Parenting Styles and its Effects on Child Development

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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As you walk into a party, you may have noticed that there are several different types of social groups, typically consisting people of similar personalities grouped together. There are those who quietly sit behind and observe everything, those who like to be at the center of attention and cracking up jokes and goofing around, and those who like to talk to everyone. It may seem normal at a party or a social gathering to have different types of people, but have you ever wondered how each person’s personality can be shaped over the years? We are not born with a certain type of personality but instead are morphed into the person we are today by the influences and experiences we gain from our environments from our childhood.

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The people that we come into contact the most and learn from the most are from our parents. They were the ones who taught us how to do everything from how to walk to what’s right or wrong. The early childhood years is a critical period of a child’s life. During this period, what a child learns from their surroundings can contribute to the development of their personalities. As a result, the most direct impact from a child’s surrounding is the role that a parent plays in their methods or practice of rearing a child.

According to the former president of the Division of Developmental Psychology of the American Psychological Association and a distinguished psychology professor named Laurence Steinberg defined parenting practices as “directly observable specific behaviors that parents use to socialize their children.” Studies have suggested that parenting styles correlates to a child’s development and each parenting style can have an impact on the formation of the child’s personality.

The way a person is shaped can be largely due to the influences from their parents. As we can observe from The Glass Castle, a memoir written by Jeannette Walls, where she describes her childhood raised by an alcoholic father and a narcissistic mother. Their family lived differently than most of the families in our society. Jeannette and her three siblings were raised under a dysfunctional family where the parents were lax when it came to the rules of the society and believed in the learning independently from the mistakes. Although this allowed Jeannette and her siblings some degrees of freedom, they eventually had to adopt the roles of their parent because they were lenient with their rules to the extent that they were unresponsive to the needs of their own child. The portrayal of Walls parents’ parenting styles can be seen throughout the book. One example is when Rex throws Jeannette into the pool multiple times despite her inability to swim because he wanted to teach her an important life lesson that “if you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim” (Walls 66). As Jeannette and her siblings grew older, they began to realize the lack of maturity of their parents and had to be more independent because of their strong desires to move out.

According to the clinical and developmental psychologist known for her research on parenting styles, Diana Baumrind, classified parenting styles into three main categories: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. The last one added by Maccoy and Martin is the neglectful parenting practice (7). The authoritarian style involves childrearing practices that places heavy emphasis on sets of rules, whereas the permissive parents gives their children a lot of freedom with a few to no rules. The authoritative style exhibits qualities of both authoritarian and permissive parenting, characterized by a mixture of demandingness and warmth. It has thought to be the most effective parenting style with the most positive outcomes from child developments (Kuppens and Ceulemans 2). Neglectful parenting style, on the contrary, is characterized by a lack of authority and a lack of nurturance such as love and emotional support. In The Glass Castle, Jeannette’s parents, Rex Walls and Rose Mary, portrayed all of the parenting styles mentioned above but most of the time they are permissive and neglectful.

To be able to understand the effects of a permissive parent style as seen in The Glass Castle, we must first learn what exactly is a permissive parent style. In “Parent and Family Education,” Guy J. Manaster defines permissive style as:

A parent may believe that society’s rules are too strict and place an unnatural burden of restriction and inhibition on the child. Or a parent may believe that children learn from mistakes and therefore allow a child to go a bit further or do a bit more than most parents would and thereby be permissive. Overpermissiveness implies allowing children to go so far that their behaviors are destructive to and interfere with an orderly home. (203)

As mentioned by Manaster, permissive parents believe that rules of the society or household rules would inhibit the optimal growth of a child because of their experience and the parenting they received when they were younger. In The Glass Castle, Grandma Smith had rules that restricts the way Rose Mary can act in public as well as rules that constrained her at home. This included ways that told her how she ought “to dress, how to talk, how to organize time, how to cook and keep house, how to manage finances…” (Walls 91). This in turn affected Rose Mary’s childrearing practices because she did not like the rules that controlled every aspect of her life. She believes that children abiding by the rules would grow up to be too conformed to the society which in turn can lead to an unimaginative child having no opinions of their own. Instead, Rose Mary and Rex Walls believed in the idea of trials and errors. They encourage their children to adventure on their own despite some of the things they do can be dangerous. For instance, in The Glass Castle, after Jeannette suffered a severe burn from cooking hot dogs at the age of three, Rex Walls continues to urge her to play with fire as he showed her how to pass her fingers through the flames to fight her own enemies (Walls 15).

