Parenting style makes a difference

In light of the strong association between parents’ household income and favourable parenting practices...parenting in early childhood contributes to the intergenerational persistence in incomes found in many studies.

Differences according to parents’ income group in children’s cognitive and behavioural development emerge by the child’s third birthday, according to a 2008 study based on data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS)1. Children from higher income groups were found to have higher cognitive assessments and fewer behavioural problems. An important part of these differences, argues researcher Professor John Ermisch, can be accounted for by ‘what parents do’ in terms of educational activities and parenting style.

Researchers measured ‘parenting style’ in terms of answers to questions including: are there lots of rules in the family and are rules strictly enforced; does the child have meals and go to bed at regular times; how many hours a day does the child watch TV or DVDs; and how important do you think it is for the family to eat together? The study also considered educational activities including questions on how often someone at home reads to the child, and whether or not anyone takes the child to the library.

Results show that parenting makes an important contribution to differences by income group. “As we know that early cognitive development is strongly associated with the child’s educational and economic achievements as an adult, better parenting in early childhood, in terms of educational activities and a more structured parenting style, contributes to the child’s lifetime success,” Professor Ermisch points out.

Home environment plays a role in learning