A Comparison of How Home Life Effects Stress in College Students
Parenting styles were examined within college students in order to determine the effect they had on stress levels and how each related to the family situation. One hundred students (35% men and 65% women) participated in a survey that determined the parenting style that they had for most of their childhood, their family situation (intact vs. non-intact), and their stress levels. Results indicated that stress levels for students from an intact home were significantly lower than students from non-intact homes, and that stress levels for students with authoritarian parents were not significantly higher than those with authoritative parents. Therefore, students from intact homes seemed to be less stressed than people who came from non-intact homes.
Keywords: parenting style, authoritarian, authoritative
An enormous amount of research has been done on parenting styles over the years (e.g., Barton & Kirtley, 2012; Baumrind, 1991; Erden & Uredi, 2008; Kordi & Baharudin, 2010; Terry, 2004). Parents have a great effect on the entire life of a child. Today the American family might include families made up of divorced, single, or step parents and their children. With intact and non-intact families, it is essential to understand the effects on the life of a child in relation to their stress levels, which determines how they have learned to cope with stress and their risk for physical disease as stress increases (Uehara, Sakado, Sato, & Toshiyuki, 1999). Previous research states that parenting styles can affect a variety of factors including self-esteem, academic performance, and mental health. With stress being at its peak during college years, it is important to understand how parenting style and family situations affect future stress (Barton & Kirtley, 2012).
Parenting style is the term psychologists use to describe how parents rear their children through behavior, discipline, and methods used that influence children (Kordi & Baharudin, 2010). Baumrind was an important researcher who extensively studied parenting styles and helped psychologists learn more about them and how they can be so influential to children. Baumrind described parenting styles as a way to “capture normal variations in parent’s attempts to control and socialize their children” (Baumrind, as cited in Erden & Uredi, 2008, p. 25; Baumrind, as cited in Terry, 2004, p. 87). Parenting styles form within the first year or two of a child’s life based on how parents react to children and what has worked best for them with the child (Terry, 2004). Research shows that the overall parenting style is more influential for determining the child’s future conduct than the specific behaviors used (Terry, 2004).
Through Baumrind’s research, two characteristics of parenting styles were found: control or demandingness and responsiveness or child centerness (Baumrind, as cited in Klein, O’Bryant, & Hopkins, 1996). Parental responsiveness refers to the supportiveness and warmth that a child received, and demandingness deals with behavioral control (Terry, 2004). Baumrind further described demandingness as how parents include children into the family unit based on their maturity, supervision, and disciplinary styles and how well a parent can use confrontation when a child is disobedient (Baumrind, 1991). Responsiveness includes the parent’s ability to specifically strive to nurture individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion through parental support for the children’s distinct needs (Baumrind, 1991; Lazar, Gutmann, & Abas, 2009).
Baumrind created the three parenting styles commonly used today from those traits: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative (Baumrind, as cited in Buri, 1991). A simple definition of each could be described as follows: permissive parents are low with control and high in responsiveness; authoritarian parents are high in control and low in responsiveness; and authoritative parents are high in control and responsiveness (Klein et al., 1996). Overall, the level of parental control and the reason for the control influences the parenting style (Blondin & Cochran, 2011). Parental control in extreme forms can include overregulation, dictatorial decisions, and imposing parental beliefs all of which allow parents to demonstrate their power (Lazar et al., 2009).
Parenting style affects the development of children’s conduct and characteristics (Blondin & Cochran, 2011). The three parenting styles can predict a child’s outcome including social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, problem behavior (Terry, 2004), optimism, confidence, motivation, and attention problems (Kordi & Baharudin, 2010). Parenting styles largely influence cognitive development and social competence (Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987). In general authoritative parenting is associated with positive outcomes, while authoritarian and permissive parents correlate to poorly adjusted children including low academic grades and low self-esteem (Terry, 2004). However, the information of parenting styles across different cultures is inconsistent and may not be the same as American culture. While more research is needed, Asian parents mainly show features of authoritarian parenting and seem to lack other styles (Kordi & Baharudin, 2010).
