Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Do controlling parents have any effect on their children's development?

Do controlling parents have any effect on their children's development?

Most parents try to provide a guiding hand as their children grow up with a mixture of control, support and encouragement. But as there isn't exactly a manual or formula for parenting it's often hard for parents to know what the best course of action is at times. As a father of five (4 girls and a boy) I often wondered whether we were being too hard, too soft,etc. However recent research is showing some interesting and more importantly useful ways forward.

One consistent question what is the ideal amount of control parents should exert over their children as they grow?

Now obviously that is going to depend on a lot of different things or variables. Things like how old the child is, how responsible the child is, what the situation or context is, what the attitude the parent has to the situation and their child for example.

An interesting study published this year in the Journal Parenting: Science and Practice looked at the effects of different levels of parental control on adolescents and in particular how parental control effects how well adjusted the adolescent is and how parental control might effect the childs' ability to regulate or control their own emotions.

The researchers, from five universities across the US and Canada* looked at the responses and outcomes of 206 adolescents (10 - 18 years old) and their parents in terms of reported levels of parental control (from both the adolescents and the parents), the levels of adolescent anger regulation, depression and aggressiveness.

The researchers found that the higher the level of parental control the lower the level of adjustment and flexibility the child was able to maintain. This was even more pronounced with adolescents who had emotion regulation problems to start with, which may be connected to the level of psychological control the parents exerted before the age of 10.

In effect the greater the level of psychological control parents exert on their children the less well adjusted they become. This is not however an argument for no control or laissez faire parenting. This also causes adjustment and emotion regulation problems.



Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct.
Child Development, 67, 3296–3319. doi:10.2307/ 1131780

Barber, B. K., & Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parental psychological control of children and adoles-
cents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents (pp.15–52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10422-002

Buckner, J. C., Mezzacappa, E., & Beardslee, W. R. (2003). Characteristics of resilient youths living in poverty: The role of self-regulatory processes.
Development and Psychopathology,15, 139–162. doi:10.1017/ S0954579403000087

Cui, L. teal (2014) Parental Psychological Control and Adolescent Adjustment: The Role of Adolescent Emotion Regulation. Parenting: Science and Practice. 14:1, 47-67, DOI:10.1080/15295192.2014.880018

Han, Z. R., & Shaffer, A. (2013). The relation of parental emotion dysregulation to children's psychopathology
symptoms: The moderating role of child emotion dysregulation. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 44, 591–601. doi:10.1007/ s10578-012-0353-7

Kunz, J. H., & Grych, J. H. (2013). Parental psychological control and autonomy granting: Distinctions
and associations with child and family functioning. Parenting: Science and Practice, 13, 77–94. doi:10.1080/ 15295192.2012.709147

Pettit, G. S., & Laird, R. D. (2002). Psychological control and monitoring in early adolescent: The role of
parental involvement and earlier child adjustment. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents
(pp. 97–123). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10422-004



* Oklahoma State University, The University of Toronto, Oklahoma State University, Indiana University-Purdue University and The University of Pittsburgh

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