Influence of parenting styles

Paper Review of 'Influence of parenting styles on the adjustment and academic achievement of traditional college freshmen' by Hickman, Gregory P, Bartholomae, Suzanne, McKenry and Patrick C (2000).

The present paper by Hickman, Gregory P, Bartholomae, Suzanne, McKenry and Patrick C is a comparative study regarding parenting styles, adjustment to a college environment, academic achievemnt and self-esteem of traditonal college freshmen, in the year 2000. It has been found through this research that there is a positive relation between authoritative parenting style and the student's academic adjustment. College students', to be more specific college freshmen's, personal, social, emotional, goal-commitment, adjustment in terms of institutional, academic and overall adjustment was also found to be related to and predicted by self-esteem levels of the students.

The first hypothesis of the researchers was that traditional college freshman of a parental background of an authoritive style would experience higher levels of adjustment, academic acievement and self-esteem than those of an authoritarian or permissive parenting background. Second, the researchers proposed that traditional college freshmen from intact families would demonstrate greater academic achievement and adjustment than those from nonintact families. Third, the researchers hypothesised that the educational achievement of parents was positively related to the academic achievement and adjustment of "traditional college freshmen". Fourth, the researchers hypothesised that irrespective of the parenting styles involved in the rearing of the individuals, there would be no significant difference in the aptitude of the college freshman.

The researchers operationally defined 'traditional college freshmen' as those freshmen for whom entering college is the first experience of leaving home as opposed to those who have earlier attended high school away from home, those who were enlisted in the military or those who have previously lived on their own. This definition is precise and effectively caters to the specific requirements of the study that the researchers have attempted to make, ruling out a number of intervening variables. The parenting background of these students was studied using Buri's Parental Authority Questionnaire which is based on Baumrind's (1968) parenting style typology that includes three basic types : Authoritarian, Permissive and Authoritative. This typology is widely accepted and has been utilized in various research studies. Family structure was assessed with respect to whether or not the parents were divorced. Parents' education level was recorded in terms of "never attended college", "attending but did not finish college" and "finished college". This differentiation is valid enough and serves the puspose intended. Adjustment of the students to college included academic adjustment, social adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment and goal commitment-institutional adjustment, studied using a 67-item Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire which is comprehensive and appropriate for the purpose of this study. Self-esteem was assessed using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory, a highly reliable and valid questionnaire. Academic achievement was measured based on the students' college Grade Point Average. The sample used by the researchers in this study included 101 traditional college freshmen in the age group of 17-19 years, at a Midwestern University. This is a large enough sample group to ensure reliability and which includes appropriately proportioned sub-groups for each of the various variables being studied. 86% of the sample was Caucasian and the rest were distributed among other ethnic groups. Further studies in this area, if conducted within specific ethnic groups or as a comparative study between ethnic groups might provide further insights. All in all, the research design and methodology used here is appropriate and ethically sound.

There is a host of previous research relating to the current study that has been conducted. Parenting styles and academic successes have been found to be inter-related where authoritarian and permissive parenting styles have been associated with poor levels of adolescent academic achievement, college adjustment, and self-esteem (Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991). Demanding expectations (authoritarian) or low expectations (permissive were found to relate to most conflicts related to school between parents and their high-school children (Eskilson, Wiley, Muehlbauer, and Dodder, 1986). Masselam, Marcus, & Stunkard (1990) found that high achieving students, more than underachieving students described their parents as understanding, approving, trusting, affectionate, encouraging achievement, and not overly strict in disciplining. Under achieving students on the other hand, described their parents as very strict and demanding, lax, or punitive in their disciplinary techniques (Dornbusch, Ritter, Mont-Reynaud, & Chen, 1990; Wood, Chapin, & Hannah, 1988). It was also found that authoritative parenting style related to higher academic competence and adjustment than the did the other two parenting styles (Lamborn et al., 1991). Although previous research associates parenting styles with college adjustment, Hickman et al. have not found support to this theory when considering overall adjustment. Academic adjustment, specifically, however has been found to be associated with authoritative parenting. The differences in results as compared to previous findings may be substantiated further with more research that may be conducted on varied samples.

The researchers, however, found that the other variables that were studied, i.e. family structure, aptitude, and self-esteem are significantly related to overall adjustment. This is a highly significant contribution to the area in study as these indicators have not been greatly studied before. Having studied many variables, the researchers were able to make a number of observations. One interesting find was that aptitude and self-esteem were in positive relation with social adjustment and also, with respect to gender, results approached significance, indicating that females were more associated to poorer social adjustment.

Lopez, Campbell, and Watkins (1988) suggested that conflictual, overinvolved, and disrupted families were prevalent among poorly adjusted college students. Other researchers have also consistently found that children from divorced families experience more behavioural problems, poorer psychological adjustment and more social problems than those from two-parent families (Guidubaldi, Cleminshaw, Perry, & McLoughlin, 1983; Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1982; Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989)., and further research following the present one, found that more children from disrupted families, than those from families that are intact, have reduced performance over time ( Sun, Yongmin. and Li, Yuanzhang, 2003). In the current research, however, Hickman et al. have found that college freshmen of divorced parents find the adjustment to college issue much easier to handle than the others. The authors have attributed this to the resiliency that the child may have developed due to the stressful home environment that he has had to face.

Hickman et al. also found that compared to students whose fathers did not hold a college degree, those whose fathers completed their graduation had poorer personal-emotional adjustment. Further, students whose fathers did hadn't even attended college revealed poorer goal commitment-institutional adjustment.

Another important finding was that although aptitude is a predictor of over and social adjustment of college freshmen, it is neither a determinant of GPA nor a predictor of academic adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment or goal commitment-institutional adjustment. As this throws new light on the concept of cognitive intelligence being considered as a judgement for admission into colleges and universities (Brownstein et al., 1994), it has gives great scope for further study, suggesting a need for better methods of enrollment in the educational institutions. research findings that noncognitive psychosocial factors or emotional intelligence (EQ) as reflected by social adjustment, may be equally important (Mohr, Eiche, & Sedlacek, 1998; Tracy & Sedlacek, 1985) are duly supported by these results.

This comprehensive research study has , all in all, been conducted effectively and efficiently, using appropriate methodology and sample design, providing important insights in the field of study of parenting and family environment and its effect on young adults in their academic, social, psychological-emotional adjustment.


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