Parenting Styles and Psychopathology:
A Direct Correlation through the Generations of Families
Rodney L. Mulhollem
In this report parental psychopathology and parenting discipline styles will be evaluated to see if there is a significant correlation with their child’s pathology. The four main parenting styles considered in this report include Authoritarian, Authoritative, Neglectful and Indulgent (Santrock, 2008). Considering attachment styles in relation to the parent’s psychopathology and parenting styles is also considered (Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Rodríguez, Donovick & Crowley, 2009; Roelofs, Meesters, ter Huurne, Bamelis, & Muris, 2006; Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010; Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha, 2006). Mothers and fathers, individually as well as incorporated, are considered on both male and female child and their pathology. The psychopathologies of focus of this report include: anxiety, depression, delinquency, self-concept, and hyperkinetic disorders. The primary focus of this report is to answer two main questions: First, what psychological disorders have a high correlation with which parenting styles? Secondly, does parenting style have a direct correlation with psychopathology of parents that will be passed onto the child outside of biological factors?
Keywords: delinquency, trajectories, parenting styles, development, parental rearing behavior, attachment style, self-concept, internalization, externalization, T3, tripartile, BDI, STAI, authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, inconsistent, Hyperkinetic Disorder
Parenting Styles and Psychopathology: A Direct Correlation through the Generations of Families
During the stages of life in which children live at home, family dynamics, environment, and social influences were all factors believed to be important in the developmental of the child’s behavior (Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010, p.63). An important part of this factor is the style of discipline the child is raised with. Taking into consideration the different aspects of discipline, punishment, and nurturing of raising children, four major parenting styles have been documented (Santrack, 2008, p. 284). These parenting styles are usually broken down into authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, and indulgent. Each parenting style has been found to connect with different attachment styles (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 524). Of these attachment styles there are secure or also called positive attachment style and, depending on the age, different negative attachment styles.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
The authoritarian parenting style is a punitive style. The parents are not as concerned with the child understanding reasons for what is expected and in many cases demanded. This “do as I say without question” style leans heavier on physical punishment with little to no two way communication. Parental communication, of love and support, is extremely limited to nonexistent. Respect is demanded and not earned. Santrack (2008) comments: “Authoritarian parenting is associated with adolescents’ socially incompetent behavior. Adolescents of authoritarian parents often are anxious about social comparison, fail to initiate activity, and have poor communication skills” (p. 284).
Authoritative Parenting Style
The authoritative parenting style both encourages and supports, but at the same time also incorporates limits and boundaries. Two way communication is encouraged. Depending on the age of the child, a give-and-take perspective is part of the communication factor. Either no or limited physical punishment is common with this parenting style. Healthy love is both communicated and mutually exchanged. Santrack (2008) points out that the “Authoritative parenting is associated with adolescents’ socially competent behavior. The adolescents of authoritative parents are self-reliant and socially responsible” ( p. 284).
Neglectful Parenting Style
This parenting style is when the parents show little to no involvement with their children. Communication is mostly nonexistent as there are no limits or boundaries for the child. Demands for learning behavior control and anger management are non-existent. Santrack (2008) gives the following example of a neglectful parent: “The neglectful parent cannot answer the question; it is 10:00 p.m. Do you know where your adolescent is?” (p. 284).
Indulgent Parenting Style
The indulgent parenting style is when the parents are very involved with the life of their adolescent. However, there are limited to no boundaries or limits to their actions. An adolescent of the indulgent parent has no restrictions and are open to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. Although creativity and confidence is common with an adolescent raised with this parenting style, social problems is common including the lack of self-control (Santrack, 2008, p. 284).
Connecting parenting styles, attachment styles, and personality
In creating the formula in connecting parenting styles with adolescent psychopathology, attachment styles and personality are considered. Studies from international references correlate these three connecting factors with adolescent psychopathology as well as the relationship with the parent’s mental health problems. A few of the countries with such studies include the United States, Japan, England, and Mexico (Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Murray, & Farrington, 2005; Rodríguez, Donovick, & Crowley, 2009 respectively). It is important to consider not just cultural differences, but are there foundational similarities that cross cultural barriers? Can a relationship be established on the international level of foundational properties in attachment styles and personalities?
