingly make decisions independent of parental control and authority. On the other hand, parents do not permit their adolescent children to have complete autonomy over their decision-making and behavior, and thus adolescents and parents must adapt their relationship to allow for greater negotiation and discussion about rules and limits.

    6. The Departure Stage

    During the departure stage of parenting, parents evaluate the entire experience of parenting. They prepare for their child’s departure, redefine their identity as the parent of an adult child, and assess their parenting accomplishments and failures. This stage forms a transition to a new era in parents’ lives. This stage usually spans a long time period from when the oldest child moves away (and often returns) until the youngest child leaves. The parenting role must be redefined as a less central role in a parent’s identity.

    Despite the interest in the development of parents among lay people and helping professionals, little research has examined developmental changes in parents’ experience and behaviors over time. Thus, it is not clear whether these theoretical stages are generalizable to parents of different races, ages, and religions, nor do we have empirical data on the factors that influence individual differences in these stages. On a practical note, how-to books and websites geared toward parental development should be evaluated with caution, as not all advice provided is supported by research.

    Smiling parents stand with their young adult son who is dressed in a graduation cap and gown.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): When a child achieves a new level of independence and leaves the home it marks another turning point in the identity of a parent.[10]

    Influences on Parenting

    Parenting is a complex process in which parents and children influence one another. There are many reasons that parents behave the way they do. The multiple influences on parenting are still being explored. Proposed influences on parental behavior include 1) parent characteristics, 2) child characteristics, and 3) contextual and sociocultural characteristics (Belsky, 1984; Demick, 1999) (see Figure 1).

    Parent Characteristics

    Parents bring unique traits and qualities to the parenting relationship that affect their decisions as parents. These characteristics include the age of the parent, gender, beliefs, personality, developmental history, knowledge about parenting and child development, and mental and physical health. Parents’ personalities affect parenting behaviors. Mothers and fathers who are more agreeable, conscientious, and outgoing are warmer and provide more structure to their children. Parents who are more agreeable, less anxious, and less negative also support their children’s autonomy more than parents who are anxious and less agreeable (Prinzie, Stams, Dekovic, Reijntjes, & Belsky, 2009). Parents who have these personality traits appear to be better able to respond to their children positively and provide a more consistent, structured environment for their children.

    Parents’ developmental histories, or their experiences as children, also affect their parenting strategies. Parents may learn parenting practices from their own parents. Fathers whose own parents provided monitoring, consistent and age-appropriate discipline, and warmth were more likely to provide this constructive parenting to their own children (Kerr, Capaldi, Pears, & Owen, 2009). Patterns of negative parenting and ineffective discipline also appear from one generation to the next. However, parents who are dissatisfied with their own parents’ approach may be more likely to change their parenting methods with their own children.

    Child Characteristics

    A red-faced toddler screams and cries with tears streaming down her face.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): A child with a difficult temperament can have a significant impact on a parent.[11]

    Parenting is bidirectional. Not only do parents affect their children, children influence their parents. Child characteristics, such as gender, birth order, temperament, and health status, affect parenting behaviors and roles. For example, an infant with an easy temperament may enable parents to feel more effective, as they are easily able to soothe the child and elicit smiling and cooing. On the other hand, a cranky or fussy infant elicits fewer positive reactions from his or her parents and may result in parents feeling less effective in the parenting role (Eisenberg et al., 2008). Over time, parents of more difficult children may become more punitive and less patient with their children (Clark, Kochanska, & Ready, 2000; Eisenberg et al., 1999; Kiff, Lengua, & Zalewski, 2011). Parents who have a fussy, difficult child are less satisfied with their marriages and have greater challenges in balancing work and family roles (Hyde, Else-Quest, & Goldsmith, 2004). Thus, child temperament is one of the child characteristics that influences how parents behave with their children.

