The affect parenting styles have on a child's cognitive development

From: Marisol Alarcon
Course: CD 170: Contextual Influences on Cognitive Development
College: San Jose State University
Instructor: Eugene Matusov
ChildrenObservations: No
Date: 22 May 1997
Time: 16:12:03
Remote Name:


Have you ever asked yourself - Am I a good parent? How could I have a positive and loving relationship with my child? Parents often question their parenting style techniques. Parents play an important role in a child's cognitive development. The parenting style they use will affect their child in their future life. Baumrind's (1980) patterns of parenting are authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Parents often use the same parenting styles their parents used to discipline their own child. Sometimes parents will decide to use a different parenting style than their parents. Whichever parenting style a parent uses, it is important to give your child autonomy, nurture, and show them responsibility. For some parents, a combination of parenting styles work. The parenting style they choose can depend on their culture and the child's temperament. Research has shown that using values of authoritative parenting is effective in raising a child. It is important for parents to remember that the parenting style they choose will have a impact on their child's cognitive development. This paper explores how different parenting styles affect a child's cognitive development.


Have you ever wondered how your parenting style has affected you child's cognitive development? The role that parents play in a child's life influence their development. Each person's cognitive development is affected by the parenting style their parent used while growing up. "Parents today have a variety of choices regarding their parenting style" (Critzer, 1996, Parental beliefs and values influence child-rearing practices. Parenting styles have an affect on children's cognitive development. Cognition refers to the thought process, thus it reflects the way we acquire and manipulate knowledge. "Cognition involves mental activity of all types. It includes activity that is geared toward acquiring, understanding, and modifying information" (Bjorklund, 1989, 4). According to Baumrind (1980), the three patterns of parenting are authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Uninvolved parenting is another type of parenting style which has been added to the other three. The research I did on parenting styles is important for parents and future parents because it is important for them to realize the effects that parenting styles have on a child's cognition. Knowing the different parenting styles and their possible affects on cognition can help them in raising their child. It is important for parents to realize that the parenting style they use to raise their child will have an impact on their child's cognitive development.

According to Waitly, since parents have had many questions about parenting for many years, studies have been done to determine what parents can do to raise independent, well-adjusted, responsible, an respectful adults (p. 1). All parents have the intentions of rasing their child to grow up to be happy and confident adults. A parent needs to provide the child with an environment that they will be able to grow into responsible adults (Waitly, no date).

Diana Baumrind's three parenting styles are authoritative - a child-rearing style that is demanding and responsive, authoritarian - a child-rearing style that is demanding and unresponsive to a child's needs, and permissive - a child-rearing style that is responsive, but undemanding (Berk, 1996). Uninvolved parenting are unresponsive and uncontrolling/undemanding (Martin and Colbert, 1997). These patterns of parenting styles shape a child's cognition.

Authoritative parents provide their child with warmth, attention, and autonomy, yet they set limits and are demanding. They encourage their child to be independent and individualistic. They also engage in discussion and explanations over matters of discipline and family decision making, thus parents listen patiently to a child's point of view as well as provide sensitive guidance. According to Waitly, authoritative parents say "Let's talk it over...", thus their characteristics include setting rules and limits, letting the child have choices, distribution of power, fosters self-control in a child by not bribing or punishing, and corrects a child's misbehavior by talking about feelings and alternatives to encourage the child not to misbehave again. Authoritative parenting is effective in shaping a child's cognition. Authoritative parenting is associated with task persistence, academic achievement, social maturity, high self-esteem and confidence, self-confident in completing new tasks, self-controlled in their ability to resist engaging in disruptive behavior, and less gendered type (Berk, 1996). Children are competent, responsible, and independent (Pike, 1996). Authoritative parenting also encourages intrinsic motivation. "Autonomy-supporting family styles would be positively associated with intrinsic motivation and academic performance while over- or undercontrolling family styles would be negatively associated with them" (Ginsburg & Bronstein, 1993, 27).

