One point for Freud: Impact of parenting style on life satisfaction

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If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I advocate the power of self. We are responsible for our own happiness. If you want to change your life, it all starts with you. I cannot deny the impact that our parents can have on our self-esteem and happiness, and the point of this post is to show you exactly how parenting style can have a long-term affect on us. There is one thing I want to make clear, however: I don’t advocate that you lay the burden of all your difficulties solely on the shoulder of your parents. If your parents weren’t there for you or were very strict and it still affects you to this day, recognize that it doesn’t mean that you are helpless to change your life. They did what they did, and now it’s up to you to decide whether you will allow it to dictate how you feel about yourself. What I offer below is more than information; I see it as a chance to learn more about parenting and offer myself the opportunity to break from past patterns and become a better parent myself.

Psychology offers us four parenting styles in which two main factors form the basis: responsiveness (offering support, encouragement, understanding, and warmth) and firmness (degree of discipline and control; setting down rules and boundaries – essentially, how strict a person is). These are the parenting styles we’ll be referring to:

  • Authoritative: Characterized by high firmness but also high responsiveness. Authoritative parents set rules and standards for their children, but allow them some freedoms as well. They offer love and acceptance but create healthy boundaries as well. As you can probably deduce at this point, Authoritative parenting is the healthiest approach.
  • Authoritarian: Characterized by high firmness but low responsiveness. These are the strict parents who set rules and expect them to be followed without question. They tend to be very involved in their children’s lives (excessively so), and use discipline to keep their children in line. There is very little warmth shown – these parents expect nothing less than obedient, well-behaved children. They want what’s best for their child, but feel that too much kindness will spoil them.
  • Permissive: Characterized by low firmness and high responsiveness. Permissive parents are loving and affectionate but also very lenient. They don’t see many rules, and tend to be rather flexible about the freedoms they give their children. As you can imagine, they tend to have little control over their child.
  • Uninvolved: Characterized by low firmness and low responsiveness. Uninvolved parents, as you can imagine, do not support their children emotionally and in many cases, may be in and out of their life. They may not have the necessary resources to properly care for their child. They are more than lenient – they are indifferent.

So to what degree can parenting style affect us? I looked at data from Queendom’s Life Satisfaction Test and then compared level of satisfaction in different areas based on the type of parenting style a person had growing up. Here’s what I discovered:

(Scores range from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the higher the level of satisfaction).

Overall level of satisfaction with life

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 61
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 54
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 59
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 53

Satisfaction with family life

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 72
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 56
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 64
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 45

Satisfaction with friendships

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 69
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 61
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 67
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 59

Satisfaction with psychological health

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 68
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 59
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 65
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 58

Satisfaction with body (i.e. body image)

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 55
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 48
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 54
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 52

Satisfaction with social life

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 63
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 55
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 57
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 48

Satisfaction with self

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 61
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 54
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 60
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 56

Other factors that affect life satisfaction…

Sense of accomplishment

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 59
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 52
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 56
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 47

Sense of pleasure and fun

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 64
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 58
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 63
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 59

Sense of belonging

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 60
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 51
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 55
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 47

Existence of life goals

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 64
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 58
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 62
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 55

Optimism

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 60
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 53
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 58
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 54

Tendency to dwell on the past (a high score would not be good in this case)

  • Score for people with Authoritative parents: 51
  • Score for people with Authoritarian parents: 59
  • Score for people with Permissive parents: 52
  • Score for people with Uninvolved parents: 57

Have you noticed a pattern, aside from the fact that the Authoritative parenting style has a positive impact on future life satisfaction? If not, here it is: There isn’t a great deal of difference between Authoritarian parenting and Uninvolved parenting – which means that people who had strict parents are just as worse off as those whose parents were emotionally unavailable. Rather shocking, isn’t it?

“Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending.”

Virginia Satir

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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