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England vs Italy: Best Parenting Style to Avoid Child Anxiety

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Parenting styles differ greatly between cultures and everyone has a theory to offer on how to treat your children for optimal results, including preventing child anxiety. With so little research in the field of parenting effects on child anxiety, cross-cultural studies are most definitely quite enlightening.

There are 4 different childrearing methods, out of which three are considered the norm, which parenting consultant Barbara Coloroso describes as brick wall, jellyfish, and backbone parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian (brick wall): strict and rigid family structure enforced by fear and punishment, with no child autonomy nor room for new opinions.
  • Permissive (jellyfish): Shapeless family structure where children are allowed to do as they wish with little to no parental interference, often lacking respect and adherence to rules. These parents were often children raised by authoritarian parents and do not know what do to, only that they hated their own parents' style.
  • Authoritative (backbone): Flexible but strong family structure that includes strict rules and an open mind, allowing for some level of child autonomy but focusing on respect and clear realistic expectations. This home is consistent and fair, open to teaching and learning without being too permissive or too strict.

The final style is the neglectful, where parents are nearly entirely uninvolved in their children's lives.

Personally, I come from an Armenian background, where parents are quite similar to the Italian ones one particular study looks at. As such, this means that the style is authoritative, with high parental pressures and low child autonomy but with an immense amount of warmth expressed. Family dinners, parents knowing every action taken in every moment of every day, huge gatherings, invasive questioning, high discipline and low tolerance for misbehavior. The amazing part of my parents' style? They never showed anxiety over something that worried me, adding to my confidence instead of weighing me down with their own negative emotions. Curious, is it not?

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The Research

The study in question was published in the December 2013 issue within the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, looking at anxiety levels in children with parents portraying rather opposing styles of childrearing. England and Italy are the contenders in this cross-cultural study but who will come out the winner?

When it comes to parenting, a few things need to be taken into consideration:

The results?

Italian parents showed significantly less autonomy granting and more intrusiveness. Higher levels of overprotective behavior and over-control were buffered by the much higher levels of maternal warmth in comparison with the English families surveyed. As such, the negative effects of such a parenting style were negated by the sheer strength of the love portrayed and the familial warmth which reduced child anxiety and separation.

No matter how much of a helicopter parent you are, your children will have the same anxiety levels as one who comes from an authoritative family, so long as there is familial warmth to buffer the effects.