Parenting a child plays a pivotal role in their psychological development, particularly in the development of resilience. According to a recently published study in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, those with childhood memories of punishment, rejection, and other characteristics of authoritarian parenting grew up to lack a sense of resilience. Katja Petrowski, the study's lead researcher from the Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology at the University of Leipzig, explains resilience as a trait that allows people to respond positively in stressful situations. In the simplest terms, resilient people are able to look on the bright side even during the darkest of times, a power enviable by those who are a slave to their anxieties and fears.

Past studies assert that positive parenting helps prevent future development of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. In hopes of learning how to better raise children, Petrowski sought to identify resilience as a mediating factor between parenting and the development of psychological disorders, as well as determine if positive parenting has a gender-specific and/or age-specific effect on resilience in adults.

Analyzing Parenting Styles and Its Effects

Petrowski surveyed 4,983 native German speakers ages 14 to 94. For the purpose of this study. Petrowski claimed that “parental rearing behavior affects the amount of resilience, which in turn predicts the self-reported level of anxiety and depression." Thus those who reported having high levels of anxiety and depression were speculated to have low resilience possibly due to how they were raised. Along with collecting sociodemographic data, the following questionnaires were used to measure the effects of parenting:

  • Recalled Parental Rearing Behavior Questionnaire: assesses recalled discerning parental behavior, feelings of rejection, parents' emotional warmth, and parents' overprotective behaviors.
  • Resilience Scale: measures one's ability to use internal and external resources to cope, personal acceptance, and acceptance of self and life.
  • Patient Health Questionnaire-2: assesses severity of depression symptoms.
  • General Anxiety Disorder-2: measures intensity of anxiety symptoms.

Authoritative Parenting Proves Essential for Fostering Resilience

The results of this experiment confirm theories of how parenting directly affects the development of resilience. Prior to the experiment, Petrowski hypothesized that resilience has a relationship with psychological symptoms dependent of gender and independent of age. Although past experiments suggest that women have lower resilience than men, Petrowski did not find any data proposing gender as a factor. Petrowki believes that a longitudinal study needs to be done in order to determine if gender plays a significant role in developing this characteristic. The study, however, did find that age is an independent factor of resilience: with different ages, people had different levels of resilience, anxiety, and depression.

Overall, the study validates that poor parenting can hinder development of resilience, which can result in adult onset psychological disorders. “The present results clearly show that rejection and punishment are negatively associated with resilience," concludes Petrowski. This evidence suggests that moms and dads take on a more authoritative parenting style by being more warm and responsive to their children's needs. The love and support shown during early development can help parents raise a resilient adult.

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University of Leipzig; University of Mainz

Katja Petrowski, Elmar Brähler, and Markus Zenger. The relationship of parental rearing behavior and resilience as well as psychological symptoms in a representative sample. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 7 November 2014; DOI: 10.1186/1477-7525-12-95

Date of original publication:

Updated: October 23, 2015