Study: Harsh Parenting Backfires On Parents

harsh-parentingA new study claims ‘harsh’ parenting leads to greater high-school dropout rates and children engaging in unhealthy behaviors in their teens.

The nine-year study tracked 1,482 Maryland students (from seventh grade onwards), following them to three years past their expected high school graduation. The students were of various racial, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds — all from households that practice harsh discipline.

Related: Positive Parenting is Often the Best Approach for Teens

The study revealed that harsh parenting — parenting that includes frequent yelling, threats and hitting — does much more damage than good.

Students who were raised by parents who practiced harsh parenting techniques were significantly more likely than their peers to behave in riskier ways, opposite to what their parents were trying to emphasize. These teens were engaged in more deviant behaviors like hanging out with friends instead of upholding school responsibilities or even engaging in sexual activity earlier than their peers.

By 11th grade, researchers found there was more delinquent behavior in boys and more sexual activity in girls — all were more likely to drop out of high school than their peers.

University of Pittsburgh researcher, Rochelle Hentges, said that as humans, we pay attention to the cues of our environment. When there is a lot of harsh, unpredictable behavior surrounding us, we intrinsically work to achieve immediate and short-term rewards. On the other hand, those in stable environments do not feel the need to act so impulsively, and are able to put their resources toward long-range goals like future success and education.

Related: Looking for a Positive Parenting Nudge? Try These 5 Awesome Apps

The researchers emphasize that supportive and productive communication is the way to ensure that your child really understands what your concerns and wishes for them are, and to offer the analogy of a tennis ball when it comes to parenting — be round and not break under pressure, but still be flexible and able to be bounced and squeezed. That flexibility in parenting could go a long way in terms of your child’s behavior and your relationship.

3 thoughts on “Study: Harsh Parenting Backfires On Parents”

  1. Thank you so much for this article. I have been trying to stress this online and in college.

    People say, oh I turned out just fine, but really did you really. Are you aware of the psychological concepts that will tell you if you really turned out okay from being treated the way it is traditional to be treated as a child. Are you actually comfortable with yourself. Would you want your child to feel the way your parents made you feel.

    I know for a fact I did not and the last 5 years I have been building myself up and learning about myself.

  2. I am really loving all the research on positive parenting! I think our children deserve the best treatment that helps set them up for future success… both interpersonally and in their endeavors.
    So many parents get caught in generational cycles of poor parenting strategies that it’s hard to break free of these cycles. I hope that research like this and subsequent information on better parenting practices help to start changing the way children are raised!

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