In the article Influence of Perceived Parental Rearing on Adolescent Self-Concept and Internalizing and Externalizing Problems in Japan, studies verified , ”… in support of previous western studies where perceived parenting as psychologically controlling and restrictive were associated with more emotional/behavioral problems” (Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010, p. 63).
Attachment Styles Definitions and Qualifications
Attachment styles can be broken down into two major types: positive, also called secure, attachment style and negative, also called insecure, attachment styles. In children, insecure attachment styles can be broken down into two the sub categories of avoidant attachment and anxious ambivalent (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 524).
A child displaying a secure attachment style is often the result of a parenting style that displays consistency, caring, and support. The child learns a level of trust from the parent or caregivers, as well as a healthy level of parental and child intimacy relationship. With insecure attachment, the child lacks trust and security and the parental discipline style is inconsistent and/or neglectful. Avoidant attachment is connected with a child’s lack of security as ambivalent attachment is connected to parental inconsistency (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 524).
Personality Relationships Correlation with Attachment Styles
In Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro’s (2010) study, children attachment styles were studied as well including positive attachment and negative attachment styles per discussed above (p. 524). The results found a connected positive attachment style in children who displayed energy, emotional security, and friendliness. Under the four sub categories listed under negative attachment styles the following results were found (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro’s, 2010, p. 527.):
Negative Attachment Style: Fear-Avoidance and Preoccupied
- High negative correlation scores with energy, emotional stability and friendliness.
- High positive correlation scores with depression and anxiety.
Negative Self Model
- Preoccupied and Fearful-Avoidance showed a high negative correlation with high neuroticism and lower extraversion.
- Fearful and Dismissive-Avoidance showed a high positive correlation with less agreeableness
Studies were also conducted in adults to see if certain attachment styles correlated positively or negatively with different reactions. The four major reactions found include: conscientiousness, deployment of energy, friendliness, and depression (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 527). Conscientiousness is defined as the ability to self-regulate. Energy can be defined as outgoing and verbally and emotionally expressive. In understanding friendliness, this could also be defined as “agreeableness”. Depression would fall under the actions of introversion, sadness, and isolation.
With negative or insecure attachment styles, four sub-styles were documented in Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro’s (2010) study including: preoccupied, fearful, avoidant, and dismissive (p. 524). With the preoccupied negative attachment style, friendliness had a high positive correlation and depression had a high negative correlation. Fear avoidant negative attachment style showed a low positive correlation with conscientiousness and friendliness. Dismissive-avoidant negative attachment style displayed the lowest positive correlation with conscientiousness as secure and dismissing-avoidant negative attachment styles concluded with the lowest positive correlation of depression. Finally, preoccupied and fearful-avoidant negative attachment style presented the highest negative correlation of depression. Results from the same study found a high correlation with conscientiousness and energy with the secure positive attachment style.
Connection of Parental Relations and Children with Attachment, Influence and Psychopathology
Empirical evidence shows a universal general break down of four parenting styles that can be categorized as authoritarian, authoritative, neglectful, which also can be called permissive, and indulgent, also called inconsistent. (Hoeve, Blokland, Dubas, Loeber, Gerris, & van der, 2008; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Rodríguez, Donovick, & Crowley, 2009; Santrack, 2008). Studies from around the world have shown a general universal group of attachment styles in both children and adults (Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Murray, & Farrington, 2005; Rodríguez, Donovick, & Crowley, 2009). Breaking down these relationships on an individual level showing relative connection and correlation creates another step in understanding the connection of child and adult psychopathology and parenting styles. Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick (2010) in their study of self-regulation in early adolescence broke down the relationship factors of each part of the family including son, daughter, both son and daughter, father, and mother.
Son and Fathers
“Life father, like son” is a saying that has been around for generations. It has been an assumption that the relationship the son had with his father was the strongest of the son’s relationships. This was found to be the case in Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick’s (2010) study (p.1,364). The strongest relationship in a family consisting of a father, mother, and at least one son was the father-son relationship. To see the influence of the father-son relationship, Murray and Farrington (2005) conducted a longitudinal study of over 30 years following sons of men who were incarcerated before their son’s birth, during their son’s childhood, and fathers who were never incarcerated. This study presented evidence of an increase of a son’s antisocial behavior in 71% of son’s whose fathers were incarcerated during their childhood compared to 19% of whose fathers were incarcerated before their son’s birth (p. 1,272).