Permissive parents are those categorized by making fewer demands of their children, allowing the children to regulate their behavior, not controlling much, and using minimal amounts of punishment (Buri, 1991). Furthermore, they are tolerant and accepting of the children’s impulses and do not demand mature behavior in the process toward self-regulation (Dornbusch et al., 1987). They can be exceptionally lenient and immediately take care of a child’s needs and requests (Svenkerud, 2008). Most often the children of these parents are immature creating problems in life. Preschool children with permissive parents were found to be immature, lacking impulse control and self-reliance, and lacking social responsibility and independence (Dornbusch et al., 1987).
Authoritarian parents tend to be demanding and directive but are not responsive to a child’s needs (Baumrind, 1991). They may often exercise authority and control by demanding unquestioning obedience, are detached and express little warmth, discourage verbal give-and-take, and use corrective disciplinary styles for control (Buri, 1991). Obedience is of upmost importance along with status (Baumrind, 1991). There is no room for questions with their strict ground rules, carefully arranged environment, and watchful monitoring of behavior (Baumrind, 1991). It is important to note that not all directive or traditional parents would be classified as authoritarian (Baumrind, 1991). The goal of an authoritarian parent is to shape, control, and evaluate behavior compared with their standards of demanding obedience, respecting authority, and keeping order (Dornbusch et al., 1987). High demands, control, and expectations may be a part of the reason parents tend to be bitter or unresponsive toward children (Svenkerud, 2008). Children of authoritarian parents often lack independence and social responsibility (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Overprotective, authoritarian parenting styles often lead to children who are dependent, which produces problems such as depression, alcohol use and dependence, tobacco dependence, obesity, and eating disorders, and a negative self-concept (Blondin & Cochran, 2011).
Authoritative parents are classified as the healthiest parenting style and are between the other two extremes of parenting styles (Buri, 1991). They are demanding and responsive, assertive but not intrusive or restrictive, as well as monitoring their children and giving clear standards (Baumrind, 1991). Traits include providing clear and firm direction, expecting mature behavior, offering definitive enforcement of rules, using commands, and keeping discipline (Buri, 1991; Dornbusch et al., 1987). Discipline is aimed at affording clarity and being supportive with warmth, reason, flexibility, and verbal give-and-take (Baumrind, 1991; Buri, 1991). There is also a large amount of encouragement for independence and individuality, open communication, and recognition of the rights of both parents and children (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Parents want their children to develop and become socially responsible, self-regulated, cooperative, and assertive (Baumrind, 1991).
Baumrind’s research indicates that children who experience authoritative parenting tend to be socially responsible, assertive, competent, and display self-control, resulting in less problematic behaviors (Baumrind, as cited in Svenkerud, 2008). This parenting style is correlated with positive behavioral outcomes including increased competence, autonomy, high self-esteem, better problem solving skills, better academic performance, more self-reliance, less deviance, and better peer relations (Erden & Uredi, 2008; Terry, 2004). It also has an influence on psychological maturity, which often helps children perform better in school (Kordi & Baharudin, 2010). Authoritative styles normally lead to positive results such as children with secure attachments and positive self-concepts (Blondin & Cochran, 2011). These styles are positively correlated to children’s confidence, and often are negatively related to insecurities and adult stressors (Blondin & Cochran, 2011). In general, children can develop better emotionally, socially, and academically (Lazar et at., 2009).
Parenting Styles and Self-Worth
Parenting styles have been found influential when determining the self-perceptions adults have of themselves (Klein et al., 1996). There is a correlation to positive self-perception and authoritative parenting styles (Klein et al., 1996). When each parent was reviewed for parenting styles, children who normally viewed their mothers as authoritative recalled the same style for their fathers (Klein et al., 1996). Overall, fathers were seen as more authoritarian and less authoritative, but there was no significant different between parents for permissiveness (Klein et al., 1996).
Self-esteem was positively correlated with recalled authoritative parenting (Svenkerud, 2008). Both parents with authoritarian styles had negative correlations to self-worth, authoritative parents had a positive relationship to self-worth, and permissive parenting had a positive relationship to self-worth only with fathers (Klein et al., 1996). In general, authoritative parenting had positive correlations with self-perceptions while authoritarian parenting had negative correlations (Klein et al., 1996). When adolescents had parents who were unresponsive, they normally had lower self-perceptions of themselves in comparison to those who had parents who were responsive and showed self-determination (Klein et al., 1996).
