Children of overbearing parents more likely to go off the rails: UK Study


Many parents believe being strict with their children is the best way to keep them on the straight and narrow.

But new research suggests this theory may be misguided.

A study has found strict parents who fail to set down firm rules are more likely to have children who turn to bad habits such an doing drugs.

It revealed children with authoritarian parents who show little affection are more likely to go off the rails.

However, those whose parents smother them with love are also more likely to smoke drugs or even drink.

Children least likely to adopt such habits are those whose parents are reasonable and set down clear rules but without being overbearing.

The study, which was conducted across six European countries, found firm discipline can be just as bad as a lack of control when it comes to the best way of bringing up a family.

Dr Amador Calafat, of the European Institute of Studies on Prevention, Mallorca, said: ‘Our results support the idea extremes are not effective, neither authoritarianism nor absence of control and affection.’

She noted different parental approaches are helpful in different scenarios.

For example, when dealing with a child’s school performance, those who assert low levels of control are the most effective.

But Dr Calafat said when protecting students from drugs a good relationship with children was essential.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, involved almost 8,000 youngsters aged between 11 and 19 who were questioned on the kind of parenting styles they had received.

It looked at four styles of parenting.

The authoritative model includes those that ‘give clear rules and affectionately and flexibly reason with the children when asking for their compliance’.

The authoritarian model coincides with the authoritative model in that both are demanding and controlling, but it differs in that mothers and fathers show less affection.

Meanwhile, mothers and fathers of the ‘neglectful’ and ‘indulgent’ models are characterised by their low level of control.

But the former are ‘scarcely affectionate’, and the latter ‘very emotional’.

The results indicate that the indulgent and authoritative models are those that work best, both for preventing substance misuse and in stopping bad behaviour.

Dr Calafat explained: ‘For self-esteem and school performance, it is still better when parents operate with the indulgent style.

‘This study allows a focus and common discussion in Europe in drug use prevention programmes.

‘From a global personal health perspective, the “authoritative” and “indulgent” parental styles equally protect against the use of drugs.’

The researchers also suggested being too authoritarian with children could be as ineffectual as being too casual.

They advised being warm and affectionate until the age of 10 and then combining this with more discipline. Then at ages 15 to 16 there should be more supervision.