Some parenting styles help children grow up into adults who can have healthy and successful intimate relationships while other parenting styles can hamper the child's development. To help your child become a healthy and happy person later in life, you should think about your parenting style and what it might be teaching your child about human relationships.
Children learn most of their relationship skills in infancy and early childhood, and most of what they learn is based on their relationship with their own parents. Children who develop a strong and supportive attachment to a parental figure before they turn five show much more confidence, social competence and independence in their interactions with other children. Socially competent, confident children also tend to be confident and competent in their adult relationships while children who struggle to form relationships with others tend to carry the same problems into their adult relationships.
Researchers in attachment theory have identified four common parenting styles. Authoritarian parents are both domineering and emotionally cold. Neglectful parents are not as controlling as authoritarian parents but seem uninterested and uninvolved. Permissive-indulgent parents don't set firm boundaries and guidelines for the child, but do express emotional caring and interest. Authoritative parents are warm yet strict. Children of authoritarian parents develop into adults who are either submissive toward others or aggressive and defiant toward them. Children of neglectful parents develop into adults who lack basic life skills and have many problems. Children of permissive-indulgent parents tend to crave approval from others and to lack self-assertion. Children of authoritative parents show high levels of self-confidence, assertiveness and the ability to form successful relationships.
Adult Relationship Styles
Most young children fit into one of four categories in their approach to relationships. Some tend to avoid connecting with others, yet they seem insecure. Some seem to be angry and anxious as if they are looking to their parents for reassurance yet cannot find it. Some show a mix of these characteristics. Some are happy, well-liked by others and socially competent. People who fit into the last category usually have the most successful intimate relationships. The parenting styles most likely to help children develop in this direction are the authoritative style and the permissive-indulgent style. The authoritative style is considered the most effective overall, but the permissive-indulgent style is the next most successful approach.
Abuse and Neglect
The love and affection of a parent is so important to the child's emotional development that children who don't experience this kind of affection are more likely to have a number of serious problems in their adult relationships. They are more likely to be involved in domestic violence as either victims or perpetrators, and they are also more likely to have problems with substance abuse issues and with juvenile delinquency. Neglectful and authoritarian parenting styles are particularly likely to increase these risks, especially if the child also experiences physical abuse. Whether your parenting style tends to be more permissive or more authoritative, the most important point for your child's ability to form healthy intimate relationships in adulthood is to express the warmth, affection and support your child needs.