London - Parents who fail to discipline their offspring properly are creating a generation of angry children who lash out in the classroom, a study has found.
Pupils were twice as likely to be aggressive and disruptive if they had parents who were violent, critical or inconsistent in what they allowed them to get away with at home.
In contrast, children tended to be better behaved if their parents combined warmth with clear and consistent rules and boundaries.
For the study, nearly 300 families with children aged four to seven were assessed for both the children’s behaviour and their parents’ discipline techniques.
The researchers, led by Professor Stephen Scott, director of the National Academy for Parenting Research, said: “A negative parenting style, characterised by harsh, inconsistent discipline, was clearly associated with more severe child anti-social behaviour.
“Parents who used negative discipline had twice the rate of children with severe behaviour problems compared to the other parents.”
The finding follows claims by experts that some middle-class parents lavish material possessions on their children but are distant and barely involved in their upbringing.
Poor supervision of children’s activities and mothers suffering depression were also linked to bad behaviour.
The researchers said they were unable to rule out the argument that ‘irritating’ children were themselves to blame for “evoking harsher parenting”.
But they added: “A whole range of studies has shown the causal effect is there too, and that harsh parenting trains children to become anti-social.” These children were at risk of underperforming at school and even turning to crime and drug or alcohol abuse.
The researchers claimed that their study, which was funded by the government, reinforced the benefits of parenting lessons to teach mothers and fathers across all sections of society how to discipline their children.
Ministers are already preparing a two-year trial of parenting classes in three areas as part of a £5-million experiment which will deal with issues such as discipline, communication and managing conflict.
The research team reported that mothers who were less educated and had lower incomes were more likely to resort to negative parenting. However they admitted the link was “weak” and urged against viewing the problem as being confined to these types of families.
The report added: “It underlines the fact that there is the opportunity to improve children’s life chances through directly intervening with programmes that are effective in changing parenting styles.”
Child literacy expert Sue Palmer blamed parents relying on “electronic babysitters”, and claimed in her book Toxic Childhood that many children starting school had led a “very solitary, sedentary, screen-based existence”.
She added: “Many children now watch bedtime TV rather than sharing a bedtime story, songs and chat with parents. This is a serious erosion of important family time.” Daily Mail