How Parenting Influences Child Development: The Essential Facts

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They say: “A parent is a child’s first teacher.”, and experts couldn’t agree more.

More than being the first to teach the ABCs and 123s, parents play an essential role in shaping a child’s personality and overall development.

Take, for example, Pamela Druckerman’s experience in raising a child in Paris, which she documented in her book “Bringing Up Bébé”.

She details how French parenting produces more behaved, polite, and autonomous children than most American children.

You can get the key takeaways from this book on Blinkist, a subscription service that summarizes non-fiction titles.

Let’s learn how parenting influences child development and what you can do to ensure that your child grows happier, calmer, and well-behaved.

Parenting and Child Development

Scientists have long known that parenting influences child development.

After analyzing studies involving twins, researchers from Stanford University found mounting evidence that even though a child’s genetic makeup affects their behavioral characteristics, these are also influenced by how their parents treat them.

Let’s look at the ways in how parenting influences child development, according to science.

Love for Learning

Usually, when we think about learning and development, we think about schooling.

While it does expand a child’s horizon, learning doesn’t start in school. It starts at home.

A growing body of research suggests that parenting skills, coupled with a supportive learning environment at home, are positively associated with children’s early achievements.

Extensive research has also shown that students achieve more in school when their parents are involved in their education.

For example, countless reports suggest that:

  • The more intensively involved parents are, the greater the impact on their child’s academic achievements.
  • Parents’ encouragement and interest also affect their children’s behavior inside the classroom.
  • Reading at home significantly improves the child’s reading skills.

Social Development

Having a strong social skillset gives children an advantage over many things, from learning new things as a toddler to resisting peer pressure in their teenage years.

It also determines their approach to overcoming the challenges of adulthood.

That said, you should know that as a parent, you have the power to help your kids have a good start in life.

According to studies, the everyday interaction between parents and their children is fundamental to a child’s social development.

As such, parents provide children their very first opportunities to develop healthy relationships with others.

For example, during a baby’s first year of life, they develop bonds of love and trust with their parents.

The way parents play with, cuddle, and hold their babies, and even respond to their cries sets the tone for how these children will interact with them and others.

Of course, nurturing a child’s social skills doesn’t end in their toddler years.

As the child grows, the more that parenting becomes crucial to their developing skill set.

That’s because children learn to observe and imitate their parents’ behavior through the process of “modeling”.

That means they are most likely to deal with other people in the same manner that their parents do.

how parenting influences child development

Personality Development

Personalities are like fingerprints. There are no two personalities that are exactly alike.

While genes influence human behavior, the child’s upbringing plays a significant role too.

Countless reports suggest that different parenting styles impact the child’s personality development.

For example, children raised by permissive parents tend to grow up without a strong sense of self-discipline.

Meanwhile, those raised by authoritative parents are likely to become strong-willed adults who manage their emotions well.

Kids with authoritarian parents tend to elicit aggressive behavior outside the home, while children raised by uninvolved parents are likely to have a weak character.

Psychological Development

According to Jerome Kagan, one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology, parents influence the psychological development of children through at least three different ways:

  • Direct Interactions

These are the “everyday events” that involve rewarding desirable actions and punishing undesirable ones and how parents transfer knowledge to their children.

  • Emotional Identification

Interestingly, by the age of four to five, children have the unconscious belief that some of the attributes of their parents are part of their own repertoire.

For example, a child whose mom is afraid of storms is likely to assume that she’s also scared of storms.

On the other hand, a child raised by a relatively fearless mother will have a similarly fearless stance in life.

  • Family Stories

Some parents tell their children stories about family members or relatives who made significant accomplishments.

It motivates a child somehow, as it gives them a sense of pride for being biologically related to this important family member.

In particular, a child is likely to assume that they, too, possess some admirable characteristics that will help them become as successful as their aunts, uncles, or grandparents.

Father’s Involvement and Child’s Development

When we think of parenting and child development, we often picture a mom caring for her child.

