The Importance Of Parenting And How It Influences Personalities

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The way an individual is socialised plays a fundamental part in the kind of person they grow up to be. From what they witnessed at a young age, to how they were spoken to, to what values they were (and were not) taught, parenting is crucial in a child’s development. A child not only learns what is taught to them, but also what they see for themselves and the things they absorb subconsciously. According to Areej Jaffrani, a Child and Adolescent Psychologist of Lumos Counselling (@lumoscounsellingpk), parenting is potentially the most important factor in determining an individual’s personality. It lays the foundation for future brain, relationship and skills development for the child. We asked Areej questions about how parenting is implicated in an individual’s personality – find out more below:

Subconscious Adoption Of Personality Traits From Parent To Child

We often hear how we act so much like our parents, and that maybe it’s because we have developed to mimic their attitudes and behaviour. But personality development is not that straightforward. Areej says that it involves a culmination of a child’s temperament, genes, environment, lived experiences, and their interactions and relationship with their parents. So, it would be unfair to say that children always grow up to be like their parents. However, she elaborates that parents do pose as role models for their kids, and social learning theory (that we learn behaviours from those closest to us) suggests that children may mimic parts of what they have learned from their parents and internalised as part of their own personality. Sometimes, behaviours adopted from parents are selectively internalised. Hence, a child may be very similar in some ways to their parent(s) while very different in other ways, owing to other factors in their life.  

 A Dominant Parenting Style Vs A Lenient Parenting Style

Areej explains that both aforementioned parenting styles are not healthy. The former can lead the child to invalidate their own experiences or feelings, resulting in a poor sense of self and self-worth. As they don’t get the opportunity to discover their own selves, this parenting style may prevent children from listening to their own needs, wishes, and desires – leading them to doubt themselves. It can be difficult then for individuals to make decisions, since they would lack experience in that matter. The expert identifies that typically, controlling parenting styles lack warmth and nurturing, which are necessary for healthy development. This can then cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety. On the other hand, she states, a completely permissive parenting style may prevent children from learning right from wrong and to set or respect healthy boundaries. Also, children may lack self and/or impulse control and often have trouble with authority figures. 

The Result Of Negligent Parenting On An Individual

Since a child’s socialisation by their parents comes first and foremost in their future development and relationships, negligent parenting can be highly detrimental to them. The reason for this, as explained by Areej, is that human brains and social skills develop in individual’s interactions with their caregivers. The more this interaction (ideally positive ones), the more the brain grows. Due to lack of social interaction, uninvolved parenting can result in underdeveloped brains, as shown through research. The areas of the brain that need to be used are not used, therefore they don’t develop. She explains further that this can lead to issues around learning, memory, and physical and mental health. Areej states that these outcomes can sometimes be worse than those that come from abusive parenting, since there is still interaction in that form. 

Benefits And Problems Of Independence In Young Children

Ideally, there would be a balance of some sort in the child’s life. The psychologist explains that some age-appropriate independence is good, as it enables children to learn new skills and gain mastery. But, if they are completely left on their own, they may lack important life skills, since they do not have anyone to learn from. Also, Areej says, if the independence is not age appropriate, it can feel chaotic and unsafe. Alternatively, being overly dependent on parents or helicopter parenting, can be debilitating. She poses the example of solving all of their problems – it prevents children from learning important problem solving skills themselves. As time passes though, the dependence on parents does naturally weaken in most cases. 

Not Every Individual Is Affected By Parenting In The Same Way

Areej explained that the extent to which an individual is affected by parenting will depend on the other factors in a child’s life. As mentioned earlier, personality development can be influenced by internal variables (e.g. genes, temperament, resiliency) and external ones (e.g. the environment at home, school or community). The amount of influence each of these has varies from person to person. Areej elaborates that the type of individuals’ problems may be shaped by an interplay of their own temperament and type of parenting. Thus, there are different manifestations of these in the individual. Some may go on to develop internalised type of difficulties (depression, anxiety, low self-esteem), while others may have more externalised difficulties (aggression, poor self-control, substance abuse)

Life Experiences Also Influence An Individual’s Personality

The expert states that negative parenting can cause damage that may require years of healing work, but research shows that positive life experiences (outside of the parenting relationship) can buffer this impact. Some people are able to have positive life outcomes despite receiving unhealthy parenting, while other children who have received healthy parenting can have negative life outcomes owing to other factors. Therefore it is shown that there are other significant factors to consider when understanding a person’s behaviour. Areej concludes that each individual has a unique combination of life experiences that shape them to be the person they are, for some, parenting holds more stake.

The Impact Of Parenting Is Most Apparent In Other Relationships

As stated earlier, parenting lays the foundation for all future relationships. The reason for this prominence is that in relationships, we are bound to repeat our patterns and the type of “attachment style” we have with our parents (largely influenced by their parenting style and our parents’ own attachment style with THEIR parents) in all of our other relationships. She gives the example that an individual with “secure attachment” (the most healthy type) with their parent is likely to have mostly healthy relationships, whilst someone with an “insecure attachment” style (due to unhealthy parenting) is more likely to have unhealthy relationships as they may repeat the patterns they are used to in their relationships with their parents.

Ensuring Healthy Personality Traits Through Parenting

Some of the traits that parenting styles can affect include: self-esteem, self-worth, ability to meet your own needs, self-regulation skills, academic skills and empathy. Areej advises that in order to ensure that children develop in the most healthy and holistic way, parents should aim to adopt a respectful, gentle and conscious parenting style. They should hold reasonable and firm boundaries with their children whilst being kind and affirming feelings. Ideally, she says, a balance between authoritarian and permissive parenting style.

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