    Another child characteristic is the gender of the child. Parents respond differently to boys and girls. Parents often assign different household chores to their sons and daughters. Girls are more often responsible for caring for younger siblings and household chores, whereas boys are more likely to be asked to perform chores outside the home, such as mowing the lawn (Grusec, Goodnow, & Cohen, 1996). Parents also talk differently with their sons and daughters, providing more scientific explanations to their sons and using more emotion words with their daughters (Crowley, Callanan, Tenenbaum, & Allen, 2001).

    Contextual Factors and Sociocultural Characteristics

    The parent–child relationship does not occur in isolation. Sociocultural characteristics, including economic hardship, religion, politics, neighborhoods, schools, and social support, also influence parenting. Parents who experience economic hardship are more easily frustrated, depressed, and sad, and these emotional characteristics affect their parenting skills (Conger & Conger, 2002). Culture also influences parenting behaviors in fundamental ways. Although promoting the development of skills necessary to function effectively in one’s community is a universal goal of parenting, the specific skills necessary vary widely from culture to culture. Thus, parents have different goals for their children that partially depend on their culture (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2008). For example, parents vary in how much they emphasize goals for independence and individual achievements, and goals involving maintaining harmonious relationships and being embedded in a strong network of social relationships. These differences in parental goals are influenced by culture. Other important contextual characteristics, such as the neighborhood, school, immigration status, and social networks, also affect parenting, even though these settings don’t always include both the child and the parent (Brofenbrenner, 1989). For example, Latina mothers who perceived their neighborhood as more dangerous showed less warmth with their children, perhaps because of the greater stress associated with living in a threatening environment (Gonzales et al., 2011). Many contextual factors influence parenting.

    Parenting in a circle with three other circles arouns it, 1. Contextual and Sociocultural Characteristics, 2. Partent Characteristics, 3. Child Characteristics

     

    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): Influences on Parenting

    Family Issues and Considerations

    Divorce

    Divorce refers to the legal dissolution of a marriage. Depending on societal factors, divorce may be more or less of an option for married couples. Despite popular belief, divorce rates in the United States actually declined for many years during the 1980s and 1990s, and only just recently started to climb back up—landing at just below 50% of marriages ending in divorce today (Marriage & Divorce, 2016); however, it should be noted that divorce rates increase for each subsequent marriage, and there is considerable debate about the exact divorce rate. Are there specific factors that can predict divorce? Are certain types of people or certain types of relationships more or less at risk for breaking up? Indeed, there are several factors that appear to be either risk factors or protective factors.

    Pursuing education decreases the risk of divorce. So too does waiting until we are older to marry. Likewise, if our parents are still married we are less likely to divorce. Factors that increase our risk of divorce include having a child before marriage and living with multiple partners before marriage, known as serial cohabitation (cohabitation with one’s expected marital partner does not appear to have the same effect). And, of course, societal and religious attitudes must also be taken into account. In societies that are more accepting of divorce, divorce rates tend to be higher. Likewise, in religions that are less accepting of divorce, divorce rates tend to be lower. See Lyngstad & Jalovaara (2010) for a more thorough discussion of divorce risk.

    Table \(\PageIndex{3}\): Divorce Factors

    Protective Factors

    Risk Factors

    ● Higher levels of education

    ● Marrying at an older age

    ● Parents remained married

    ● Member of religious group that is less accepting of divorce

    ● Children before marriage

    ● Co-habitation

    ● Living in a society that is accepting of divorce

    If a couple does divorce, there are specific considerations they should take into account to help their children cope. Parents should reassure their children that both parents will continue to love them and that the divorce is in no way the children’s fault. Parents should also encourage open communication with their children and be careful not to bias them against their “ex” or use them as a means of hurting their “ex” (Denham, 2013; Harvey & Fine, 2004; Pescosoido, 2013).