Supportive parenting is positively correlated to high levels of children’s self-esteem and behavior regulation (Erden & Uredi, 2008). Strict rules where too much control is forced on children can have a negative impact on their self-esteem, as they were unable to learn to take care of themselves, which can also effect self-regulation and produce anxiety (Erden & Uredi, 2008).
With its close ties to self-esteem, eating disorders can arise due in part to parenting styles (Tata, Fox, & Cooper, 2001). Overprotection and poor parent child interactions are associated with low body satisfaction and eating disorders for girls and women (Tata et al., 2001). Overprotection significantly affects development of body satisfaction for children more than parental care plays a part (Tata et al., 2001).
Parenting Styles and Gender
There have been interesting differences found between the gender of the child and the parent. Women are more positively affected by parenting styles than men (Dallaire, Pineda, Cole, Ciesla, Jacquez, LaGrange, & Bruce, 2006; Klein et al., 1996). However, women were more affected by the parenting style of their mothers and sons were more affected by their father (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). Mothers also interact differently with their children based on gender and age having the greatest impact on girls in late adolescence (Alsheikh, Parameswaran, & Elhoweris, 2010; Barton & Kirtley, 2012). Those with authoritative parents were highly developed in social and cognitive competence (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Girls with authoritative parents were more independent and socially responsible, while boys showed no difference from other children (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Women reported a lower level of authoritarian parenting; older children had higher permissive parenting; and authoritarian styles decreased as age of the child increased (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Authoritative styles for the mother can even have a negative effect on a father’s parenting style (Barton & Kirtley, 2012).
Parenting Styles and Depressive Features
Parenting styles had an affect on depressive features in children. They affected the dysfunctional attitude of the child rather than their cognitions (Randolph & Dykman, 1998). Researchers found it was important to examine the family structure of depressed children because most children with major depressive disorder have experienced symptoms by age fourteen (Dallaire et al, 2006). Along with parenting styles, stressful events, and negative parental feedback also played a role in depressed children (Cole, Ciesla, Dallaire, Jacquez, Pineda, LaGrange, Truss, Folmer, Tilghman-Osborne, & Felton, 2008). Children, particularly up to age seven, may believe that negative traits could become more positive over time; however, as they get older children often believe that the attitudes of others are the same as their own (Cole et al., 2008). During a stressful time, parental interactions predicted an alteration in depressive symptoms of children (Cole et al., 2008). The depressed child could negatively view the way they were cared for, which created a worse perceived parenting style than actually took place (Randolph & Dykman, 1998). Depressed children often viewed their parents as weak in care, support, affection, and forcing authority too much (Randolph & Dykman, 1998).
Beck posited a theory of how negative parenting styles could lead to creating a dysfunctional attitude for children which left them susceptible for depression (Beck, as cited in Randolph & Dykman, 1998). Within depressed children, fathers were perceived to demand perfection more often, to be more critical, and to be less caring than mothers who were viewed as more overprotective (Randolph & Dykman, 1998). While mother and father scores for parenting styles were sometimes collected individually, when predicting dysfunctional attitudes, combining scores was more accurate (Randolph & Dykman, 1998). When parents were restrictive, girls often developed self-critical attitudes rather than aggressive attitudes (Randolph & Dykman, 1998). Low levels of support and high levels of negative parenting related to high rates of depressive symptoms (Dallaire et al, 2006). It was found that when mothers gave off negative emotions, children would internalize their programs creating a greater risk for depression; however, there was no correlation between children’s positive emotions when mothers displayed positive emotions (Eisenberg, as cited in Dallaire et al, 2006). Authoritative parents reported much less depressive symptoms than for children of authoritarian parents (Dallaire et al, 2006).
Parenting Styles and Attribution Styles
Attribution style or how a person thinks cognitively has been found to relate to parenting styles and other negative life situations; children who have a more pessimistic idea about life are more often affected by negative life events (Rueger & Malecki, 2011). The bigger influence a parent has in providing support to a child, the greater the likelihood that they will have lower levels of depression by the time they reach adolescence, which may act as a mediator between stress and the child’s attribution style (Rueger & Malecki, 2011). Social support has been found to help people physically and psychologically even through negative times and may protect against depressive symptoms (Rueger & Malecki, 2011). Not all studies agree, but there has been some evidence that supported ideas that parents only helped with lowering depression for girls (Rueger & Malecki, 2011). There was a correlation between the attribution styles of children and parental support on the level of depressive symptoms, mainly for boys who had a pessimistic attitude and were under great stress (Rueger & Malecki, 2011). Girls benefitted positively from parental support regardless of the amount of stress they were facing, which may be important because at a young age children do not have the skills to think adaptively when dealing with negative situations (Rueger & Malecki, 2011).
