There are hundreds of terms for different types of parenting. From snowplough parenting to tiger parenting and helicopter parenting. There are even Airport Dads to contend with. And now there is another, which is a little more sinister. Experts have pinpointed ‘hostile parenting’ as a trend. And they have looked into its effects. This article explores what they found.
What is hostile parenting?
Hostile parenting is pretty much what you would expect. It involves a parenting style that includes regularly shouting at a child, isolating them, sometimes threatening them and even physically punishing them.
Some mums and dads who parent in this manner might describe themselves as promoting discipline. But, for others, it can seem like an outdated style of bringing up children. It can also be termed ‘aggressive parenting’
Study into hostile parenting?
It might not be a surprise that a new report suggests hostile parenting and harsh discipline increase the likelihood of lasting mental health problems in children.
New research said parenting that involves frequent use of the main elements of this parenting style with young children made it one-and-a-half times more likely that a child would be at “high risk” of developing poor mental health by age nine.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge and University College Dublin (UCD) studied more than 7,500 Irish children. They assessed their mental health symptoms at the ages of three, five, and nine.
What did the experts find?
Of the 7,500 children, about 10% were in a high-risk band for poor mental health. They displayed symptoms of anxiety, aggression, and social withdrawal.
Children who, at age three, had parents who screamed at them regularly, isolated them as a punishment or were unpredictable and moody in the way they disciplined them were much more likely than their peers, who experienced supportive or consistent parenting styles, to fall into this group.
Ioannis Katsantonis, a doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, said of the hostile parenting findings: “The fact that one in ten children were in the high-risk category for mental health problems is a concern and we ought to be aware of the part parenting may play in that.
“We are not for a moment suggesting that parents should not set firm boundaries for their children’s behaviour, but it is difficult to justify frequent harsh discipline, given the implications for mental health.
“There is clearly a danger that parenting style can exacerbate mental health risks. This is something we can easily take steps to address.”
Jennifer Symonds, associate professor in the UCD School of Education, said: “Our findings underline the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that parents are supported to give their children a warm and positive upbringing, especially if wider circumstances put those children at risk of poor mental health outcomes.
“Avoiding a hostile emotional climate at home won’t necessarily prevent poor mental health outcomes from occurring, but it will probably help.”