Father Shouting At Naughty Misbehaved Young Daughter
February 9, 2017

Harsh parenting is bad parenting, study finds

Children subjected to a harsh upbringing are at higher risk of getting poor academic results, and according to a new study, it's because these students prioritize their peer group over other responsibilities

Published in the journal Child Development, the new study followed nearly 1,5000 students over nine years, starting in seventh grade and ending three years after students' projected graduation date. Researchers considered ‘harsh parenting’ to be shouting, striking and using coercive behaviors like verbal or physical threats as a way to punish and control.

"We believe our study is the first to use children's life histories as a framework to examine how parenting affects children's educational outcomes via relationships with peers, sexual behavior, and delinquency," study leader Rochelle F. Hentges, a postdoctoral psychology researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a news release. "In our study, harsh parenting was related to lower educational attainment through a set of complex cascading processes that emphasized present-oriented behaviors at the cost of future-oriented educational goals."

Shifting Reliance to Their Peers

Study volunteers mirrored a wide range of socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. Volunteers reported on their parents' physical and verbal aggression, along with their own relationships with peers, misbehavior and sexual activity. Indicators of overreliance on peers included choosing to spend time with them over doing homework and breaking rules to maintain friendships. When volunteers were 21-years-old, they reported on their greatest degree of educational achievement.

Scientists discovered that students who received harsh parenting in seventh grade were more likely in ninth grade to report that their friendship were more important than other obligations, including following parents' rules. This prioritization was then connected to more risky actions in eleventh grade, including early sexual behavior in girls and greater delinquency in boys. These actions were also connected to higher drop-out rates for high school or college. Parenting style impacted educational outcomes even after considering socioeconomic status, standardized test results, grades and educational values.

"Youth whose needs aren't met by their primary attachment figures may seek validation from peers," Hentges said. "This may include turning to peers in unhealthy ways, which may lead to increased aggression and delinquency, as well as early sexual behavior at the expense of long-term goals such as education."

The researchers suggested identification and intervention could help with teens who are parented harshly.


Image credit: Thinkstock