Parenting Styles and Academic Performance
Parenting styles also can affect adolescent school performance (Dornbusch et al., 1987). For instance, authoritative parenting styles related to high academic achievements, but authoritarian and permissive styles related to lower grades (Kordi & Baharudin, 2010). The two styles that impacted grades negatively suggest that demandingness had the most effect on GPA scores (Alsheikh et al., 2010). Along with parenting styles, family cohesion was also positively related to school performance (Alsheikh et al., 2010). In addition, parents, who had high expectations for their children, had children who achieved better in school (Alsheikh et al., 2010). Children with higher levels of education were more likely to have had an authoritative parenting style (Dornbusch et al., 1987).
Parenting styles influenced self-regulated learning strategies and helped with school achievement (Erden & Uredi, 2008). Students with authoritative parents used more self-regulated learning strategies than other parenting styles (Erden & Uredi, 2008). By responsively creating an environment where individuality can thrive, authoritative styles helped children learn to use self-regulated learning methods (Erden & Uredi, 2008). Self-esteem of children was related to how children adapt self-regulated strategies, and because strict behavior may decrease self-esteem, it was important that parents had authoritative tendencies, and they were accepting of psychological independence for children (Erden & Uredi, 2008). Authoritative parenting styles helped produce children who were more self-efficient and had less test anxiety (Erden & Uredi, 2008).
Parenting Styles and College Adjustment
There was a positive relationship between perceived parenting styles and psychological behaviors or acting out in college (Terry, 2004). College students today experience a high amount of stress with one study suggesting 53 percent having some form of depression (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). It was believed that parenting styles related to college adjustment: authoritative styles predicted better adjustment and less depression, authoritarian styles related to anxiety and depression for women, and permissive styles led to less anxiety and depression (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). Most researchers agree that the parenting style of the mother played a stronger connection to the child’s future outcome (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). College women who had authoritarian or permissive mothers often were impulsive and had drinking problems, and permissive mothers were positively correlated to a sense of privilege among children (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). However, permissive fathers affected their son’s impulsive and alcoholic behavior, and authoritative styles were negatively correlated to the same actions (Barton & Kirtley, 2012). Stress and anxiety were found to be medians between parenting styles; thus, a negative parenting style brought out more negative emotions for children and later in life (Barton & Kirtley, 2012).
Parenting Styles and Family Type
American families today are no longer determined through the traditional two-parent system and instead are often mixed with parental separation, divorce, single-parent homes, stepparents, and blended families (Barber & Eccles, 1992). Family types differed by status (divorced or intact), and family status affected development and functioning (Baumrind, 1991). In 1992, the rates assumed that over 50 percent of children born in the 1980s will live with one parent for a year rather than with both, and 35 percent will live with a stepparent for at least part of their life (Barber & Eccles, 1992). It is often thought that children from non-intact homes have parents with negative parenting styles and end up with several behavioral problems. Some research suggested the truth of these statements. Girls from intact families were often more social and had less problems and drug use than children of single parents or stepfamilies (Baumrind, 1991). Adolescents from single-family homes did use more drugs than their peers from intact families (Baumrind, 1991). By a large majority, single families were less demanding and not as engaged in their children’s lives (Baumrind, 1991). Boys from single authoritarian parent homes were less cognitively competent than peers (Barber & Eccles, 1992; Baumrind, 1991). Girls from intact homes used less drugs and were better at not internalizing their problems (Baumrind, 1991). Authoritarian parenting styles were negatively related to physical aggression in children (Svenkerud, 2008).
