Children exposed to harsh parenting are at greater risk of having poor school outcomes.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh who conducted the study suggest that both direct and indirect effects of parenting play a role in shaping children’s behavior, as well as their relationships with peers.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

“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,” notes Rochelle F. Hentges, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychology department at the University of Pittsburgh, who led the study.

“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.”

Harsh parenting was defined as yelling, hitting, and engaging in coercive behaviors like verbal or physical threats as a means of punishment.

This ongoing longitudinal study in a large county near Washington, D.C., included 1,482 students, who were followed over nine years, beginning in seventh grade and ending three years after students’ expected high school graduation.

By the end of the study, 1,060 students remained. The participants reflected a broad range of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic backgrounds. Participants reported on their parents’ use of physical and verbal aggression, as well as their own interactions with peers, delinquency, and sexual behavior.

Researchers found that students who were parented harshly in seventh grade were more likely in ninth grade to say their peer group was more important than other responsibilities, including following parents’ rules.

This in turn led them to engage in more risky behaviors in eleventh grade, including more frequent early sexual behavior in females and greater delinquency (e.g., hitting, stealing) in males.

These behaviors, in turn, led to low educational achievement (as assessed by years of school completed) three years after high school, meaning that youth who were parented harshly were more likely to drop out of high school or college.

Australian parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson told news.com.au the finding isn’t surprising and reinforces what previous research has discovered.

“For some kids school isn’t a place of learning it’s just a place to get away from what they’re afraid of,” he said.

“Children flourish when we have limits but when we become punitive, coercive, manipulative or controlling children will often see that as harsh then we are going to get less positive outcomes,” said Dr Coulson.

He advises setting limits with children not for them, and providing an explanation is critical.

Further details here.

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  • definately take the time to explain things to your children so that they understand why things are the way that they are. be the role model as well


  • This article is blowing things a bit out of proportion.


  • My dad was a harsh parent, not in the ways described above tho. And I did rebel against it. I sit here now and think how I could’ve been a better parent, should’ve been. Sad really to see my failures, but I’m happy my kids didn’t carry it on


  • Interesting study. Parenting is the hardest job of all and it doesn’t come with a manual on how to achieve success with parenting, either.


  • I tend to agree with this article and parenting does play a crucial role in how children participate in an educational setting. Conversation and discussion is always the way to go with children as you want them to grow into adults that can debate and have rational conversations. Bullying, controlling and threatening behaviour in any forms stunts growth and development.


  • I agree that reasoning is the best way to get children to behave.


  • We try not to yell, but I think most parents are driven to it once in a while! It just shouldn’t b regular.


  • Think indeed that setting limits and explanation are very important.
    My kids (especially my 11 year old boy) seem to ignore me quite often as well. When I told my kids how discouraging that is and that I might as well talk to the wall, my 6 year old and 12 year old daughters made a little secret and that is to listen instantly ! I was surprised but love it :)


  • How many parents have noticed that children soemtimes ignore them if they don’t raise the voices at all?….especially if they think they may be asked to do something or not to do something.
    Some do it before they’re even old enough to help with chores, especially if they’re busy playing with their toys, you ask them to come inside or they’re watching a childrens’ show on TV (they have to be at least partly educational). They just “switch off”. I’ve tried sitting or standing on front of them. They just move sideways if they are watching TV (yes I turn the TV off sometimes) or playing with their siblings.


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