Study indicates finding a positive parental balance is key

Jamie Hanlon
EurekAlert

Wondering why your toddler is acting up? University of Alberta researcher Christina Rinaldi says it may be time to take a look at your parental style—and your partner’s.

Rinaldi’s study, which appears in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, looked at how parents’ child-rearing styles were related to their young children’s behaviour. She says that although much of the research to date on parenting has looked only at the mother’s role, the research she conducted with co-author Nina Howe of Concordia University (Montreal) showed a correlation between the father’s parental style and the child’s behaviour, either positive or negative. Their findings suggest parental styles that are either too strict or too lenient are likely to be associated with negative types of behaviour in children, whereas a more even-handed approach is more likely to result in positive conduct.

Terrible twos—or too-extreme parents?

Participants in the study were asked to identify their parental style and that of their partner, and to identify and measure their children’s behaviour. The results indicated that when the mothers were more permissive in their parental style or the fathers more authoritarian, the toddlers tended to demonstrate negatively focused habits such as temper tantrums, arguing with adults or not sharing toys. On the other hand, for parents who reported that the father displayed a firm but fair and friendly style, children tended to display a more positive demeanour.

“Being more authoritative is a positive style. You have structure, but you also have limits for kids so they know what to expect. It’s very clear in its communication, but at the same time has expectations and doesn’t let everything go,” said Rinaldi. “Toddlers are starting to test their environment. It’s hard for them to communicate exactly what they want. And so it really tests the limits of what parents can do and their own abilities.”

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Study indicates finding a positive parental balance is key

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