Despite studies that focus on overwhelming problems for children on non-intact families, the differences between divorced and two-parent families are small and tend to decrease over time as stressors such as income, occupation, or parental conflict are controlled (Barber & Eccles, 1992). Children from single families are as competent as their peers from intact homes (Baumrind, 1991). The problems of divorce appeared to not be inevitable and can be prevented with the smoothest transition possible (Baumrind, 1991). The parenting style of the parent regardless of their marital status may be more important; children from intact, unengaged homes were as competent as their peers from single homes (Baumrind, 1991). One study holds that the differences a few years after divorce were not significant (Baumrind, 1991). Beside the short time after divorce that causes stress and conflict, most children from divorced families continue to function normally (Barber & Eccles, 1992). Some research indicates children of non-intact families had low levels of self-esteem and competence, but it appeared that these differences declined (Barber & Eccles, 1992). There are small differences between the children of different family situations, but they often disappear after confounds are controlled (Barber & Eccles, 1992).
Parenting Style, non-intact Family Situations, and Adjustment
Parental authority can be defined as the ability for the parent to force children into certain behavior because it is judged to be to their benefit (Lazar et at., 2009). Within normal two parent homes, authority is considered necessary, but today parents can be hesitant to demonstrate their authority, which changes the structure of the parent child relationship, and children begin to question authority (Lazar et at., 2009). Divorce is a key reason that the structure changed, and divorced mothers often exert authority less than married mothers (Lazar et at., 2009). With degraded boundaries after divorce, single mothers often shared financial and personal concerns and anger and complaints about the ex-husband to their children (Lazar et at., 2009). Research showed a positive relationship between authoritative parenting styles and the adjustment of children from intact families (Lazar et at., 2009). Sharing too much with children sometimes results in the children suffering social and psychological difficulties, which made the adjustment even more problematic (Lazar et at., 2009). Married mothers who are also deemed authority-prone had difficulties with their children’s social adjustment, while divorced mothers had children who have more personal problems than their married counterparts (Lazar et at., 2009). Part of the reasons may stem from the need for children to have their mothers and for them to be attentive and supportive to their needs, but authority-prone mothers are unable to provide these desires leaving the children feeling psychologically abandoned (Lazar et at., 2009).
With parents who exhibit authoritarian styles, parents are more restrictive, less supportive, and had more difficulties with their relationship with their spouses and children (Baumrind, 1991). Authoritative parenting styles tend to relate to a higher level of family cohesion (Terry, 2004). One particular study found reports for children who 47% were from married parents, 27% had parents who were never married, and 26% had parents that were divorced (Dallaire et al, 2006). This study reports that negative parenting styles were related to depressive symptoms in their children (Dallaire et al, 2006). Single mothers and single fathers individually tended to demonstrate higher levels of permissive parenting (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Single mothers were specifically less authoritarian for boys, and single fathers were less authoritarian for girls and less authoritative for boys (Dornbusch et al., 1987). Stepfamilies tended to be more authoritarian, more permissive, and, for boys only, less authoritative (Dornbusch et al., 1987).
Stressful life events are thought to affect potential for disease as a person feels overwhelmed by the stress and when it is more than they can handle (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Stress can be important to understand because it can help with risk for behavioral disorders or disease (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983). Negative feelings can also influence the physical problems stress can cause, which influence psychological problems (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Objectivity of stress can be difficult because it is often determined by perceptions of stressfulness for individual people (Cohen et al., 1983). Stress occurs when an event is believed to be threatening or demanding or there are inadequate resources to allow for a person to effectively cope with the situation (Cohen et al., 1983). It can also be influenced by personal factors of the event (Cohen et al., 1983).
High stress levels are associated with high biological age, high cortisol levels, higher susceptibility for disease because immune functioning decreases, slow wound healing, and poor health practices including few hours of sleep, not eating breakfast, and drinking more alcohol (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Stress may also put people at greater risk for depression, cardiovascular disease, upper respiratory infections, autoimmune diseases, and earlier death (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Stress is found to be higher for women than men, young adults, and those from low socioeconomic status (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Stress increased as age, education, and income decreased (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012). Older adults or those who were retired also reported less stress, which may be because they perceived events as less stressful, and they have learned better coping strategies (Cohen & Janicki-Deverts, 2012).
