The Difficulties of Parenting and Childhood

If you give it some thought, you realize we go through two childhoods in our lives. The first childhood is ours, but the second is our children’s. Unfortunately, both stages of life are filled with perils. Unfortunately, the dangers are often the result of parenting style.

Children take for granted that their parents love them. If that love is apparent, children form secure attachments to both mother and father. This leads to an adulthood in which the man and woman approach the world with confidence and security. They form romantic relationships with someone from a significant other. These secure men and women also form long-term friendships, excellent and rewarding careers, and explore the world with a sense of wonder.

Tragically, not all parents are loving, not even mothers.

The Impact on Children of Chronic Arguing, Conflict and Authoritarianism in the Home.

According to the American Psychological Association, the definition of parenting is:

All actions related to the raising of offspring

Researchers describe different human parenting styles—how parents interact with their children—with most classifications varying on the dimensions of emotional and control.

One of the most influential of these classifications is that of U.S. developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, involving four types of parenting styles: 

1. authoritarian parenting, in which the parent or caregiver stresses obedience, deemphasizes collaboration and dialogue, and employs strong forms of punishment. 

2. authoritative parenting, in which the parent or caregiver encourages a child’s autonomy, still places certain behavioral limitations.

3. permissive parenting, the parent or caregiver accepts and makes few demands and avoids exercising control.

4. rejecting, neglecting is the unsupportive parent, who fails to monitor or limit behavior, and is more attentive to their needs than the child.

Attachment Styles in Greater Detail

Secure Attachment

A child who is securely attached to its mother will explore freely. In contrast, the mother is present, engages with strangers, is visibly upset when the mother departs and is happy to see the mother return.

Securely attached children are best able to explore when they know a secure base to return to in times of need. When assistance is given, this bolsters the sense of security. Also, assuming the mother is helpful, educate the child on coping with the same problem in the future. Therefore, secure Attachment can be seen as the most adaptive attachment style.

According to some psychological researchers, a child becomes securely attached when the mother is available and able to meet the child’s needs responsively and appropriately. However, others have pointed out that there are also other determinants of the child’s Attachment and that the parent’s behavior may, in turn, be influenced by the child’s behavior.

Anxious-ambivalent insecure Attachment

A child with an anxious-resistant attachment style is anxious about exploration and strangers, even when the mother is present. When the mother departs, the child is highly distressed. The child will be ambivalent when she returns, seeking to remain close to the mother but resentful and resistant when she initiates attention.

According to some psychological researchers, this style develops from a mothering style that is engaged but on the mother’s own terms. Sometimes the child’s needs are ignored until some other activity is completed. That attention is sometimes given to the child more through the parent’s needs than from the child’s initiation.

Anxious-avoidant insecure Attachment

A child with an anxious-avoidant attachment style will avoid or ignore the mother – showing little emotion when the mother departs or returns. The child will not explore very much regardless of who is there. Strangers will not be treated much differently from the mother. There is not much emotional range displayed irrespective of who is in the room or empty.

This style of Attachment develops from a mothering style that is more disengaged. As a result, the child’s needs are frequently not met, and the child believes that communication of needs has no influence on the mother.

Disorganized Attachment

A fourth category termed disorganized Attachment is the lack of a coherent style or pattern for coping. While ambivalent and avoidant styles are not totally effective, they are strategies for dealing with the world.

 Children with disorganized Attachment experienced their caregivers as either frightened or frightening. Human interactions are shared as erratic; thus, children cannot form a coherent interactive template. Suppose the child uses the caregiver as a mirror to understand the self. In that case, the disorganized child looks into a mirror broken into a thousand pieces. It is more severe than learned helplessness as it is the self-model rather than a situation.

How does each of the four attachment styles manifest in adults?

Anxious / Preoccupied

For adults with an anxious attachment style, the partner is often the ‘better half.’ The thought of living without a partner (or being alone in general) causes high anxiety levels. People with this type of Attachment typically have a negative self-image while positively viewing others.

The anxious adult often seeks approval, support, and responsiveness from their partner.

People with this attachment style value their relationships highly but are often anxious and worried that their loved one is not as invested in the relationship as they are intense fear of abandonment, and safety is a priority. The partner’s attention, care, and responsiveness appear to be the ‘remedy’ for anxiety.

