Parenting style counts when it comes to shaping kids lives

NO ONE said being a parent was easy.

A recent survey by AMP.NATSEM estimated a middle income family will spend $812,000 to raise two children to the age of 24.

But forget the financial pressure. Let's talk about the emotional guilt.

Being a parent means leading by example and many people wonder if that example is helpful, or hurtful, to their children.

A new report that has come out of the Australian Temperament Project has found conclusive evidence that your style of parenting can indeed shape your children's lives and affect everything from alcohol use, to driving style and the development of anxiety issues.

The Australian Temperament Project is a joint initiative between the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Royal Children's Hospital, the University of Melbourne and Deakin University.

Begun 30 years ago, it has followed the development of a large group of Victorian children from their first year of life to their late twenties, and is now following their children.

Among the findings were that, in infancy/early childhood, difficult temperamental characteristics could lead to behavioural and emotional adjustment problems in early childhood and beyond.

However, researchers said temperament could be modified.

For example, shy infants were more likely to overcome their shyness if parents were warm, positive and understanding.

In primary school years, the seeds of many potentially long-term problems could be seen.

"Children with difficult temperament traits or emerging behaviour problems were particularly vulnerable to later difficulties," said researchers.

In adolescence, anxiety and depression were the most common problems.

These were aggravated by shyness, irritability and troubles with peers, with females more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Parents who could identify symptoms early on were most likely to be able to help their children before the problem became entrenched.

Better parent-child relationships and more encouragement in developing social skills were also important; so too were positive school experiences.

In early adulthood many young Australians were seen to engage in risky driving occasionally but those who did so more regularly were the ones who had developed higher rates of behavioural problems and had lower social skills, said researchers.

They were also more likely to engage in other risky behaviours, such as antisocial behaviour and drug use.

Again, parenting intervention at an early age could tilt the balance in favour of better temperamental tendencies.


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