Poor parenting linked to 'bad behaviour' in young children

Katy Morton
Monday, February 27, 2012

Children whose parents use 'negative discipline' are twice as likely to have severe behaviour problems, according to new research.

Preliminary findings from the Department for Education’s Helping Children to Achieve study found an association between negative parenting and child anti-social behaviour.

Of the children who had been brought up by mothers and fathers with poor parenting, 40 per cent went on to develop behavioural problems, compared to just 21 per cent of children whose parents practised good parenting.

Negative parenting practices were considered to be failing to carry out adequate monitoring and supervision of children, lack of consistent discipline and use of corporal punishment. Positive parenting included praising and rewarding children and parental involvement.

The report, which examined the relationship between parenting styles and a range of family factors and child anti-social behaviour, revealed that child inattention and restlessness further increased the chances of anti-social behaviour, as did a parent’s maternal well-being (depression, stress and partner violence).

One of these factors coupled with negative parenting tripled the risk of a child having severe anti-social behaviour.

Previous research has indicated an association between’ harsh and inconsistent’ parenting with child behaviour problems.

A parent’s ethnicity, their education and whether they were a single parent family made no difference to a child’s outcomes.

The findings are based on 278 families living in inner-city areas whose children, aged four to seven, were considered at higher risk of poor social and academic outcomes due to anti-social behaviour. Families whose children’s anti-social behaviour was considered more severe were asked about their parenting practices initially, after 9-11 months and a year later.

The report, entitled, ‘How is parenting style related to child anti-social behaviour?’, suggests offering parenting classes to mothers and fathers to improve positive parenting and reduce child anti-social behaviour.

It also says that parenting help would be beneficial for mothers and fathers with young children, from the age of two onwards.

Interventions to reduce depression and stress in mothers and fathers and improve their relationship are also recommended.

The aim of the Helping Children Achieve (HCA) study is to compare the effectiveness of three evidence-based parenting group interventions and usual services to reduce the level of conduct problems and improve the literacy of children in Year 1 and Year 2 of infant school.

The full findings will be published later this year.

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