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Is it

Is it.

I believe that every parent in the world worries about how to parent their children so that they may mature to be active, productive independent people aspiring to their personal dreams. Since the early nineteenth century, experts have advised parents in general about the dos and don'ts related to appropriate parenting for infants, toddlers, early and late childhood, adolescents and young adults. Have any of my readers ever picked up and read a parenting book? I know I have.

What strikes me odd about parenting experts is that there are so many differing opinions about the subject and no one authority actually defines what is ubiquitously correct. What is more interesting is that there are profound translational errors in applying constructs provided by experts to parents as they try to implement the supposed experts advice. Who is the most qualified person to make the decision about what is best for all children regardless of race, religion, gender and parental worldviews that shape each child's life?

Let us not forget that when parents divorce and have young children, a judge typically appoints a guardian-ad-litem, usually an attorney, to represent the best interest of the children in the matter. Some of these attorney's (guardian-ad-litem) have very unusual personal beliefs and habits that greatly influence their decisions about what's best for the children. I met a guardian-ad-litem once that was an openly gay woman who was in and out of in-patient alcohol rehabilitation treatment centers. She was a great friend of one of the State court Judges and was appointed to cases because she could not keep it together long enough to maintain a profitable law practice. I'm pretty sure none of parents to whom she was appointed was very happy about the Judge's decision to use her. That attorney did not disappoint anyone. She made unusual decisions about the welfare of the children which affected them for the rest of their lives. She was no expert in anything related to childcare, but she knew a great brand of vodka or rye whisky.   

I suspect every adult has some inclination that their childhood experiences within their family were remotely similar to all other families. It is not until a child or teenager is out of their nest until they compare and contrast their family experience with others.  I am certainly no expert in the field of developmental psychology, but there probably are some standard constructs that may apply to standard parenting in some form or fashion.

In looking into the different parenting styles, I found that developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind was the first expert to identify three main parenting styles in early child development: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Later there was a fourth style added to the mix: uninvolved style. These four styles include mixtures of acceptance and responsiveness intermingled with demand and control. To no one's surprise, recent research has affirmed that parenting style significantly impacts children's subsequent mental health and well-being. Authoritative parenting is associated with a positive mental health and satisfaction with life outcome for young adults, and authoritarian parenting is negatively related to these variables.

Authoritative parenting blends an intermediate level demand on the child and a middle of the road level responsiveness from the parents. These parents frequently use positive reinforcement and seldom use punishment as a motivator for proper behavior. Parents recognize and understand a child's feelings and capabilities. They support the development of a child's autonomy with appropriate limits. There is a give-and-take atmosphere. Parent-child communication is appropriate for the age of the child. Control and support are well balanced and predictable.

Authoritarian parents are what the word implies: a very rigid and strict household. Parents place high demands on the child, many times these demands are beyond the developmental capacity of the child. These parents are not receptive to the child's needs. Within the household, there is a rigid set of rules and expectations. These rules are strictly enforced and any deviation from the rules is not tolerated. When the household rules are not adhered to, strong punishment is used to promote future compliance. The child is forever submissive to the parents' demands. Parents believe they are under no obligation to explain the child's punishment; the child is just being punished for breaking a household rule. Some of the rules are known to the child, some are supposed to be understood by the child by just living within the household.

Permissive parenting is also known as indulgent parenting. It seems to be a more popular style amongst affluent families than in the working-class. To these parents, a child's freedom and autonomy is most important. Parents tend to reason and explain to their children even if the conversation is not age appropriate. Parents are undemanding. There is little, if any punishment. There are no explicit rules. These parents believe that their children should be free from external constraints. They give their children whatever they want at the moment, creating a sense of entitlement or immediate self gratification. These children tend to mature with inflated egos and no respect for authority.

Parents are considered using an uninvolved or neglectful style when they are often emotionally and even physically absent from their children more often than not. They have few or no expectations of their child. They tend to ignore their children as much as possible. They are oblivious to their child's needs. They have no behavioral expectations of their children what-so-ever. If the parents are present, they might provide for their survival without engagement with the child. There is very little, if any connection between the parents and their children. Children reared by uninvolved parents tend to be the victims of another child’s deviant behavior. Some of these children are social deviants themselves. Uninvolved parents rear children who suffer from social incompetence, poor academic performance, delayed psychosocial development and frequent problem behavior.

Many of you may recognize the parenting styles you were subjected to as a child. I was reared in an authoritarian household, but my grandmother was authoritative. As a father, I embraced the authoritative style. I also read books on brain development because I wanted to make demands that my children could follow. I remember asking them to keep their rooms clean when they were incapable of doing so. After I read brain development theories, I realized they did not perceive their rooms as untidy or unclean. I cleaned their rooms until they were able to understand the importance of an uncluttered room: It leads to an uncluttered mind.

I evaluate children and parents all the time. I find that many parents who rear ill children tend to be indulgent or permissive with that child when they are authoritarian or authoritative with their other children. A few mothers actually become uninvolved with their healthy child (children) and sometimes their spouse. On the flip side, I see workaholic fathers take an uninvolved or neglectful role and the stay-at-home mothers as authoritative or authoritarian because they are unable to keep the family sailing through rough water without total control. When the fathers arrive home, they over indulge their children trying to make up for their absence or ignore them all together.

I have seen siblings despise their ill brother or sister because they get all of the attention. The same holds true for those children with mental disturbances and sociopathic or narcissistic behaviors that demand more attention from their parents than the others in their household. Bottom line, each family is unique and each family is dysfunctional in one aspect or another. Mine included.

So why is this subject so important to a physician or a concerned citizen of the United States? Two main reasons I can think of.

One: do we want children of parents with the authoritarian, permissive or uninvolved styles running our country? I doubt it.

Two: Do you want a physician who was reared in a home with authoritarian, permissive or uninvolved parents? I doubt it.

Now you get the picture and it's not so bright after all. Is it.

Doc

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 10:59 AM
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