How Parenting Affects Child Development | Theories of Child Development

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Written By Poonam Singh

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool Bangalore.

As parents, we all want what is best for our children and want to see them grow up to be happy and successful adults. We love our children unconditionally and want to see them thrive in every area of their lives. However, we may not always be aware of how our parenting style is impacting our children’s development. In this section, we will explore some of the different theories of child development and how parenting affects child development.

Theories of child development

Attachment theory

The attachment theory is one of the most influential theories of child development. It explains how a child’s relationship with their primary caregiver (usually their mother) affects their social and emotional development.

The attachment theory was first proposed by John Bowlby in the 1950s. He argued that children need to form a close bond with at least one primary caregiver in order to feel safe and secure. Without this close bond, he believed that children would not be able to develop properly.

Bowlby’s work was later expanded upon by psychiatrist Mary Ainsworth. She developed the ‘strange situation’ procedure, which is still used today to measure the strength of a child’s attachment to their caregiver.

There are four different types of attachment, which are classified according to a child’s behavior in the strange situation:

Secure attachment: The child feels secure and comfortable with their caregiver and explores freely. They are also happy to see their caregiver after a period of separation.

Insecure-avoidant attachment: The child avoids or dismisses their caregiver and shows little emotion when they are separated or reunited. They may seem unconcerned about being away from their caregiver.

Insecure-ambivalent attachment: The child becomes anxious and distressed when separated from their caregiver. They show ambivalent behavior when reunited, such as seeking comfort while also pushing the caregiver away.

Insecure-disorganized attachment: The child shows signs of both avoidance and ambivalence. They may seem confused or frightened when separated from their caregiver. Their behavior may also be disorganized or erratic when reunited

Psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory is a theory of human development that aims to explain how our earliest experiences affect our later ones. It was first proposed by Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychiatrist who is considered the father of psychoanalysis.

The basic idea of psychoanalysis is that there are unconscious drives and urges that influence our behavior. According to Freud, we are not aware of these drives and urges because they are buried in our unconscious mind. However, they still influence our behavior and can lead to psychological problems.

For example, Freud believed that childhood experiences could be repressed (pushed out of conscious awareness) and lead to neurotic symptoms in adulthood. This theory has been criticized for being too speculative and for its lack of empirical evidence. However, it remains one of the most influential theories in psychology.


Behaviorism is a theory of child development that suggests that children learn through operant and classical conditioning. This means that children learn by observing the consequences of their own actions and modifying their behavior accordingly.

Behaviorism has had a profound impact on our understanding of child development and has been used to inform educational practices and parenting strategies. However, it should be noted that behaviorism does not take into account the role of internal mental states in learning and development.

Child Development

Read Here: Traditional vs Modern Parenting

How parenting affects child development

Parenting plays a vital role in shaping a child’s development. It is one of the most important factors that determine the outcome of a child’s life. The way parents interact with their children, the values they instill in them, and the environment they provide all play a significant role in child development.

Parenting styles

There are four common parenting styles that have been identified by researchers: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful. Each parenting style has a different effect on child development.

Authoritative parenting is often considered the most effective parenting style. Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. They have high expectations for their children, but they are also willing to provide the support and guidance that their children need to meet those expectations. Children who are raised by authoritative parents are more likely to be independent, self-confident, and successful in school.

Authoritarian parenting is a more rigid and controlled form of parenting. Authoritarian parents have high expectations for their children, but they are not as responsive to their children’s needs. This can result in children who are compliant and well-behaved, but who lack independence and self-confidence.

Permissive parenting is the opposite of authoritarian parenting. Permissive parents have low expectations for their children and they are highly responsive to their children’s needs. This can result in children who lack discipline and self-control.

Neglectful parenting is a form of neglectful parenting that can have serious negative consequences for children. Neglectful parents are unresponsive to their children’s needs and they have little interaction with their children. This can result in children who are emotionally withdrawn and who have problems with social skills and academic achievement.

The role of parents in child development

Children develop best when they have affectionate and responsive relationships with their parents or primary caregivers. Parents who are attuned to their child’s moods, temperament, and needs create a secure base from which the child can explore the world.

In general, children flourish when their parents:

– love them unconditionally
– set limits and provide structure
– are consistent in their approach
– are available emotionally
– offer encouragement and praise
– teach them how to cope with disappointment and setbacks.

The impact of parenting on child development

Parenting plays a vital role in the development of a child. It helps in the physical, psychological, social, and emotional development of a child. Parenting affects the way a child develops and learns. It also helps in shaping the personality of a child.

The effects of abuse and neglect

Child abuse and neglect have a wide range of negative effects on children. The most obvious effects are physical, but abuse and neglect can also cause serious emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems.

Physical effects:
-Frequent injuries or illnesses
-Poor physical health
-Developmental delays

Emotional effects:
-Low self-esteem
-Anxiety or depression
-Aggressive behavior
-Withdrawal from friends and activities

Cognitive effects:
-Poor school performance
-learning difficulties
-attention problems

The effects of divorce

It is well-established that children of divorced parents fare worse on a variety of outcomes than children of intact families. These effects are evident even after controlling for a wide range of demographic, socioeconomic, and family stressors that often accompany divorce.

While the effects of divorce on children are well-documented, it is less clear how different types of parenting may contribute to these outcomes. One theory suggests that divorce may have a more negative effect on children when it results in a loss of contact with their father.

Research has shown that fathers play an important role in their children’s lives and that children who have a close relationship with their father are more likely to do better in school, have better mental health and make healthier choices in their own relationships.

It is possible that the negative effects of divorce on children are partially due to a loss of contact with their father, but it is also possible that other aspects of parenting after divorce contribute to these outcomes. For example, parental conflict and stress may increase after divorce, which could lead to poorer parenting and increased behavioral problems in children.

There is evidence to support both of these theories. Studies that have looked at the effect of father involvement on child outcomes have found mixed results, with some studies finding no effect and others finding a positive effect. Similarly, studies looking at the effect of parental conflict on child outcomes have also found mixed results.

It is important to note that these studies often do not take into account the fact that many families experience both divorce and parental conflict. It is possible that the combined effect of these two factors is what leads to the poorer outcomes we see in children of divorced parents.

If you are a parent who is going through a divorce, there are things you can do to minimize the impact on your children. It is important to remain involved in your child’s life as much as possible and to try to reduce conflict with your ex-partner. If you need help dealing with your own emotions or managing conflict with your ex-partner, there are many resources available to help you.

The effects of poverty

There is a body of research that suggests that growing up in poverty can have a lasting impact on children. Poverty can affect a child’s development in a number of ways, including:

Cognitive development: Poverty can lead to poorer outcomes in IQ testing and other measures of cognitive ability. Children from low-income families are also more likely to have academic problems, including lower grades and test scores, and are less likely to graduate from high school or college.

Physical development: Poverty can lead to poor health and nutrition, which can in turn impact physical development. Children who are malnourished or who suffer from chronic health problems are likely to experience delays in their physical development.

Behavioral problems: Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, including increased rates of aggression, violence, and delinquency. They are also more likely to develop Substance Abuse disorders and mental health problems.

The science behind how parenting affects child development

Lang, Diana, and Marissa L. Diener. “Influences on Parenting – Parenting and Family Diversity Issues.” Influences on Parenting – Parenting and Family Diversity Issues

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool and DayCare Kaggadasapura Branch. I am also a Montessori certified teacher and have 5+ years of experience working with kids.

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