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Resources > Topics > Parenting > Quality Parent-Child Relationships

What Makes for Good Quality Parent-Child Relationships?


Understanding and being responsive to children. In infancy this ability of parents to ‘read’ what their children need or want has been called parental sensitivity and it has been shown to relate to children’s abilities to form relationships with others across childhood. This ability of parents to ‘read’ their children remains important throughout childhood and adolescence and is one of the components of a good relationship.

Setting standards and gently helping children to meet those standards. Research on parenting preschool and older children has shown 3 types of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. Authoritative refers to a child-centred approach to parenting in which parents are responsive and warm to children, but also have high expectations for children’s behavior. Their high level of engagement with the child helps him or her to achieve those expectations. Authoritarian refers to strict parenting that is demanding but not responsive to children. Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive style of parenting. Permissive parenting refers to parents who nurture and accept their children but place low demands on them. The best outcomes for children in terms of their relationships with other people and their levels of achievement have been shown for authoritative parents.

  • For further information read Baumrind et al., 1978.

Monitoring children: knowing about children’s activities and their friends. When children are in their preschool years monitoring refers to a parent being aware of a child’s activities and gently guiding their responses and activities so that they are not harmful to the child or other people. As children reach adolescence, it is important for parents to know where children are and who they are with. Through knowing this the parents can continue to guide the children and steer them away from activities that potentially cause harm to themselves or others. Parents rely on their adolescents to share information, and this is more likely to happen when parents and children have built up good relationships.

  • For further information read Stattin & Kerr, 2000 and Fletcher et al., 2004.

The positive to negative balance in handling children. A great deal of research shows that when parents are irritable, angry and harsh with children, that the children show higher levels of behavioral problems. It is important to keep parent-child interactions largely positive, which is a lot harder to do with children that are themselves ‘hard to manage’. When parents have been observed interacting with hard to manage children the research has found that parents frequently express irritability, but rarely praise the children when their behavior is good. Parenting interventions that have been shown to work involve getting the parents to reverse this pattern. Parents are taught to take a lot of notice of children and praise them when the children are behaving well. They are also taught to reduce the attention to the negative behaviors. These are the principles that underlie ‘Parent Management Training’.

Recommended Reading

Baumrind, D. (1978). Parental disciplinary patterns and social competence in children. Youth and Society, 9, 238-276.

Fletcher, A., Steinberg, L. Williams-Wheeler (2004) Parental influences on adolescent problem behavior: Revisiting Stattin and Kerr. Child Development. Vol 75(3), 781-796.

Stattin, H., & Kerr, M. (2000). Parental monitoring: A reinterpretation. Child Development, 71, 1072 – 1085.

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