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Exploring the Impact of Parenting Styles on Child Executive Function Skills

What is This Study About?

Parenting plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s cognitive and behavioral development, and recent research examines the intricate connections between parenting styles and a child’s executive function skills. In this article, we explore key findings from “The Role of Parenting Factors in Accelerating or Hindering the Development of HEF in Preschool Children.” Almutairi, Seham. Doctoral dissertation, Miami University, 2019. This study was conducted to understand the associations between specific parenting practices, education levels, and their impact on hot and cool executive function tasks in preschool children.The study also illuminated the unique cultural nuances that shape parenting styles and their subsequent impact on executive function skills in young children. Parental support, both elaborative and directive, was examined in the context of education levels, and their relationships with language development, hot (emotionally-driven) executive function, and cool (analytically-driven) executive function tasks were explored.

Key Takeaways From the Study:

Elaborative Parenting and Language Development

  • The results reveal a significant positive association between elaborative parenting support and increased language levels in children. This finding aligns with existing literature emphasizing the role of parental involvement in language development. Interestingly, the study found no significant interaction with education levels, indicating that the relationship between elaborative support and language is not influenced by parental education.

Elaborative Parenting and Executive Function Tasks:

  • When examining the impact of elaborative parenting on hot and cool executive function tasks, the study uncovered intriguing insights. While there was a significant association between elaborative support and cool executive function, the interaction with education levels became a crucial factor. The relationship between elaborative support and cool executive function was found to be a function of parent education level, emphasizing the interplay between parenting styles and educational backgrounds.

Directive Parenting and Language Development:

  • Contrastingly, directive parenting showed no significant main effect on language development in children. The study suggests that a more direct parenting style, characterized by regulations and corrections, does not contribute to an increase or decrease in language levels in preschoolers.

Directive Parenting and Executive Function Tasks:

  • The examination of directive parenting in the context of hot and cool executive function tasks provided intriguing results. While no significant main effect was observed, a simplified model revealed that directive parenting significantly predicted child performance in hot executive function tasks. The relationship, however, was not observed in cool executive function tasks.

Parenting Styles and Child Executive Function:

  • The study extended its focus to overall parenting styles, considering authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive approaches. Results indicated a positive linear relationship between authoritative parenting and hot executive function, highlighting the importance of a balanced and supportive parenting approach in fostering certain cognitive abilities. Conversely, authoritarian parenting showed a negative linear relationship with hot executive function, emphasizing the potential detrimental effects of a more controlling style. Additionally, permissive parenting displayed no significant association with hot executive function but revealed a negative linear relationship with cool executive function.

What Does the Study Tell Us?

  • Directiveness in parenting is negatively associated with child performance in hot executive function tasks.
  • Authoritative parenting positively correlates with child hot executive function.
  • Authoritarian parenting shows a negative correlation with child hot executive function.
  • Permissive parenting has a negative correlation with child cool executive function.
  • Elaborative parenting is positively associated with child language development.

 

Actionable Steps for Parents:

Put the study’s findings to work by using some of these strategies!

Understand Your Child’s EF Skill Level:  

  • Knowing your own EF strengths and weaknesses, as well as your parenting style, is crucial for planning skills-enhancing time with your child.
  • Read: Support Executive Function for tips on understanding your own EF level.

Balance directive practices:

 

  • Be mindful of offsetting directive parenting actions with plenty of praise and positive reinforcement. Scaffold new activities to help build your child’s confidence when faced with new tasks that target EF skills they struggle with.
  • Play: Walk the Line to practice scaffolding and modeling behaviors that exercise inhibitory control and focused attention.

Provide opportunities for independent decision-making:

 

  • Giving your child space to choose their activities strengthens thinking skills. Supporting autonomous behavior shows preschoolers that you acknowledge their perspective. What a confidence boost.
  • Read: Let Me Choose to deepen your understanding of autonomy-supportive caregiving.

Want to learn more about executive function skills? Take our free online course.

How does your child engage with nature in their day-to-day lives? Read our summary of a study that breaks down how playing in nature can help improve Executive Function!