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The Psychological Effect of Child Discipline

by Brenda Scottsdale, studioD

Discipline, whether positive or negative, teaches children rules and boundaries. Age-appropriate, consistent and reasonable disciplinary tactics build good self-esteem setting the foundation for a happy, well-adjusted, responsible adulthood. By contrast, overly strict or arbitrary discipline contributes to a child's low self-esteem, which can have negative effects that can ripple through his adulthood. Parents who keep discipline constructive know which styles of discipline have positive psychological consequences and which have a more negative result.

Authoritative Parenting

An authoritative parent sets clear expectations and consequences while demonstrating affection and regard for her children. While strict, this approach allows for flexibility and collaboration. Rewards and punishments are used to shape and correct children's behaviors. This form of discipline is the most effective type of parenting, according to WebMD. Children raised in an authoritative home tend to have higher self-esteem and security. The relationship between parent and child is characterized by warmth and high expectations.

Authoritarian Parenting

While authoritarian parents also set clear expectations and provide predictable consequences for misbehavior, these parents tend to show little affection toward their children. The authoritative parent, for example, might give an age-appropriate explanation for a rule, but the authoritarian parent is more likely to eschew these discussions, instead giving explanations along the lines of, "Because I am the boss." Authoritarian parents also tend to use harsh punishments more frequently. Children raised with this parenting style report feeling unhappy, and have lower self-confidence. They do poorly in social and academic settings throughout their childhood and adolescence, according to a web page on the Weber State University website.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting differs in style from both authoritative and authoritarian parenting in that there are very few rules and consequences. Permissive parents show a lot of affection toward their children, even if they misbehave. The children of permissive parents begin to set their own rules and boundaries. Because they lack parental direction, these children often make poor and potentially unsafe decisions, according to an article on the University of Delaware website. Lacking impulse control, these children might readily throw temper tantrums, tend to be demanding and are often immature. They also perform poorly in school and might become underachievers in life, resenting their parents' lack of involvement.

Other Considerations

Regardless of parenting style, children do better in consistent homes than in inconsistent ones, according to researchers Amy H. Cornell and Paul J. Frick published in the "Journal of Clinical, Child and Adolescent Psychology." If, for example, children are alternatively rewarded, ignored, praised or punished for the same behavior, they might become confused and have trouble learning and maintaining boundaries. These researchers found that for uninhibited children, self-esteem suffers and guilt and lack of empathy might result. In addition to consistency, parents struggle with whether or not they should employ corporal punishment. While strict parents might feel that corporal punishment is necessary, these authors cite some detrimental effects, such as lack of empathy and increased antisocial behavior.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

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