COLUMBIA, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Parents want to raise kids who grow up to be good people: thoughtful, empathetic, and altruistic. Developmental psychologists have found that, while there might be some differences among various cultures, certain parenting styles lend themselves to creating those prosocial behaviors.
When it comes to parenting, there is no one-size-fits all approach.
Gustavo Carlo, PhD, is a professor of diversity and multicultural studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Carlo and his colleagues studied 462 Mexican American teens and preteens to see how they were affected by different parenting styles. Past studies, on mostly white families, have shown that a style known as authoritative parenting leads to better behaviors.
Authoritative parenting is characterized by a “high level of warmth and affection and expression of love toward your child, combined with a sort of firmness,” explained Carlo.
Among Latino families, the researchers found that certain parenting styles in fifth grade predicted prosocial behavior in tenth grade. What worked best for both Latino moms and dads was the authoritative style, but for dads, the no-nonsense style also worked. This style is also warm and caring, but there are strict consequences for bad behavior—especially useful when children are growing up in dangerous environments.
“And part of that is because it fosters empathy in … children,” Carlo told Ivanhoe.
Carlo said parents should also talk about expectations with their child from toddlerhood on. Point out examples of kind, generous behavior in books and in movies.
The researchers also found that teens who were more prosocial in tenth grade also had better academic outcomes in twelfth grade. Prosocial behavior may help them gain skills, like self-regulation, that also help with academic achievement.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.
Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.