Child Welfare and Development

Parenting in the dictionary is defined as the process of rearing children and a parenting style is the strategy that parents use in raising their children. There is much debate over the best way to rear children and this debate has been going on for hundreds of years. Most people have their own ideas about the right way to educate, socialise and discipline their own children. Many parents create their own style from a combination of factors and these may evolve over time. These factors may include the child’s own personality and the changes that occur as they move through life.

Many parents learn parenting from their own parents and the main purpose of parenting is to ensure that the child has the best start in life and is fully prepared to “fly the nest” and experience the world for themselves. In this essay I intend to observe the many different child rearing styles and critically evaluate each one. There are five main styles of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, non-conformist and harmonious. These styles were formed from the research carried out by an American psychologist named Diana Baurmrind.

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Authoritative parents tend to know what they want from their children, but also loving towards their children and also respect them. This means that the children of authoritative parent know exactly what is expected of them but also do not feel that they are not a respected member of the family. The authoritarian parenting style consists of strict guidelines about right and wrong for their children. The children have strict rules to adhere to which may mean rebelliousness in the future.

Authoritarian parents also commonly have communication problems with their children and are often seen as being cold and rejecting towards their children. These children may grow up with problems talking or gaining confidence in their parents in order for them to confide their issues with them. Permissive parents have little or poor control over their children. Although the children feel accepted and loved, they usually do they please. These children may get into trouble with authorities and seem to be less socially competent and often have a poor academic performance.

A non-conformist parenting style involves letting the children develop their own abilities and points of view. Non-conformist parents have high expectations of their children yet the difference in outcomes of their children sometimes depends on the gender of their children. Their sons show a high independence level but their daughters show signs of dependence. The last style of parenting is the harmonious parenting style. This style becomes apparent when the children live up to their parents expectations and therefore there is little family friction.

The practice of child rearing consists of many different programmes designed by professionals who are usually doctors and psychologists. One of these creators is Dr Bill Sears. Dr Sears is a paediatrician who has written over thirty books on the subject of parenting. He began his research into this field at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. He was also the associate professor of paediatrics where he furthered his research. The type of parenting style that Sears developed was named attachment parenting. At the centre of the attachment parenting involves creating a strong emotional bond with children.

In this theory there are seven points to follow in which Dr. Sears believes is the best way to raise children, called the “Seven Baby B’s”. These involve birth bonding, which describes that the best way to have an immediate bond with your baby is to come into contact as soon as possible after birth. This could occur by the baby being placed on the mother chest as soon as the baby is born. If the child for some reason, incubator needed, cannot be connected with the mother straight after birth then contact should be made as soon as possible.

Breastfeeding is another point in the attachment parenting plan as the mother can start to learn to read the baby’s body language and also promotes the bonding process. Dr. Sears also believes that the act of “baby wearing” is an important aspect of attachment parenting. This involves having as much bodily contact between mother and child as possible. This may mean having the baby attached, as many women in the developing world do, to the mother for most of the day. The attachment parenting styles is to be thought of as a starter style to which the points are to be used in order to develop your own parenting style.

Another parenting style is one named concerted cultivation. This style is mostly used by middle and upper class American families. This parenting style to promote their children’s talents through organized leisure activities. These children often express greater social skills especially in formal setting; this is due to their experience in organized clubs such as sports clubs, musical groups and social youth groups. Although there is no scientific proof that this parenting style is the best it has been linked to increased financial and academic success.

On the negative side of this parenting style the children may sometimes have a higher sense of entitlement and the inability to play and relax like children should be able to do very easily. On the other side of this is another parenting style called natural growth. This parenting style is usually carried out by working class people. Using this parenting style means that the children have unstructured time therefore will have to create their own activities to occupy their time. Parents also may be less involved with schooling and prefer to leave this type of things to the professionals.

This style may be adopted by the parents as they may have less time to spent with their children due to work commitments and have no money to pay for help. This is not neglect as they do not do it on purpose. The consequences of this parenting style are that the children may not be prepared to survive in environments that are very structured such as schools. The children may also fell a lower sense of entitlement and less parental consistency may result in the children becoming reserved.

