Parents who use harsh parenting tactics, such as physical and verbal aggression, may exacerbate the behaviors they wish to prevent, according to a study published in the journal Child Development. Children whose parents used harsh tactics had poor academic outcomes and were more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.
Parenting Effects on Educational Attainment
The study initially enrolled 1,482 seventh graders living near Washington, D.C. Researchers followed the teens for nine years, until they were 21. The group was racially, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse. At the end of the study, 1,060 participants remained.
The students answered questions about their parents’ use of verbal and physical aggression. They also reported on their relationships with peers, sexual behavior, and habits such as balancing time with peers and time to complete homework.
Children of harsh parents were more likely to report in ninth grade that their peers were more important than following the rules. By eleventh grade, these teens engaged in more high-risk behaviors. Boys in this group were more likely to engage in juvenile delinquency such as stealing and aggression, while girls were more likely to participate in early sexual behavior.
The study’s authors suggest improved intervention strategies for teens whose parents use harsh parenting tactics could help increase their potential educational attainment later in life.
Harsh Parenting May Be an Ineffective Strategy
Other studies have also linked harsh parenting to negative outcomes in children. One study found children who are more frequently spanked are more likely to struggle at school, be diagnosed with a mental health condition, and engage in antisocial behavior. Another study found parenting style matters most for “difficult” children. Excessively harsh parenting was most harmful to children with challenging temperaments.
Hentges, R. F., & Wang, M. (2017). Gender differences in the developmental cascade from harsh parenting to educational attainment: An evolutionary perspective. Child Development. doi:10.1111/cdev.12719
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