Can You Avoid Becoming Just Like Your Mother or Father?

As children mature into adulthood, they strive to achieve their own identity and independence. During this process, many young adults vow to “never become like my mother or father.” However, research suggests that regardless of how motivated a child is to parent his or her children differently, the chances are pretty good that similar parenting styles will be employed. Jay Belsky of the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of California-Davis recently conducted a study designed to test the theory that adults who deferred parenting—specifically, waited until they were in their thirties rather than their twenties before having children—would be less likely to have trans-generational parenting styles.

To test this theory, Belsky gathered data from two decades of birth records and assessed several hundred individuals who had children in their early to mid-twenties. He found that for the most part, these young parents raised their children in ways that were very much like their parents had raised them. He compared that to the methods, attitudes, and behaviors used among individuals who became parents in their thirties, assuming that the further someone was from his or her own childhood, the weaker the effect parents’ influences would be. Instead, Belsky found that the trans-generational dynamic was nearly as strong in the older parents.

The finding that there was virtually no difference in how generational parenting affected older and younger parents was unexpected. “Because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, caution is called for before concluding that age does not ever or at all moderate the intergenerational transmission process,” Belsky said. He hopes that this study will motivate other research to explore this effect in samples that include individuals who become parents in their forties. The results presented here represent only the first step in understanding how future generations, those who put off parenting for several years, will function as parents. This will be a rich area of research and will impact childhood behaviors and shed light on how clinicians can prevent maladaptive parenting strategies, such as violence, neglect, and emotional abuse, from being passed from one generation to the next.

Belsky, Jay, Robert J. Hancox, Judith Sligo, and Richie Poulton. Does being an older parent attenuate the intergenerational transmission of parenting? Developmental Psychology 48.6 (2012): 1570-574. Print.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • diego

    November 22nd, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    while trying to be different from your parents is not a bad thing to do per se,I think the influence does matter how much you try or how late you become a parent yourself,those memories of your parents and their parenting styles in your childhood will remain in your mind.its for the simple reason that those are some profound memories that are not easily gotten over or if you make a conscious effort to deviate from some of their negative parenting traits that might help but it will certainly need regular telling to yourself about the same.

  • The Dragoor

    November 22nd, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    If someone is considering parenting differently than their own parents then there must have been something they did not like about the latter’s parenting skills. Irrespective of age I think it has more to do with how you plan to deviate from what you dislike and make your own techniques for parenting.

    I always hated my parents enquiring about my friends and everything I was up to in middle school. Now as I see it that is not a very bad thing but I would want to change that a little bit for my own children. A less intrusive yet being aware is what I would want and hence that is how I must tune myself. If I do not then what’s to say I will not do the same my parents did?!

  • isabella

    November 23rd, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Lawdy help me I don’t want to be like my mom!

  • Ned

    November 23rd, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    No matter how much you try some things are beyond our control and parenting is one of them.Yes it is certainly possible to be a different parent than your own parents but some characteristic just stick.I think it is has more to do with habit and mental tuning that we get accustomed to as young minds that is so hard to overcome later on.

  • BryaN

    November 23rd, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    I have so far been a very different parent from my father.Although I have no regrets looking back at my own childhood I think it is important that each one of us devises his own parenting method so as to best suit the way he sees fit for his children and how one sees himself as a parent.Model yourself and you methods on those beliefs and you will be fine.No sweat about being like or different from your own parents.

  • Kit

    November 24th, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    If I had not waited to have children until I was a little older then I would have been horrible.

    Since I decided to wait though, I think that this allowed my husband and I both to grow up a little bit and to be more mature.

    I wish that more younger marrieds would think about this before rushing in and having children so fast. It would be a serious benefit for everyone.

  • MM

    November 24th, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Parenting styles are not always something that we pick out of books or model ourselves.It has to do with genetics too and its not for nothing that many people are similar to their own parents when it comes to parenting styles.Also,being subjected to a particular parenting style in one’s childhood further strengthens the bond between the child and that style of parenting, so it becomes doubly tough to get away from it!

  • 007

    May 10th, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Well I role modeled myself and it was passed down to be abusive to your kids but it stopped with me I am a loving father I don’t abuse my kids nor neglect or mentally abuse them I love and respect them

  • Jacquiz

    November 25th, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    I always told myself that I did not want to end up just like my dad, but I swear there are times when I say things and then I have to look around to see if he is there because I know that I sound exactly like what I didn’t want to!

  • darlene

    November 25th, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    while deciding to have children later can help in become a more mature and responsible parent for some people,I think the predisposition that comes with regard to parental skills is something that will stay with us forever and only conscious effort in doing otherwise can help.

  • V.V

    November 25th, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    I’ve seen a couple of people who couldn’t have been more different from their parents..But that is mostly because both their parents were pretty abusive and the change may well have been a result of those people’s insistence with themselves that they will not be like their father/mother.

    As far as non-abusive parents are concerned,there is no change required and while small parenting mistakes may be repeated,it is far better to deal with those than to overwork yourself and miss out on the big things.

    Also,unless an abusive parent is the case,I think it would be putting yourself under too much pressure to be different from your parents just to be different.

  • chadwick

    November 26th, 2012 at 4:15 AM

    Lucky in the respect that my parents are actually pretty good role models, and if I do half the things for my own kids that they have done for me then my kids will be lucky indeed

  • J

    November 8th, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    Well. Looks like I’m just never having kids then if becoming my mom is inescapable.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

2 Z k A



* Indicates required field

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

Title   Content   Author

Recent Comments

  • Andrew Archer, LCSW: Thanks @leo.
  • Donnavm: I’ve read all of these posts and pray you all are better. I’m a 58 yr old woman who has suffered panic and depression since...
  • Ralph: My wife of two years, was abused from age eight for several years, the worst kind of abuse. I did not realize it, but I was triggering her,...
  • Shirley: Hello everyone, I lost my husband Willie 3 months ago to what the doctor called a very ugly cancer . It progressed so fast that I was in...
  • AmbivalenceGirl: Great article. I can so relate to not only the article but also the comments. I’m fine but I’m not okay in my mind.... is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on