An environment with essentially a few to no rules can allow a child to develop optimally, however, studies have shown that this type of parenting can have negative effects. Cohen, Deborah, Rice and Janet conducted a study in which they find out the correlation between a children’s academic success and parenting styles. In their studies they provided evidence that high grades correlated with children that perceived their parents to a more of an authoritative style, less of parents that were laxer with their rules (permissive parent style), and less with parents that reared their children in an authoritative style in which the kids were governed by a strict set of rules.

Another parenting practice that is portrayed in The Glass Castle is the neglectful parenting style. This type of practice is “characterized by low authority (permissiveness) and low nurturance (indifference). The child often experiences the parent’s lack of authority as a lack of concern” (Mansager and Volk 283). They often are uninvolved in the manners of their own child. The children of this type of parenting may even struggle to satisfy their basic needs because their parents display no concern about them. At other times, they may act as a parent and take on the responsibility of providing the needs of their children. This type of parenting is ambivalent in terms of satisfying their children’s desires and providing the basic needs. In a neglectful parenting practice, the lack of authority and a lack of concern can cause the child to mature more quickly than their peers in a sense that they deny their needs of dependency. Because nothing was offered to them, they can develop a strong motivation to achieve whatever they wanted and strive to achieve success in their life because they didn’t want to continue the life they were raised in. Other children reared in this practice tend to misbehave because there are no boundaries set and their parents don’t seem to care about their wellbeing. Eventually this can cause problems because the child will feel a lack of motivation for a better future and nothings seems to be making them want to strive for success or achievements.

In The Glass Castle, Jeannette and her siblings live in extreme poverty where they couldn’t even afford food and basic necessities. Jeannette had taken up the job of the head of the household to provide for her younger siblings when at the age of 13 because her parents were not able to take on the responsibility to provide the needs of her family. Due to this reason, Jeannette matured quickly over the summer as she learned to manage a tight budget and a busy work schedule to maintain for the family. She grew up rapidly compared to her peers because of her desire to eventually become independent and move out of the house to achieve a better life.

Both types of parenting together contributed to the personalities of the Walls’ family. The neglect and lack of responsibilities from the parents in their childhood has influenced them negatively at first. Encouraging dangerous acts such as playing with the fire, skedaddle whenever a problem arises, and shouting out whatever they disliked in public. This misled the siblings when they were at a younger age, the kids thought whatever their parents did were not wrong but rather it was alright to do so as long as they weren’t in trouble. However, as the Walls siblings grew older, they began to realize the way they lived weren’t right, they began to develop what they themselves considered right or wrong because they noticed the difference between their family and others. They ultimately decided that they didn’t want to live the way their parents are living when they become adults. Keeping this goal in mind, they grew to be more independent, motivating them to start their new life from scratch to eventually achieving their dreams of living in New York and having a job that they truly enjoy. Although there were many negative influences, the permissive parenting style that the Walls parents sometimes adopted helped the siblings achieve their success later in life. A large of permissive parenting comes from the desire for their children to succeed. Their parents enforced the importance of education by homeschooling their kids by themselves despite living in poverty. Their emphasis on education had helped the siblings to develop into mature yet knowledgeful people that were able to help them achieve a better life. Their belief of not conforming to the society’s rules helped them grow to be tenacious, they aren’t afraid to express their own thoughts and are brave to stand up for themselves.

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Parenting Styles and its Effects on Child Development. (2021, Mar 16). Retrieved from