Son and Mothers
Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick’s (2010) study also found a direct correlation between self-regulation of boys’ ages 10 and 11 year old and their relationships with their mothers. These mothers implemented regular support, positive relations, and a lower level of antagonism in their parenting styles. Mothers who implemented these positions were found to support the “tripartite model of the family on children’s regulation and adjustment” (p. 1,272).
Daughter and Fathers
Due to a lack of funding, Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick’s (2010) were unable to test relationships between daughter(s) and fathers.
Daughter and Mothers
As sons were always believed to be closer to their fathers, daughters were always believed to be closer to their mothers. In the study Attachment Style, Parenting Rearing Behavior, and Internalizing and Externalizing in Non-clinical Children, Roelofs, Meesters, ter Huurne, Lotte Bamelis, and Muris, (2006) found this to be factual. In addition to this relationship, mothers were found to have a stronger impact on their daughter’s lives than their son’s. Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf (2010) also found this similar relationship in Japan and documented that fathers have less impact on their daughter’s lives (p. 58).
Both Sexes of Children
Past beliefs put the burden of rearing the children on the mothers. Fathers were not believed to have as much an impact on their children. This was found to be true in Japan where a more gender biased difference in parent discipline styles depended on the gender of the parent and the child (Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010, p. 58). However, western studies are showing a very different correlation. Father’s parental discipline styles are as important to adolescent children as the mothers (Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010, p. 58). The main differences between the Eastern and Western cultures could be linked to the cultural styles and beliefs.
Mothers and Fathers
Identical parenting styles do not have to be followed by both parents. Many times each parent has their own parenting style simply because they are not familiar with what a parenting style is. Different personalities can also affect the parenting styles. Studies show that mother’s spend more time with their children than the fathers (Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick’s, 2010, p. 1,363; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010, p. 58). Additional studies have found parental involvement with their adolescent child’s life decrease antisocial behavior and increase long term positive effects than parents who only know where their adolescent children are, when outside of the home (Laird, Marrero, & Sentse, 2010, p. 1,432).
Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha (2006) conducted a study connecting parental psychopathology, parenting styles and a child’s mental health. This study found a high correlation of parents with mental health issues in connection with their children’s psychopathology. In addition, a connection was found with mothers suffering from mental illness in combination with the parenting style of permissive to be directly related to their child suffering from anxiety, depression, or both (p. 509).
Attachment Styles in Conjunction with Psychopathology
Depression and Anxiety are two common types of psychopathology. Connecting these psychological illnesses, with attachment styles, has been part of the focus of this paper. As noted above, parenting styles have been proven to have a direct correlation with children’s attachment styles. The following will show a direct correlation of depression and anxiety with certain attachment styles.
Positive attachment style shows a positive correlation with lower depression scores. The Beck Depression Inventory (DBI) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) both show a negative correlation with a secure attachment (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 526). There were no studies found showing a positive high correlation with this attachment style and depression.
Negative attachment styles showed very different results. Recapping from above, there are three types of insecure attachments: preoccupied, dismissing and fearful. As predicted, all negative attachment styles individually showed a high correlation with depression. Preoccupied shows a highest positive correlation with depression. Dismissing, fear-avoidant and preoccupied proved a high positive correlation with depression. Against predictions, dismissing-avoidant showed no correlation with depression (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 526).
Positive attachment style shows the same results with anxiety, as with depression, with positive correlation of low anxiety scores. No data war presented in reference to the DBI or STAI. Negative attachment styles show expected predictions with fearful-avoidant and preoccupied showed a high positive correlation with anxiety (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 526).
General Information on Attachment Styles and other Mental Health Disorders
Positive attachment style represented a high negative correlation with mental illnesses in general. Positive attachment style also presented highest correlation with decreased vulnerability to psychopathology, and insecure attachment styles showed high depression at any age or gender preference (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 528). This research also found non-physical punishment being strongly related to psychopathology in their children. A combination of parental psychopathology and non-physical punishment had a strong correlation with their child’s psychological disorders, primarily conduct disorder, but also emotional disorder and hyperkinetic disorder (p. 511).
