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Basing parenting style on child personality could reduce depression in children

By Kieran Ball - 02 Aug 2011 18:0:0 GMT
Basing parenting style on child personality could reduce depression in children

It's often said that parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world to do well. Now, new evidence from the University of Washington could help mothers and fathers identify the right parenting style when it comes to their children.

Child psychologists investigating child depression and anxiety there have found a link between parenting style and child personality. In a report in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, the researchers said that matching parenting style with the personality of the child was important when it came to reducing symptoms of child depression and anxiety.

Their three-year study highlighted the importance of getting the balance right between the amount of autonomy given to children and how capable children were of controlling their emotions. In cases where there was a mis-match between personality type and parenting style, the psychologists seen an increase in the symptoms of depression and anxiety of up to 100%.

The study involved looking at the interactions of 214 children, a equal mix of boys and girls with an average age of 9, and their mothers at home. Meeting with the mother and child annually, the researchers looked at the relationship between mother and child and how both reacted to any conflicts resulting from their daily activities. The mother's parenting style was observed along with the child's behaviour, particularly in relation to the child's ability to control their emotions.

At the end of the study it was seen that, overall, children with greater control over their emotions had fewer signs of anxiety regardless of parental style. However, symptoms of anxiety and depression increased in those same children as parents offered less autonomy. At the opposite end of the scale, children with less emotional control also had less anxiety when given greater guidance and reduced autonomy. If their mothers gave them more freedom, symptoms of anxiety and depression increased.

One of the researchers, Liliana Lengua, said that the study could help parents find the best parenting style for their child. Clearly, children with less ability to regulate their emotions can benefit from more guidance, as opposed to those children who are better at controlling their emotions.

"We hear a lot about over-involved parents like 'tiger' moms and 'helicopter' parents,' said the psychology professor. 'It is parents' instinct to help and support their children in some way, but it's not always clear how to intervene in the best way. This research shows that parenting is a balance between stepping in and stepping out with guidance, support and structure based on cues from kids."

Top Image Credit: © Yvonne Bogdanski