Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept by Sofie Kuppens and Eva Ceulemans

1. Introduction

The concept of parenting involves a large number of constituent dimensions dictated by child temperament, the cultural background of the parents, family size and structure, and the types of bonding developing between parents and children (Kaniusonyte and Laursen, 2021). This makes this idea inherently complex, which convinces many people that their challenges in this sphere are unique and their problems cannot be resolved effectively with minimal resource costs. Modern research in this sphere offers multiple solutions and structures including the concept of parenting styles. This well-established construct is based on the earlier theories by Baumrind, Erikson, and Piaget (Bi et al., 2018). These scholars assumed that children undergo various development phases while also showing individual characteristics based on their temperament that have to be taken into consideration by their parents and guardians. However, theory in this field is still advancing as many new studies seek to revise the existing status quo and offer new and more effective ways of child-rearing. This essay explores the article by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) focused on the comparison of parenting styles in 600 Flemish families. It appraises the methodological decisions made by these researchers, their key findings and implications, and the potential limitations of their article that can be addressed by future studies.


2. The Concept of Parenting Styles

Modern theories of parenting styles referred to by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) in their retrospective review of secondary literature identify four primary options in this sphere. They follow the earlier model implying that every element may be distributed in one of the 2x2 matrix quadrants depending on its responsiveness/unresponsiveness and demanding/undemanding nature. The authoritative one implies that parents have high expectations but support them with proper attention and nurturing (Aremu et al., 2019). In this aspect, this style has high levels of demandingness and responsiveness. Parents help their children solve problems and impose certain limitations to guide them but maintain a strategic focus on developing their independence and the reasons for the promotion of behaviours they feel proper. The positive authoritative style implies that parents can be undemanding and responsive to the needs of their children (Hirata and Kamakura, 2018). They try to befriend their children, which may create problems in terms of discipline promotion Effectively, such parents may try to give them the resources and experiences they lacked in their own youth. However, this can lead to the neglect of their actual needs and the development of their self-control and may experience problems with responsibility in their future lives.

The authoritarian approach involves various restrictions and punishments that seek to force the child to follow the set rules reflecting the views, opinions, and values of their parents (Gimenez-Serrano et al., 2022). This is deemed necessary to teach the child to behave and survive in harsh environments. From the standpoint of responsiveness and demandingness, they represent high demandingness with little responsiveness. Authoritarian child-rearing practices involving corporal punishment are frequently met in non-western societies. Their young members are not treated as adults and are usually expected to comply with collective rules and regulations without questioning them (Theresya et al., 2018). This creates a self-sustaining cycle where parents teach the same values to their children even if they move to a different country due to the lack of knowledge about effective alternative parenting strategies. Finally, the uninvolved style represents neglect. Parents are not actively engaged in the lives of their children and are neither responsive nor demanding (Delvecchio et al., 2020). This may be caused by their own immaturity and abusiveness or by high levels of external stressors making them feel sad, non-resourceful, and burnt out.


3. Article Overview

The study by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) explores the lived experiences of 600 Flemish families having children aged between 8 and 10 years old. The authors apply the aforementioned 2x2 matrix to analyse the long-term outcomes of using the four styles discussed earlier. Their cluster analysis revealed three parenting dimensions called behavioural, parental support, and psychological control. Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) utilised the Ghent Parental Behaviour Scale, the Dutch Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and other specialised instruments to conceptualise the analysed variables and measure their prominence. As found by the researchers, the authoritative parenting style involving non-disciplinary and disciplinary subtypes contained such parenting practices as autonomy-stimulating behaviours, positive reinforcement, rule-setting, and effective discipline. Overall, the positive authoritative style produced the best possible results in terms of long-term outcomes (Kuppens and Ceulemans, 2018). At the same time, the authors stated that they could not find sufficient indicators and ‘extreme scores’ for a fully neglectful approach among the sample.

Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) also discovered that psychological control did not create additional sub-styles within the four analysed dimensions but had a substantial impact on parental behaviours. On the one hand, a greater desire ‘to keep children in check’ corresponded to a greater willingness to use harsh punishment as a way of moderating their unwanted behaviours (Vangelisti, 2021). This expanded the existing understanding provided by earlier studies that associated this factor with dysfunctional parenthood. The authors also investigated the concept of intrusiveness that was present in all analysed styles. The presence of this factor ensured better outcomes in terms of conduct problems and prosocial behaviours. However, its utilisation had similar adverse effects to a purely authoritarian approach. The children forced into some desired behaviours experienced adverse developmental outcomes such as low self-control levels, greater risks of addiction, and emotional instability. These results were in line with the earlier analysed findings assuming that the authoritative style ensured the best results possible (Lamborn et al., 1991; Steinberg et al., 1994). They were achieved due to greater children's independence and tighter ties between the children and their parents who did not intrude in their personal lives without a substantial need to do so.