    Abuse

    Abuse can occur in multiple forms and across all family relationships. Breiding, Basile, Smith, Black, & Mahendra (2015) define the forms of abuse as:

    • Physical abuse, the use of intentional physical force to cause harm. Scratching, pushing, shoving, throwing, grabbing, biting, choking, shaking, slapping, punching, and hitting are common forms of physical abuse;
    • Sexual abuse, the act of forcing someone to participate in a sex act against his or her will. Such abuse is often referred to as sexual assault or rape. A marital relationship does not grant anyone the right to demand sex or sexual activity from anyone, even a spouse;
    • Psychological abuse, aggressive behavior that is intended to control someone else. Such abuse can include threats of physical or sexual abuse, manipulation, bullying, and stalking.

    Abuse between partners is referred to as intimate partner violence; however, such abuse can also occur between a parent and child (child abuse), adult children and their aging parents (elder abuse), and even between siblings.

    The most common form of abuse between parents and children is actually that of neglect. Neglect refers to a family’s failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, medical, or educational needs (DePanfilis, 2006). Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle, as well as Cinderella’s stepmother, could all be prosecuted for neglect in the real world.

    A small boy with a black eye
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): While physical abuse might be the easiest to see, neglect is much more common.[12]

    Abuse is a complex issue, especially within families. There are many reasons people become abusers: poverty, stress, and substance abuse are common characteristics shared by abusers, although abuse can happen in any family. There are also many reasons adults stay in abusive relationships: (a) learned helplessness (the abused person believing he or she has no control over the situation); (b) the belief that the abuser can/will change; (c) shame, guilt, self-blame, and/or fear; and (d) economic dependence. All of these factors can play a role.

    Children who experience abuse may “act out” or otherwise respond in a variety of unhealthful ways. These include acts of self-destruction, withdrawal, and aggression, as well as struggles with depression, anxiety, and academic performance. Researchers have found that abused children’s brains may produce higher levels of stress hormones. These hormones can lead to decreased brain development, lower stress thresholds, suppressed immune responses, and lifelong difficulties with learning and memory (Middlebrooks & Audage, 2008).

    Adoption

    Divorce and abuse are important concerns, but not all family hurdles are negative. One example of a positive family issue is adoption. Adoption has long historical roots (it is even mentioned in the Bible) and involves taking in and raising someone else’s child legally as one’s own. Becoming a parent is one of the most fulfilling things a person can do (Gallup & Newport, 1990), but even with modern reproductive technologies, not all couples who would like to have children (which is still most) are able to. For these families, adoption often allows them to feel whole—by completing their family.

    In 2013, in the United States, there were over 100,000 children in foster care (where children go when their biological families are unable to adequately care for them) available for adoption (Soronen, 2013). In total, about 2% of the U.S. child population is adopted, either through foster care or through private domestic or international adoption (Adopted Children, 2012). Adopting a child from the foster care system is relatively inexpensive, costing $0-$2,500, with many families qualifying for state-subsidized support (Soronen, 2013).

    A mother and two adopted daughters.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Adoption is an important option for creating or expanding a family. Foster care adoptions and international adoptions are both common. Regardless of why a family chooses to adopt and from where, traits such as patience, flexibility and strong problem-solving skills are desirable for adoptive parents.[13]

    For years, international adoptions have been popular. In the United States, between 1999 and 2014, 256,132 international adoptions occurred, with the largest number of children coming from China (73,672) and Russia (46,113) (Intercountry Adoption, 2016). People in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, and Canada adopt the largest numbers of children (Selman, 2009). More recently, however, international adoptions have begun to decrease. One significant complication is that each country has its own set of requirements for adoption, as does each country from which an adopted child originates. As such, the adoption process can vary greatly, especially in terms of cost, and countries are able to police who adopts their children. For example, single, obese, or over-50 individuals are not allowed to adopt a child from China (Bartholet, 2007).

    Regardless of why a family chooses to adopt, traits such as flexibility, patience, strong problem-solving skills, and a willingness to identify local community resources are highly favorable for the prospective parents to possess. Additionally, it may be helpful for adoptive parents to recognize that they do not have to be “perfect” parents as long as they are loving and willing to meet the unique challenges their adopted child may pose.

