Harsh Parenting May Lead to Lower Educational Outcome

Harsh Parenting May Lead to Lower Educational OutcomeHarsh Parenting May Lead to Lower Educational Outcome

New research suggests that using physical or verbal abuse to punish a child may encourage risky behavior in adolescence, leading to lower educational attainment. 

From an analysis of more than 1,000 students, researchers found that children exposed to harsh parenting were more likely to engage in delinquency and other negative behaviors as teenagers, which was associated with lower educational achievement by the age of 21.

Study leader Rochelle F. Hentges, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Child Development.

This is not the first study to document the negative implications of harsh parenting - generally defined as shouting, hitting, or making physical or abusive threats as a form of punishment - on the psychosocial behavior of offspring, reported.

One study published in PLOS One in 2014, associated harsh parenting with greater risk of emotional and behavioral problems in offspring, while a more recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology linked harsh parenting with poorer learning and lower academic achievement.

For their study, Hentges and colleagues set out to pinpoint behaviors that might lead to lower educational attainment among individuals exposed to harsh parenting in childhood.

Researchers analyzed the data of 1,060 students from the Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study, following them from the 7th grade until the age of 21.

“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 Hentges.

Compared with students exposed to more lenient parenting in the 7th grade, students who were exposed to harsh parenting were more likely to deem their peers to be more important than other responsibilities - such as adhering to their parents’ rules - in the 9th grade.

As a result, the team found that these harshly parented students were more likely to partake in risky behaviors in the 11th grade. These included more frequent sexual behavior, hitting, stealing, and other delinquencies.

These behaviors, in turn, were associated with low educational attainment at the age of 21.

“In our study, harsh parenting was related to lower educational attainment through a set of complex cascading processes,” said Hentges.

Adolescents whose needs have not been met by their parents “may seek validation from peers in unhealthy ways, which may lead to increased aggression and delinquency, at the expense of long-term goals such as education.”

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