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Pitt Study: 'Harsh Parenting' Could Send Kids Down Wrong Path

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Disciplining children is a high personal pursuit. Dare to criticize another parent's disciplinary style and you are probably going to get an ear full of "mind your own business."

So how does a new study define "harsh parenting?'"

"Verbal and physical aggression," says the study's lead author, Dr. Rochelle Hentges, of the University of Pittsburgh's Developmental Psychology department. "For example, yelling at your kids, shoving them, punching them, threatening physical harm, things like that."

Dr. Hentges says the study of 1,500 middle and high school students found that young people who experienced harsh parenting felt "that they were being rejected by their parents. They are not loved. They are not being accepted."

So, they go looking for acceptance and a place to belong, and become "overly dependent on their peer network, on their friends."

Dependent to the point, she says, they follow the guidance of peers over parents.

"What we found is boys are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, and girls are more likely to engage in early and risky sexual behavior," Dr. Hentges said.

And Dr. Hentges goes on to say the study indicates the products of harsh parenting tend to have a more immediate view of life. Forgoing the vision of future for gratification now.

Longer term education and success are not in their view finder.

Dr. Hentges says, "They had lower educational outcomes over time."

Dropping out is not uncommon, especially among boys.

"I think you can be stern without yelling," says Ken Hale who has three children, ages 12, 9 and 6. "Usually, a calm approach and a non-yelling approach seems to work best."

"I never spanked my kids, just a lot of consequences," says Christine Maynard, who has several decades of parenting experience. "I think you have to have guidelines and boundaries. I had boundaries with my kids, and tough love."

Which Maynard defines as groundings and taking away things they hold dear.

Dr. Hentges agrees you have to find a middle ground between being too lenient and harsh parenting and setting up boundaries is the right approach.

But she adds, "You also need to provide a warm, caring environment."


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