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Parenting Styles

Differentiating Parenting As A Function Of Children's Behavior

The research on parenting styles assumes that parents have a consistent mode of parenting that is applied across contexts and situations. However, research has demonstrated that parenting practices are affected by situational factors. As reviewed by Judith Smetana (1995, 1997), observational studies of responses to transgressions indicate that North American caregivers (for instance, parents and teachers) naturally coordinate their choice of discipline strategy with the nature of children's misdeeds. Caregivers are more likely to provide explanations that focus children on the consequences of their actions for others in response to transgressions that entail fairness, physical or psychological harm, lack of consideration of others, or violations of others' rights. All of these have been defined as moral transgressions, or actions that have intrinsic consequences for others' rights or welfare. Other-oriented reasoning, in turn, has been associated with greater moral internalization, greater resistance to temptation, and the development of concern for others. Caregivers are more likely to issue commands and directives, without explaining why actions are wrong, when children violate more arbitrary and contextually relative conventional norms, such as rules of etiquette and manners.

Similar findings have emerged from research examining parents' short-term and long-term socialization goals. Parents tend to use more power assertion when their goal is to obtain immediate compliance. Leon Kuczynski (1984) found that such responses are effective in terminating unwanted behavior, but they do not lead to moral internalization, because they do not provide children with an understanding of why their actions are wrong. When parents' goals are to enhance long-term socialization, parents report using more reasoning and induction. Therefore, although reasoning and induction may facilitate children's development, it does not lead to immediate child compliance, perhaps because while parental reasoning may make the parents' perspective clearer, it also may encourage children to negotiate and assert their choices. This notion is consistent with the speculation about why authoritative parenting is effective for children's development.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodParenting Styles - Parenting Styles, Cultural And Ethnic Variations In Parenting Styles, Differentiating Parenting Styles And Parenting Practices