The parenting style that my parents use is authoritative approach which has shaped my cognitive development, thus encouraged me to achieve an identity. My parents are warm and loving, yet they still insist that I behave appropriately. When I did not behave, my parents would put me on restriction. They do not believe in hitting as a way to discipline; it just leads to aggressive behavior and resentment. Taking away a privilege for a week that I enjoyed doing (depending on how severe the action was), stopped me from doing it again. My parents also encourage independence, give me freedom to explore, encourage connectedness to the family, and provide emotional support. "The Œauthoritative' parent has family rules and exercises authority. All rules are explained and reasons are given for decisions" (Rincover, no date given, They were willing to explain the reasons for their rules and give their daughters the freedom to disagree. When my mother would not let me go out with my friends, I would argue with her. My mother would not just tell me that I could not go out, but gave me an explanation why I could not go. Even though I would sometimes disagree with my parents' advice or suggestions, they would still make me hear them. One of the biggest conflict growing up, was going out and dating. My parents did not let me go out that much, thus they did not want me to have a boyfriend until I graduated from high school. Finally, after my parents and I sat down and discussed this dilemma, I understood where my parents were coming from and they understood me. After this conversation, they let me go out, but I had a curfew. They also let me date, but I had to bring my sister or a friend along. My parents also permit verbal disagreements which promote cognitive development as long as they remain focus on principles. Through discussions of family rules and practices, I became more aware of my parents' values and reasons behind them. Gradually, I came to see the importance of parental beliefs and values and adopted many as my own, thus forming an identity.

Authoritarian parents set high standards, place a high value on conformity, and expect obedience without any questions or comments. They are demanding and unresponsive to a child's needs. They feel that children should obey their parents and not talk back, thus they "discourage independence and individuality" (Pike,1996). If a child doesn't agree on what the parent thinks is right and questions them, the parents will use force and punishment. According to Waitly, an authoritarian parent would say to a child "Do what I say!". An authoritarian parent's characteristics are controlling, bossy, setting rigid rule, not asking their child but telling them, may use physical punishment and humiliation to get cooperation, little verbal exchange, make all decisions, and ignores their child's feelings (Waitly, no date). Authoritarian parenting approach affects a child's cognition negatively. Children who are consistently treated an a authoritarian way tend to be withdrawn, rebellious, unhappy, have a low self-esteem, anxious, lacked intellectual curiosity, and react to others with hostility when frustrated. "Research indicates an authoritarian parent may produce a child who lacks spontaneity, curiosity and creativity..." (Pike, 1996). According to Baumrind (1971), girls were dependent, lacked exploration, and retreated from challenging tasks.

Many of my aunts and uncles use the authoritarian approach in raising their children. Their children can't question their parents or share their point of views. Their parents are also strict and demanding. My cousins have a hard time going out and communicating with their parents. Since their was no motivation from their parents to continue school, many of my cousins have dropped out of high school.

Authoritarian parenting could negatively affect cognition, but it is not always the case. My mother grew up in a authoritarian family, but it didn't affect her cognition negatively. She states, "It is a good thing that my parents were very strict with me because it made me stay out of trouble. I did not do drugs nor was I promiscuous". My mother has a high self-esteem, is confident, is intelligent, and most of the time is happy. She tried not to do wrong because her father would hit her with a whip. Even though her parents were strict and demanding, My mother grew up to be a confident and intelligent women.

Permissive parents are warm and accepting, but make no demands or set limits on their children. Since they are noncontrolling, these parents allow their children to regulate their own behavior. They allow their children to make their own decisions at any age. "This parent makes few demands, administers little punishment, sets no guidelines, has little structure and avoids asserting authority"(Pike,1996, According to Waitly, permissive parents say "Do what you want?" (p. 3). The characteristics of this type of parent are involvement with their child, but there are no rules, demands, or expectations (Waitly, no date). This parenting approach affects a child's cognition negatively. Children of permissive parents tend to be immature, impulsive, underachievers, rebellious, low self-esteem, dependent on adults, and showed less persistence on school tasks.

I know many males and females who come from permissive families and now are rebellious and underachievers. I have a friend that comes from a permissive family, but he is the opposite of what statistics show. He is a very intelligent person with a lot going for him. I have always wondered why he is not immature, aggressive, and an underachiever. I asked him if he had any role models, but he said no. He said, "The reason I grew up cognitively, emotionally, and socially healthy is because I knew what was wrong and right. I didn't want to be a thug on the streets. I had many dreams and goals at a very young age. I just didn't want to be part of the statistics". His mother is a bus driver, thus she is hardly home. When she was home she spends some quality time with her children. Even though her mom worked full-time, the little extra time she had after work she would spend it with her son and daughter. The mother was involved in her children's lives. From work she would call home to see how her children were doing. She always made sure she spent time after work with her children even if she was tired or stressed. Even though she was warm and concerned about her children, she did not set demands or limits.

Uninvolved parents are uncontrolling and unresponsive. These parents "have either rejected their children, or don't have the time or energy for children because of their own life problems and stresses" (Martin & Colbert, 1997, 40). Since the parents are uncaring, the children tend to grow up to be hostile. According to Waitly, uninvolved parents would say "Do what you want to", thus they are not involved in the child's life and feel that they have no right to limit a child's behavior (p. 3). The cognitive development of these children is affected negatively. They grow up to lack social and academic skills, thus most engage in delinquent behavior.

