The Impact of Child Rearing Styles on African-Americans

By Melody Causewell
Authoritative parenting might have better outcomes for black youths.
Authoritative parenting might have better outcomes for black youths.

Parenting styles have a significant effect on the way children grow up to see the world. More nurturing parenting styles -- complete with reasonable boundaries -- are more likely to lead to better outcomes, just as harsher parenting styles are more likely to cause familial dysfunction. It is important to understand what various types of child-rearing approaches may encourage so parents can make educated decisions about the way they run their households.

Permissive Parenting and Child-Parent Conflict

Permissive parenting styles may be associated with increased conflict between parents and African American adolescents according to research out of Johns Hopkins University published in the "Journal of Adolescent Health" in 2002. In this study, researchers found that African-American mothers who used permissive parenting tactics -- a parenting style that is open and nurturing but lacks rules or discipline -- had children with more intense negative or violent reactions toward descriptions of conflict-provoking situations. This was particularly true among males. This suggests that permissive parenting might encourage lack of emotional control in adolescents, traits that might persist into adulthood.

Authoritarian Parenting and Aggression

Authoritarian or permissive parenting can trigger aggressive tendencies in African-American children and adolescents, according to University of Dallas research published in the academic journal "Aggressive Behavior" in 2009. In this study, researchers studied African-American youths from ages 9 to 13 for social and physical aggression in relation to parenting style. They found that children with parents who were permissive or authoritarian -- a parenting style usually associated with strict rules, harsh punishments and less nurturing -- had higher levels of aggression and more increases in aggressive behaviors over time. Parents who employ permissive or authoritarian parenting styles should be aware that these styles can lead to aggressive tendencies.

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting might lead to fewer behavioral issues in African-American children, according to University of Florida research published in the "Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology" in 2002. In this study, researchers found lower rates of behavioral issues such as fighting in African-American preschool children whose parents used a more authoritative parenting style -- a style which relies on clear guidelines and boundaries but is nurturing and emotionally responsive. These findings were consistent with previous studies of other races, leading researchers to suggest that authoritative parenting has cross-cultural benefits for children.

Inductive Reasoning and Depression

Parents who include inductive reasoning as part of their parenting practice might be able to decrease depression in their children, according to University of Minnesota research published in the "American Journal of Community Psychology" in 2007. In this study, researchers examined data from 777 African-American families to see how stress and parental style affected adolescent depression at age 13. They found that parents who used inductive reasoning with their children -- a type of decision-making process that relies on examining the smaller facts before making bigger decisions -- tended to have children with lower levels of depression, even in highly disordered community environments. This suggests that parents who engage their children in better decision-making practices -- and model appropriate fact-checking and inductive-reasoning skills -- might have children who are more secure emotionally.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.