Natural growth is preferable to slow parenting which is when the parents wish their children to be more independent and imaginative. Parenting styles also involve the disciplining of children. Child discipline is a set of rules, rewards and punishments administered to teach self-control, increase desirable behaviours and lessening undesirable behaviours in children. Child discipline is probably one of the most debated factors of child rearing and this is because of the thought of corporal punishment being used on children, this is most commonly known as the “smacking debate”.

In the UK 7 out of 10 parents said they themselves use corporal punishment (The Times, London, 20th September 2006). Corporal punishment being used on children, usually smacking, has been banned in twenty-five countries around the world. Switzerland was the first country to ban the violence being used on children by adults. A study carried out in New Zealand into the amount and context of physical punishment. This was carried out by interviewing 962 26-year-old adults about the type of physical punishment carried out in their home.

The results found that of the study members providing data, 80% reported receiving physical punishment at some time during childhood: 29% identifying smacking; 45% reporting being hit with an object; and 6% reporting extreme physical punishment as the most severe form. Physical punishment on a regular basis was reported by 71% of study members. Results varied by age with more study members reporting physical punishment in primary school years. However, the number of study members experiencing physical punishment in adolescence was still high, at 47%.

Significant gender differences were found in reported punishment, with more girls smacked, and more boys hit with an object in primary school years. Punisher-related reports showed that mothers were significantly more likely to employ non-physical forms of punishment whereas fathers were significantly more likely to use extreme physical punishment (‘On the receiving end: young adults describe their parents’ use of physical punishment and other disciplinary measures during childhood’, Millichamp J, Martin J, Langley J. 2006 Jan 27). As many people don’t believe in using corporal or physical punishment in order to discipline their children there are a number of methods which are non-violent. These techniques include scolding which involves reproving, in a calm but firm manner, for the child’s behaviour or actions. This is definitely a non-violent method of punishment but if it is not carried in the correct way it can lead to verbal abuse and may create a lack of self-esteem, resentment and feelings of isolation.

The non-violent methods also include grounding, the naughty chair or step and bribes which mean that the child will receive a reward for stopping the undesirable behaviour. This method could quickly become reversed as the child will so want rewards for good behaviour. There are many different methods for disciplining children being developed all the time and therefore is always changing, like the number of countries that have banned the use of corporal punishment in the home against their children. Another form of parenting involves using the modelling method of developing children’s.

This process involves the child observing the model behaviour that the parent wants the child to develop. The most important point of this process is to make sure that the child is able to see the correct behaviour that is to be learned. The result of this process is teaching new behaviours and allows these behaviours to be speeded up. The child witnesses’ behaviours carried out by the parent and then replicates those behaviours. Behaviours are not always observed from the parents but almost all adults and older children that the child comes into contact with. This process is also called social learning.

One of the leading psychologists in this field Albert Bandura developed the social learning theory. In his theory he used an experiment call the “bobo doll experiment”, this experiment was used to study behaviour patterns linked with aggression, it was carried out in 1961. Bandura’s hypothesis was that children who witnessed aggressive behaviour towards a model would display heightened aggressive acts than those children who had not witnessed aggressive behaviour towards a model. He also hypothesised that gender made a difference and that boys were more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour than girls.

In the test group the child was seated in a room with a model person who played with a non-aggressive toy for ten minutes then hit the bobo doll and used aggressive language. The control group were also seated in the room individually with the same toys but the model person did not show aggressive acts towards the bobo doll but merely played with the non-aggressive toys. The children were then placed in a room to play with the toys from the previous room. The children were only allowed to play with these toys for a short period and then were moved to another playroom in which were placed aggressive and non-aggressive toys.

The results of this experiment showed that the children who witnessed the aggressive act being carried out on the bobo doll by the model person were more likely to recreate those aggressive acts. Bandura later repeated this experiment in 1963 and found that aggression observed via video playback was less influential. (http://www. newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/Social_learning) There are many different child rearing styles and these styles have changed and evolved over many years and these styles will continue to change. There are many different theories being developed by various psychologists.

The use of parenting styles differs hugely between countries and cultural boundaries. What is seen as maybe perfectly acceptable in one culture is possibly totally inappropriate in another. Many new parents who may read a number of articles or books on the subject of parenting will ultimately design their own parenting style that suits them best and works for them. The choice of a parenting style is a deeply personal one and there is no definite wrong way, as long as each child is given their basic rights and care for survival.