One of my cousins is from an uninvolved family. Both of her parents work and when they come home they are too tired to spend quality time with their children. They do not respond to any of her needs. My cousin does what she wants, whenever she wants. Now that she is an adult, she told me, "I wish my parents would have set some limits and rules". My cousin was sexually involved at a young age and engages in delinquent behavior. In her situation her cognitive development was affected negatively.

Another type of parenting style which is similar to authoritative is redirection. "The parenting style most effective in preparing children to live in this democratic society os called Redirection" (Critzer, 1996, 1). This type of parenting style is more effective than using punishment, rewards, or not caring at all. Redirection builds self-esteem, self-motivation, teaches a child to think, assertiveness, learns from experience, and make responsible decisions (Critzer, 1996). When redirecting, a parent takes the child away from the problem and provides the child with another activity. The parent can suggest to the child an alternative activity when they see a problem. When parents are cooking dinner, it is sometimes hard to watch the child. If the child is running around the house while the parent is cooking, they can redirect their behavior by suggesting an alternative activity. It is important not to let the child get away with this behavior. The parent can have the child help them cook, set the table, do a puzzle, and so forth. An adolescent who comes from a family that used redirection tends to have high academic performance, high self-esteem, and self-confident.

The parenting style that a parent uses will affect a child throughout their life and is more prominent as they reach adolescence into adulthood. "Sanford Dornbusch and his colleagues found, for example, that authoritative parenting is associated with better social adjustment among high school school students" (as cited in Cole and Cole, 1993, 404). These adolescents also tend to have a higher self-esteem, are self-confident, and have high academic performance. Adolescents who have authoritarian parents achieved less in school, engaged in antisocial behavior, and had more family conflicts (Cole & Cole, 1993). It is important for parents to realize that how you raise your child will affect their cognitive development in the future.

The parent's use of parenting styles are affected by several factors. One of the factors that affect parenting approaches is the mood of the parent. There is not one parent that is perfect all the time. "Parents are human beings who react differently in various situations, depending on their mood and the circumstances" (Martin & Colbert, 1997). When a parent is in a bad mood, they tend to use authoritarian style of parenting. I have observed this in many authoritative families where the parents have used authoritarian approach because they were upset. There are times a parent will be authoritative and other times they will be authoritarian or a parent can be permissive at times and at other times authoritarian and so forth. A combination of parenting styles may work best for the parents and child.

A child's temperament can also influence the parenting style a parent uses. If the child has a difficult temperament, a parent may use authoritarian. Usually when a child has an easy-going temperament, the parent will use authoritative. The parents are affected by a child's personality. That is why it is important for parents to keep in mind in how they treat their child. If you find yourself being strict and using punishment because your child is being fussy, you should think twice before punishing your child. Sometimes children are just being children. According to Baumrind (1980, 1991), children's temperaments influence parenting styles but parenting styles have a significant impact on children's personalities (as cited in Cole & Cole, 1993).

There are also cultural differences in parenting styles (Martin & Colbert, 1997). According to Julian, McKenry, & McKelvy (1994), the parenting styles that work best for middle-class families may not work for ethnic families (as cited in Martin & Colbert, 1997). This is true for Latino families. Many Latino families use authoritarian parenting style because they feel that giving them to much freedom will lead them to be promiscuous. They do not want them to fall into the immoralities of society. They feel that by being strict their children will grow up to be responsible adults. This can be seen in my mother's case. She was raised in a authoritarian family, thus she grew up to be outgoing and self-confident and never was in any trouble. Since someone else is making the decisions for them, they tend to have no crisis. To some children coming from authoritarian families makes them feel that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. The rules for them are clear, enforced, and consistent, thus there are not enough choices for losing faith and confidence. Another ethnic group that believes in using authoritarian parenting style are African-American parents. According to Taylor, Chatters, Tucker, & Lewis (1990), "African-American parents may be more strict because they are trying to prepare their children for coping with the realities of racism and discrimination" (as cited in Martin & Colbert, 1997, 41).

"Parents must find a parenting style that works best for them and their children" (Rincover, no date). Authoritative and redirection affect a child's cognitive development in a positive way, thus the child has a higher self-esteem and higher academic performance. Authoritarian, permissive. and uninvolved tend to affect a child's cognitive development in a negative way, thus a child has a lower self-esteem and has lower academic achievement. Parenting is effective on the child's cognitive development when the parent is warm and nurturing, yet demanding. Parents should allow independence and exploration, yet set limits. It is important for parents to observe their own behavior because it influences a child's cognitive development. No matter what parenting styles are used , parents should strive to use some values of authoritative to let the child develop independence, self-esteem, and maturity (Rincover, no date).


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Last modified August 06, 2015