However, scientific evidence suggests that dads play a big role in shaping a child’s behavior too.

Here’s what studies suggest about the role of an active father figure in child development:

  • Children whose fathers were actively involved throughout their first year of life perform better on cognitive assessments.
  • Supportive fathers have children who are likely to demonstrate higher self-esteem, happiness, and confidence.
  • Positive father-and-child relationships are linked to fewer behavioral and impulse control problems in children when they grow up.

Other Long-Term Influences of Parenting in Child Development

Parenting is a process by which we prepare our children for adulthood.

We nurture, guide, and protect our kids so they grow and develop in the best way they can.

Their ability to make decisions in life, overcome challenges that come with adulthood, and generally perceive life are all influenced by how we “parent” them today.

Let’s take a look at some other long-term influences of parenting in child development.


23-year study suggests that children raised by uninvolved parents have significantly lower self-esteem later in life.

Building a child’s self-esteem is an ongoing part of parenting, and it can be a challenging process.

Needless to say, children need their parent’s unconditional love and support.

When kids feel that they are important, they begin to feel confident and secure.

Mental Health

The impact of parenting on a child’s mental health extends beyond childhood.

Each time a child faces a difficult challenge while growing up, such as violence at home or a divorce, it takes a toll on them in various ways.

Psychologists call it Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Unfortunately, these experiences increase a child’s future risk of mental health problems like depression, aggression, and anxiety, among others.

In fact, according to the CDC, as many as 21 million cases of depression could have been prevented if children were shielded from adverse experiences.

However, psychologists also warn against “overparenting” which is limiting a child’s opportunity to deal with stressful and anxiety-driven situations.

Without learning to handle stressful situations properly, there’s a possibility that a growing child develops anxiety disorders down the road.

Decision Making

Parents serve as a significant influence on their children’s decision-making, especially when it comes to their career choices later in life.

When kids feel supported and loved by their parents, they gain more confidence to believe in their own ability to choose a career that would be exciting and interesting.

In terms of decision-making, some of the key influences parents have on their children are:

  • The expectations they set for their kids.
  • The values they show to their family and social circles.
  • The opportunities they provide for their children to learn and develop.
  • The kind of parent-child relationship they develop.

Book Recommendation: Bringing Up Bébé

The world of parenting is challenging to navigate.

Add the fact that their own personality, background, culture, and education can influence every person’s parenting approach.

This is where it makes sense to educate yourself about good parenting skills.

An excellent place to start is by reading Bringing Up Bébé written by American journalist Pamela Druckerman.

In this narrative, Druckerman explores why French kids are so well-behaved, leading her to discover unique parenting strategies that result in good little sleepers, healthy eaters, and “reasonably relaxed parents”.

You can get the most important insights from this book on Blinkist, which summarizes non-fiction titles for busy parents, individuals, and professionals.

More Parenting Resources on Blinkist

They say there are no “perfect” parents, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be “better” parents.

Parenting education promotes positive practices, such as using positive language, planned disciplines, and family routines scientifically proven to influence child development.

That said, the more you know about good parenting, the more you can encourage nurturing behavior in your children.

Blinkist, a premium book summary subscription service, gives you access to tons of resources, especially best-selling papers on parenting and related topics.

You can read as many parenting books as you can on this platform without spending days or weeks.

That also means no matter how busy you are, you’ll have no more excuse to read a book or two that can help expand your knowledge on parenting.

How Parenting Influences Child Development: Conclusion

Every parent wants to raise their children in a way that prepares them for a fulfilling, happy, and productive life in the future.

Mounting scientific evidence and well-researched books such as Bringing Up Bébé and others that you can find on Blinkist suggest that how parents interact with their children from infanthood to their growing years can have a lasting impact on their wellbeing.

There are many things parents can do to promote the social, personal, and psychological development of their children.

These include creating a safe, healthy, and supportive environment where children are encouraged to learn, make mistakes, and interact with others.

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