The psychologist Edith Dewey, building on ideas originally put forward by the famous psychotherapist and psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937) – who collaborated with Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and is perhaps best known for developing the concept of the ‘inferiority complex’ – described a range of parenting styles and their potential effects upon children. These parenting styles were as follows :
– DISENGAGED (An extremely damaging form of ‘parenting’ – or, perhaps, non-parenting might be a better way of putting it- that frequently entails the parent/s being aloof/emotionally-detached/unloving/uninterested in the child/indifferent to the child/neglectful/distant).
Children who grow up in such environments are at high risk of developing serious emotional/behavioural problems, poor self-image / low self-esteem as well as drug/alcohol dependence
Children brought up in over-protective environments may lack the opportunity to take on reasonable challenges, test themselves and make mistakes from which they can learn. As a result, they may experience difficulties coping in later life when inevitable problems do arise, and fail to become sufficiently self-reliant / independent.
– DEMOCRATIC (Fair, reasonable, respectful, equitable and taking account of child’s views, opinions and arguments; the best style, according to Adler)
Being raised in a democratic atmosphere helps the child develop a sense that his/her social environment is reasonable, fair, safe and equitable, providing him/her with the foundations necessary to flourish in a democratic society.
– AUTHORITARIAN (Demanding obedience at all times, irrespective of child’s protests)
Children of authoritarian parents may develop into adults who are overly conforming, lacking initiative and overly reliant on others for guidance and direction. A veneer of obliging politeness may overlay feelings of tension and anxiety when interacting with others.
– MATERIALISTIC (Parent/s regard gaining wealth and material assets to be of primary importance, to the detriment of relationships)
The child may develop a sense of entitlement and become overly psychologically dependent on material possessions. Over- emphasis on external, material resources may lead to poor development of internal mental resources (such as creativity) and consequent superficiality.
– MARTYR (Parent/s portray themselves as powerless victims, bravely and virtuously suffering for the sake of others/their oppressors/those who exploit and take advantage of them)
Child may come to view suffering as ‘morally worthy’ and become self-righteous; s/he may, too, constantly cast him/herself as a victim, thus facilitating evasion of responsibility.
Children who grow up with overly critical parents may become rebellious and learn to treat others as they themselves have been treated by demeaning and disparaging them. Sometimes, one child in a family with two or more children may become the target of the bulk of the parental criticism and become the family scapegoat. (To read my article entitled : ‘The Dysfunctional Family’s Scapegoat’ click here.)
– INCONSISTENT (Especially in relation to enforcement/non-enforcement of discipline. Absence of stability and routine. Such an environment commonly arises as a result of a parent having an alcohol / narcotic related condition)
If brought up by inconsistent parents, the child may experience difficulties developing self-discipline, self-control and self-motivation.
The child’s self-esteem can become overly linked to success in various aspects of life, such as accumulating wealth and achieving career advancement. Because his/her self-view is so closely dependent upon such success, s/he may suffer severe anxiety if s/he fails, or believes s/he will fail, living up to these self-imposed exacting standards. (This is linked to ‘perfectionism’ – to read my article on how childhood trauma can lead to ‘perfectionism’, click here.)
Children who are overly-pitied may have problems developing self-respect and prone to dwelling and ruminating on their problems. They may also start to regard themselves as specially entitled.
– RELENTLESS EXPECTATION OF HIGH STANDARDS
The child may suffer from severe feelings of ‘inadequacy’ when s/he perceives him/herself as having failed to live up to the high standards expected by his/her parents. Even during periods of great achievement and success, s/he may constantly, anxiously anticipate imminent failure. (This, too, is closely related to ‘perfectionism‘.)
Parenting styles that constantly generate an atmosphere of hopelessness may, unsurprisingly, put their children at risk of becoming extremely pessimistic and negative themselves, seeing no escape root from their circumstances (this is linked to the concept of ‘learned helplessness‘).
It is also suggested that children brought up in such environments may attempt to mentally dissociate from it by entering a world of mental fantasy; or, alternatively, by acting out feelings of inner despair.
One of the most damaging forms of all parenting styles A parent who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder my view the child as a possession who exists solely his/her own benefit. This involves exploitation of the child (e.g through parentification of the child) and a stifling of the development of the child’s identity due to the narcissist’s manipulation of the child into becoming an ‘extension of him/herself’ (i.e. the parent) together with fear and/or jealousy of the child’s attempts to gain independence and achieve his/her (i.e.the child’s) own personal ambitions’)
– SUPPRESSIVE (Parent/s strongly discourage the child’s expression of genuine emotions, such as anger or sadness, as they find it threatening/inconvenient)
Parenting styles of this type can lead to the child mistrusting his/her own feelings, experiencing problems relating to others on a meaningful level, and becoming dependent upon false persona that conceals his/her ‘true self’.’
A child who is over-indulged may develop problems taking the initiative in life and may also become over-reliant on others. S/he may, too, develop a sense of entitlement.
– HIGH LEVEL OF CONFLICT
A child raised in an environment in which there is disharmony and a high level of parental conflict may become rebellious, aggressive and impulsive / prone to taking high risks
A child rejected by his/her parent/s is grows up to feel fundamentally unlovable and worthless. S/he are also highly likely to develop serious problems trusting others. (To read my article on the long-term effects of parental rejection, click here.)
NB : The above article on parenting styles is based on Alfred Adler’s (1870 – 1937) ideas and theories.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).