Whether it’s structured and rule-based or go-with-the-flow, many parents have a certain style of parenting they generally develop over time and follow, with the idea that kids will grow up with certain traits as a direct result of those choices. However, new research has revealed that rather than your parenting style influencing specific personalities in kids, it’s your kids behavioral traits that can actually impact how you parent.

New research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that it is mistaken to believe that parenting is a one-way street. “Given the current evidence … it is more accurate to conceptualize parenting as a transactional process in which both parents and children exert simultaneous and continuous influence on each other,” says Mona Ayoub of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photo: Tanja Heffner via Unsplash

In other words, if you believe your kids are well-behaved because of your attachment parenting style, the truth is that you might practice attachment parenting principles more easily because of the fact that your kids are easy-going in the first place.

The study analyzed data from the Texas Twins Project, including parents’ ratings of their parenting style (focusing on their warmth and stress levels in regards to each child), and the kid’s ratings of their own personality traits. The researchers found that changes in a parent’s warmth and stress levels was attributable to genetic influences from their own kids.

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For example, kids who scored higher on agreeableness, were more likely to have more nurturing parents with greater warmth, while kids with lower levels of agreeableness had parents whose parenting style reflected higher stress levels.

“Longitudinal designs that assess child personality and parenting throughout development will be useful,” the researchers said, “especially because parenting can take different meanings across different developmental stages.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin


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