On the other hand, the absence of support and intimacy can lead the anxious/preoccupied type to become more clinging and demanding, preoccupied with the relationship, and desperate for love.

Avoidant / Dismissive

The dismissing/avoidant type would often perceive themselves as ‘lone wolves: strong, independent, and self-sufficient; not necessarily in terms of physical contact, but instead on an emotional level.

These people have high self-esteem and a positive view of themselves.

The dismissing/avoidant type tends to believe that they don’t have to be in a relationship to feel complete. They do not want to depend on others, have others rely on them, or seek support and approval in social bonds.

Adults with this attachment style generally avoid emotional closeness. They also tend to hide or suppress their feelings when faced with a potentially emotion-dense situation.

Disorganized / Fearful-Avoidant

The disorganized type tends to show unstable and ambiguous behaviors in their social bonds. For adults with this style of Attachment, the partner and the relationship themselves are often the sources of desire and fear.

Fearful-avoidant people do want intimacy and closeness, but at the same time, experience troubles trusting and depending on others.

They do not regulate their emotions well and avoid strong emotional Attachment due to their fear of getting hurt.

Secure Attachment

The three attachment styles covered so far are insecure attachment styles.

They are characterized by difficulties with cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships. In contrast, the secure attachment style implies that a person is comfortable expressing emotions openly.

Adults with a secure attachment style can depend on their partners and, in turn, let their partners rely on them.

Relationships are based on honesty, tolerance, and emotional closeness.

The secure attachment type thrives in their relationships and doesn’t fear being on their own. They do not depend on the responsiveness or approval of their partners. They tend to have a favorable view of themselves and others.

The Dangers of Overprotective (helicopter) Parenting

Case Study:

Bob’s mother went to school to complain about the classes. She wanted more challenging courses and demanded his schedule be changed. She also complained about the time of day he would take lunch. His current plan meant that he would be eating too early in the day to suit his needs. She was most insistent in her attitude and would not take “no” for an answer. To make matters worse, she told him to send his laundry home every week so that she could do it for him, and she would send it back. Never mind that the dorm had plenty of facilities for the students to do their laundry.

Bob was highly embarrassed by his mother’s interference in his life for his part. He knew that he could see these issues himself and didn’t need her to come to school. He felt deep resentment because, once again, she was treating him like a disabled person, as though he was still a child.

Bob was nineteen years old, a freshman in college, and lived far away from home. She traveled a long way to come up to campus uninvited.

Bob’s mother was a helicopter parent.

During the early stages of life, babies and toddlers rely on their parents to do just about everything for them. However, the development process is such that, as the child grows and develops, they want to take on more tasks independently. Parents often hear the demand, “I can do that.” Perhaps the child cannot “do that” yet, but they want to try. 

The helicopter parent hovers over their child, not letting him learn by doing. The child is never out of her sight. He is never sent to the store to do some family shopping with a list of needed items. He is never allowed to take an after-school job delivering newspapers or working in the local supermarket. 

The helicopter parent impedes the child’s acquisition of skills of all kinds, social, academic, and working. She hovers over his social life and academic life. She discourages him from getting that after-school job that teenagers want extra cash. Most of all, this type of parent does not allow her youngster to learn from his mistakes.

Parental over-involvement can lead to adverse outcomes. Rick, now a 40-year-old man, was someone who could talk about that because his mother was this type of parent. He recounted how his mother, a loving, warm, and caring person, brought mothering to a new level of over parenting. As a result, when Rick went off to college, he was filled with anxiety. Rick did not have the type of anxiety most youngsters experience when about to leave home. Instead, Rick feared that he would not take care of himself. His mother even buttered his bread for him, resulting in fear for his ability to do something as basic as that. He describes himself as someone whose mother mollycoddled him from as far back as he could remember.

The point is that for adults like Rick, Bob, and others, over parenting harmed their sense of self-esteem. Adult children of helicopter parents are often depressed, anxious, and dependent. That last is no surprise since they are accustomed to relying on someone else to do everything for them. They also express less satisfaction with life because they do not feel independent. 

For those who emerged from these types of homes and want to regain their sense of self-confidence in navigating life, there is help. Psychotherapy helps people learn and acquire the necessary skills and self-confidence missing from their lives. That is what Bob and Rick did and with satisfying results.

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