    Parenting in Later Life

    Just because children grow up does not mean their family stops being a family. The concept of family persists across the entire lifespan, but the specific roles and expectations of its members change over time. One major change comes when a child reaches adulthood and moves away. When exactly children leave home varies greatly depending on societal norms and expectations, as well as on economic conditions such as employment opportunities and affordable housing options. Some parents may experience sadness when their adult children leave the home—a situation known as Empty Nest.

    A family photo of four generations of men from great grandfather to great grandson.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): When one’s children reach adulthood it doesn’t mean that parenting stops. Boomerang kids and multigenerational households that include aging parents are increasingly common.[14]

    Many parents are also finding that their grown children are struggling to launch into independence. It’s an increasingly common story: a child goes off to college and, upon graduation, is unable to find steady employment. In such instances, a frequent outcome is for the child to return home, becoming a “boomerang kid.” The boomerang generation, as the phenomenon has come to be known, refers to young adults, mostly between the ages of 25 and 34, who return home to live with their parents while they strive for stability in their lives—often in terms of finances, living arrangements, and sometimes romantic relationships. These boomerang kids can be both good and bad for families. Within American families, 48% of boomerang kids report having paid rent to their parents, and 89% say they help out with household expenses—a win for everyone (Parker, 2012). On the other hand, 24% of boomerang kids report that returning home hurts their relationship with their parents (Parker, 2012). For better or for worse, the number of children returning home has been increasing around the world.

    In addition to middle-aged parents spending more time, money, and energy taking care of their adult children, they are also increasingly taking care of their own aging and ailing parents. Middle-aged people in this set of circumstances are commonly referred to as the sandwich generation (Dukhovnov & Zagheni, 2015). Of course, cultural norms and practices again come into play. In some Asian and Hispanic cultures, the expectation is that adult children are supposed to take care of aging parents and parents-in-law. In other Western cultures—cultures that emphasize individuality and self-sustainability—the expectation has historically been that elders either age in place, modifying their home and receiving services to allow them to continue to live independently, or enter long-term care facilities. However, given financial constraints, many families find themselves taking in and caring for their aging parents, increasing the number of multigenerational homes around the world.

    Conclusion

    Parenting factors include characteristics of the parent, such as gender and personality, as well as characteristics of the child, such as age. Parenting style provides a robust indicator of parenting functioning that predicts child well-being across a wide spectrum of environments and across diverse communities of children. Both parental responsiveness and parental demandingness are important components of good parenting. Furthermore, parenting influences not just a child’s development, but also the development of the parent. The interaction among all these factors creates many different patterns of parenting behavior. As parents are faced with new challenges, they change their parenting strategies and construct new aspects of their identity. The goals and tasks of parents change over time as their children develop (see Schwarz et al., 1985; Darling & Steinberg, 1993; Baumrind, 1991; and Barber, 1996).[15]

    Check-in Time!

    You made it to the end of the chapter on families! Share three takeaways from this chapter that you did not know before, or learned more about. Then share three ideas that you learned that will support you in working with families within your classroom setting


    [1] Image by Army Medicine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    [2] Image from Tavassolie, T., Dudding, S., Madigan, A. L., Thorvardarson, E., & Winsler, A. (2016). Differences in perceived parenting style between mothers and fathers: Implications for child outcomes and marital conflict. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10826-016-0376-y

    [3] Parenting Style and Its Correlates. ERIC Digest. is in the public domain

    [4] Image is licensed under CC0

    [5] Lifespan Development - Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0

    [6] Lifespan Development - Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0

    [7]Parenting Style and Its Correlates. ERIC Digest. is in the public domain

    [8] Image by kim881231 on Pixabay

    [9] Image by Cpl. Han Samuel is in the public domain

    [10] Image by State Farm is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    [11] Image by Harald Groven is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    [12] Image by Airman 1st Class Jessica H. Smith and Airman Connor J. Marth is in the public domain

    [13] Image by Steven Depolo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    [14] Image by David Mulder is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    [15] Parenting Style and Its Correlates. ERIC Digest. is in the public domain


    6.1: Parenting styles is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Rebecca Laff and Wendy Ruiz.