4. Key Contributions and Methodological Considerations

The study by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) may be characterised by a substantial sample size of 600 respondents collected from the same region. This presents a number of advantages from a methodological standpoint. On the one hand, this sample had high levels of homogeneity. Specifically, 92% of the children were of Belgian origin while 84% of them were raised in two-parent families where their biological parents were married. This ensured minimal variations within the sample in terms of respondent background factors that allowed the authors to compare the outcomes of parenting styles’ applications with greater effectiveness (Bell et al., 2022). On the other hand, the researchers focused on surveying both parents within the family where possible to identify whether mothers and fathers used the same strategies. This approach was methodologically unique in comparison with the past studies referred to by them in their review of literature. A comparison of independent responses allowed the authors to identify whether both parents utilised the same styles following a joint scheme or followed different routines where one played an authoritarian or authoritative role while the other one provided emotional support and demonstrated low demandingness levels.

Moreover, Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) investigated the utilisation of parenting strategies in the case of children aged between 8 and 10. As opposed to younger and older individuals, this period is characterised by medium levels of autonomy. Hence, children already possessed a certain level of independence but still had to be supervised by their parents in multiple spheres including school performance and general socialisation. This focus may be seen as a major contribution to the existing body of research on the topic due to the collection of unique data (Saunders et al., 2016). The researchers gained access to a large number of homogenous respondents from two-parent families and specifically investigated the implications of joint parenting. Additionally, the analysed three factors were explored in light of their contribution to the four traditional styles. Overall, the study of Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) brought a new perspective to existing research on parenting styles as a relatively well-known concept.


5. Key Gaps and Implications of the Analysed Study

With that being said, the project of Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) was limited in a number of aspects, which could impact the validity, reliability, and generalisability of its findings. First, the information from parents was collected using convenience non-probability sampling and self-reports. As noted by Easterby-Smith et al. (2021), this approach may lead to a biased representation of the actual situation as the respondents may consciously or subconsciously distort some past facts to make them ‘look better’. They can also forget some crucial details, which could potentially explain the underrepresentation of the uninvolved style within the sample and the low occurrence of some other response options contradicting prior research. As parents choose to conceal some sensitive information, this may lead to distorted findings missing some aspects of joint parenting, the use of harsh punishments or neglect issues (Holden, 2019). Second, the project focus could be deemed as a narrow one due to the selection of homogenous population groups and specific geographic areas. While this choice could be explained by researchers’ resource limitations, a cross-country or cross-cultural comparison could produce additional insights on the topic.

Third, the analysed study was a cross-sectional one in terms of its design (Allan and Skinner, 2020). This approach ensured that the collected data represented a ‘snapshot’ of the actual situation in the studied context for that period of time. However, further longitudinal studies could provide additional insights into the way continued exposure to certain parenting styles influences child outcomes in education and life. Fourth, the use of self-reporting data collection instruments and the convenience non-probability sampling strategy may be seen as the final and most significant limitation of the study by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018). While these choices increased the convenience of the information acquisition process for both the authors and the parents, alternative methods such as direct observations or qualitative interviews could have provided for a more accurate representation of the shared facts about parenting (Hunziker and Blankenagel, 2021).


6. Conclusion

The study of Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018) offers a new perspective on the well-studied concept of parenting styles. On the one hand, its research strategy can be characterised as a deductive one due to the application of established models and instruments in this sphere (Ang, 2021). On the other hand, it utilises a unique dataset containing some previously underutilised characteristics such as joint parenting perceptions. This approach ensures that the analysis includes most of the crucial stakeholders and provides sufficient insights into the actual outcomes of different styles utilisation (Collis and Hussey, 2021). The study also explored the role of several auxiliary factors and provided a clear description of its key limitations and implications for future research. This implies that its authors were fully aware of methodological and resource constraints emerging from their strategic focus choices and took necessary precautions to minimise their impact on the validity, reliability, and generalisability of their findings (Gupta and Gupta, 2020). They also addressed the cultural aspects of parenting and other background characteristics of the analysed population groups within the scope of a ‘bird’s eye view’ discussion of effective parenting as a larger social challenge.

With that being said, their project was limited in several dimensions, which can be addressed by further research incorporating a number of possible recommendations. First, a cross-cultural or cross-country comparison of parenting practices could provide deeper insights into the role of such background factors in the choice of specific styles and their long-term consequences for children (Bougie and Sekaran, 2019). Second, the use of qualitative methods of data collection could enrich the analysis. Additionally, future studies may choose to rely on direct observations or other methods minimising the possibility of personal bias characteristic of self-reporting instruments used by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2018). Finally, the use of children as respondents may balance the unilateral perspective of current research on the topic. While interviewing or surveying minors on such potentially sensitive topics may prove challenging for study authors, this additional standpoint can further balance the potential bias shown by parents unwilling to share realistic appraisals of the parenting styles they use and their long-term consequences for children's development (Oates, 2020).



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