Which came first: harsh parenting methods or behavioral problems in children? This can seem like a chicken and egg problem. A new study published in Development of the child notes that there is a mutual relationship between parenting style and child behavior, suggesting that changing parenting behavior could greatly help children with socio-emotional difficulties.
Socioemotional behavior in childhood is associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes later in life, such as: B. Mental health problems and criminal behavior. It is imperative to understand the risk factors for developing these socio-emotional problems early on in order to make efforts to prevent them.
Harsh parenting is one such risk factor and can include behaviors such as yelling and spanking. Patterson’s coercion model views behavior problems and maladaptive parenting as a bidirectional relationship that is mutually reinforcing. Support for this model has been mixed, and this research seeks to further explore the relationship.
Lead author Lydia Gabriela Speyer and her colleagues used UK families participating in a longitudinal study of children aged 0 to 17 years. Data were collected at ages 9 months, 3, 5, 7, 11, 14, and 17 years. All children up to the age of 7 who had participated in all waves were included in the current study. Trained interviewers visited the households to collect data, and interventions included measuring strengths and difficulties and measuring conflict tactics. These scales took into account children’s behavior and parenting techniques.
The results showed support for Patterson’s constraint model. Harsh parenting techniques were associated with hyperactivity at age 5 and emotional problems at age 7. Behavioral problems in children at age 3 were associated with harsh parenting at age 5, and hyperactivity and emotional problems at age 5 were both associated with harsh parenting at age 7. This supports bidirectionality for hyperactivity and harsh parenting, supports however, no bidirectionality for behavioral problems and strict parenting. Withdrawal tactics in parenting have been shown to be beneficial during the preschool years, but can lead to adverse effects in the 5- to 7-year age range.
This research aimed to further explore the relationship between parenting and socio-emotional problems in children. Despite the merits of this study and its beneficial nuances, it also has limitations. First, the data collected were reported almost exclusively by the mother. In addition, the measures used to assess discipline training lacked strong reliability, which could skew the data.
“The results show not only that parenting practices such as lip-smacking or yelling can have adverse effects on children’s mental health, but also that children with behavioral problems can put additional strain on mothers’ parenting behaviors,” the researchers concluded. “Consequently, for interventions aimed at reducing the incidence of socio-emotional problems, and particularly the co-occurrence of emotional and behavioral problems, it is crucial to focus on the whole family system and particularly on parenting behaviors.”
“In addition, given that strict parenting practices are still practiced, more attention should be paid to public health campaigns that educate parents about the potentially harmful effects of such parenting practices on children’s socio-emotional development and provide them with alternative, more adaptable educational tools.”
The study, “The Role of Tough Parenting Practices in Early to Middle Childhood Socioeconomic Development: An Examination in the Millennium Cohort Study,” was authored by Lydia Gabriela Speyer, Yuzhan Hang, Hildigunnur Anna Hall, and Aja Louise Murray.