How different parenting styles affect your child’s health

Ever heard of helicopter parenting? Or how about Tiger Mom parenting? These are among a new class of “hyper-parenting” styles that have evolved over the past few decades.  Many members of the community have expressed interest in learning about parenting styles. And so we interviewed one of the world’s foremost experts in this area – Ian Janssen, PhD – who was happy to teach us a little about the science behind hyper-parenting.

“Hyper-parenting is a parenting style in which parents are highly involved in managing, scheduling, and enriching most or all aspects of their children’s lives.  Examples of hyper-parenting include “helicopter parents” who try to solve all of their children’s problems and protect them from all dangers, “little emperor” parents give their children all the possessions they want, “tiger moms” who push for exceptional achievement from their children (e.g., all A+ grades), and parents who practice “concerted cultivation” by scheduling their children into too many extracurricular activities.” – Ian Janssen, PhD

Dr. Janssen is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Obesity and Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. He recently published new research examining the link between child physical activity and the 4 hyper-parenting styles mentioned above. So what did the data show?

“The key finding of my research is that 7-12 year old children with hyper-parents had lower physical activity levels.  They played outdoors less frequency, they walked and biked to places less frequency, and they played fewer organized sports.” – Ian Janssen, PhD

Interestingly, only 3 of the 4 parenting styles were correlated with child physical activity: little emperor, tiger mom, and concerted cultivation style. The data suggest that helicopter parenting is not related to physical activity levels – at least not in this particular population. Many, many, more studies would be needed to fully understand how our parenting styles are related to our child’s (and own own) health. But for now, Dr. Janssen has a message for the community:

“My main message to parents is that when it comes to children’s physical activity, don’t bubble wrap your kids — let your kids be kids.  Give them freedom (e.g., less rules, less supervision) to move and be active.  Kick them outside and encourage them to engage with their outdoor environments.  Make sure they have time to play every day, and don’t micromanage and organize this for them.” – Ian Janssen, PhD

Want to read the full publication? It is easily obtained here and it is FREE to download because the publisher supports Open Access publishing!


Photo licensed under CC0 1.0

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