Conclusion: Connecting Parental Psychopathology and Parental Styles
Studies have proven a significant relationship of the probability of an adolescent child to also have the same or additional psychological disorders as their parents. Following the path seems to follow in a circle when researching parental psychopathology and child psychopathology. What appeared to be a key to this generational circle is parenting styles. All parenting styles, except authoritative, have been connected to and in some cases strong positive correlations with different mental disorder including, but not limited to: antisocial disorder, conduct disorder, emotional disorders and hyperkinetic disorders to name a few (Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Laird, Marrero, & Sentse, 2010; Moilanen, Shaw, & Fitzpatrick, 2010; Murray, & Farrington, 2005; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Roelofs, Meesters, ter Huurne, Bamelis, & Muris, 2006; Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010; Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha, 2006).
The two main questions to be answered in this research are: First, what psychological disorders have a high correlation with which parenting styles? Secondly, does parenting style have a direct correlation on psychopathology of parents that will be passed onto the child outside of biological factors? When trying to find these answers, a general overview of the information must be considered. Like a puzzle, each piece individually can cause confusion. But putting all the pieces together allows a picture to be clear and understood.
A key to this research has proven parental discipline styles are extremely important to healthy rearing of children (Brook, Balka, Fei, & Whiteman, 2006; Nishikawa, Sundbom, & Hägglöf, 2010; Murray, & Farrington, 2005; Rodríguez, Donovick, & Crowley, 2009; Santrock, 2008). Negative attachment styles have been directly connected to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, emotional instability and other disorders (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro’s, 2010; Murray and Farrington,2005; Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha, 2006). Positive (or secure) attachment styles have been directly connected to the opposite, showing a strong correlation with energy, emotional stability, and friendliness (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro’s, 2010, p. 527).
Connecting this information presents a sub-conclusion of the healthy parenting style of authoritative with preadolescent and adolescent children in supporting a positive attachment style. Secure attachment styles show a positive correlation with low depression and anxiety scores and the DBI and STAI both show a negative correlation of depression with positive or secure attachment styles (Surcinelli, Rossi, Montebarocci, & Baldaro, 2010, p. 526). All other parenting styles show one or more negative results in attachment styles due to, but not limited to: lack of expressing healthy love, lack of two way communication, lack of limits or boundaries, and lack of punishment; thus leading to a type of negative attachment style which correlate with listed psychopathologies. Nishikawa, S., Sundbom, E., & Hägglöf, B. (2010) sum it up well when stating:
The main results were that perceived dysfunctional parental rearing (particularly rejection and overprotection) and insecure attachments were associated with a lower self-concept and more mental health problems, in support of previous Western studies where perceived parenting as psychologically controlling and restrictive were associated with more emotional/behavioral problems, negative self-concept and insecure attachments (p. 63).
Attaching parental discipline styles with certain psychopathology, many tangents arise and would need to be considered. After researching this topic, connecting parental discipline styles with certain types of mental illnesses is not as black and white as it first appeared. Many aspects must be considered before making a concrete decision. Thus, neither question presented can be answered in completion to satisfy any type of specific formula nor does the author of this article feel any specific formula can be created. Suggestion of further research would include three steps: first a longitudinal study, with a large random clientele from numerous countries. Secondly, cross reference studies, connecting positive and negative attachment styles with parenting styles. Finally, cross referencing parental and child pathologies over a number of generations. A possible key to this study would be both parents using the same parenting style, as mixing parenting styles limits the ability to separate conclusion per parenting style.
Concrete information that can be formulated from this study is as follows:
- Parents who possess a current mental illness show a high probability of their children having the same and in some cases additional psychopathologies (Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha, 2006).
- Mothers with mental illnesses in conjunction with a permissive parenting style many times results in depression and anxiety in their children (Vostanis, Graves, Meltzer, Goodman, Jenkins, & Brugha, 2006).
- Conduct disorder in parents using non-physical punishment have been highly correlated with all adolescent psychopathology.
- Male adolescents have a high correlation with Hyperkinetic Disorder when non-physical punishment is associated with unhealthy family functioning.
- No psychological disorders were found in either male or female adolescent children who came from homes with a combination of high reward and no or low physical punishment.
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