A recent study has found that positive parenting is related to certain characteristics of both the mother and the child; and when controlling for maternal factors, only child’s affection (e.g., infant sharing positive feelings and expressions with mother), and general cognitive abilities (e.g., basic problem solving, language abilities) are related to positive parenting.
The study also found that girls received more positive parenting than boys; the researchers explained this difference in terms of gender differences in affection and cognitive ability, both favoring the girls.
Before reviewing the details of the study, let us consider the meaning of positive parenting. Positive parenting refers to warm, nurturing, and responsive parenting, the kind of parenting that reinforces good behavior and avoids using inconsistent or harsh discipline.
Positive parenting is associated with many favorable outcomes. Namely, it has been linked to “higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.”
But as the current study’s authors, Woodward et al, note, the dyadic nature of the child/parent behaviors, and how these behaviors relate to positive parenting remains unclear. For example, it is not clear which specific child or maternal characteristics are related to positive parenting.
One aspect of responsive parenting is parental warmth. And based on previous research, parental warmth is related to parental temperament (e.g., low levels of neuroticism), mental health, supportive and loving marital relationship, etc.
But a child’s characteristics can also influence parenting behavior. For instance, a child with greater cognitive abilities or a child who is more affectionate is more likely to receive positive parenting.
Why? Perhaps because parents find interacting with more cognitively developed children (or more emotionally expressive ones) more rewarding; alternatively, it is possible that positive parenting results in better cognitive development and also encourages more affectionate behaviors.
– Arash Emamzadeh
Image source – Flickr.com