Parenting Styles and Stress
Parenting styles greatly influence children’s psychology tendencies and can even predict future adult stressors (Blondin & Cochran, 2011). They can further affect children’s ability to cope with stress (Uehara et al., 1999). Low care from the mother and practices of overprotectiveness were variables that can predict emotion-oriented coping strategies and were correlated to depression (Uehara et al., 1999). Coping is defined as “the cognitive or behavioural reaction to stressful situations or difficulties in order to reduce the effects of stress” (Uehara et al., 1999, p. 197). Dysfunctional parenting leading to stress coping seems to link parenting styles to depressive disorders or psychological stress after a child becomes an adult (Uehara et al., 1999).
The purpose of the study was to compare how parenting styles along with the family situation correlated to stress in college students. The present study had three hypotheses. First, if students perceived their parents to have had a negative parenting style (e.g., authoritarian) when they were children, then they will be more stressed than students of more positive parenting styles (e.g., authoritative). Second, students from non-intact families will be more stressed than students of intact families. Finally, students from non-intact families will have had different parenting styles than students from intact families.
The samples of participants were volunteer students from a small, private, midwestern university. One hundred students participated in the survey. Classrooms were chosen based on availability and the number of students in a class. Surveys were given in the classrooms if the students were willing to take it. The study included 35 men and 63 women and two did not respond. Eighty-two participants were aged 18-21, 14 were aged 22-28, three were 29-40, and one did not respond. There were 45 students whose parents were married, 16 had divorced parents, one had parents who were separated, 37 had parents that were never married, and one did not respond. Participants were a part of four different classrooms with a range of majors and years in school. “Data were collected in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association” (American Psychological Association, 2010).
A survey was used to collect data that were adapted from two normed and validated measures. Demographic information and two questions asking about the nature of the family type (i.e., divorced parents, reared by another relative) were included in the survey.
Parental Authority Questionnaire. Buri developed the Parental Authority Questionnaire in 1991. It is composed of thirty questions with ten relating to each parenting style that Baumrind described: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. Participants rated how well they agree or disagree with the statements based on a five-point likert scale with one being “strongly disagree” and five being “strongly agree.”
Buri’s Parental Authority Questionnaire and others have validated the three parenting styles proposed by Baumrind (Buri, 1991). The Parental Authority Questionnaire was narrowed down from 48 questions when a panel rated each question to see how well it fit the parenting style, and the thirty questions that were agreed upon were used (Buri, 1991). Other groups that took the survey over two-weeks helped validate the survey (Buri, 1991). The reliability of the survey as well as its relation to my topic is why I chose this survey to use. It is important to note that the survey was normed using a sample of subjects from intact families (Buri, 1991). Here creates the interest of parenting styles in non-intact families and how they can affect people.
Perceived Stress Scale. Cohen developed the Perceived Stress Scale in 1983. It contains fourteen questions that ask about levels of stress. Participants rated how often they felt uneasy about a particular topic relating to stress in the last month. For instance, one questions asks, “In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” (Cohen, 1983). The scale used was a five-point likert scale with one being “never” and five being “very often.”
The researcher went into a classroom or talked to a group of students in the residence halls. Participants were explained to that the survey was voluntary but that it would aid research for a class. Participants were given the survey to complete their responses. They circled responses on the survey. When they were finished, the surveys were collected. The participants were debriefed and thanked for their time.
The three hypotheses were tested statistically to find out if the data were supported. The first hypothesis was that if students perceived their parents to have had a negative parenting style (e.g., authoritarian) when they were children, then they will be more stressed than students of more positive parenting styles (e.g., authoritative). In order to test this hypothesis, an independent samples t-test was performed between stress and the authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles. The independent samples t-test analysis comparing stress level for students with authoritarian or authoritative parenting styles indicated that the authoritarian parenting styles (M=40.13, SD=9.11) were not significantly higher than the students from authoritative parenting styles (M=37.35, SD=8.26), t (89) = 1.468, p = 0.073. In other words, students with negative parenting styles were not more stressed than students who had positive parenting styles.
Next, the second hypothesis stated that students from non-intact families would be more stressed than students from intact families. Another independent samples test was performed. The independent samples t-test analysis comparing student stress levels to if the students came from intact or non-intact homes indicated that stress levels of students from intact home (M=36.62, SD=8.71) were significantly lower than students from non-intact home (M=39.91, SD=8.12), t (97) = -1.939, p = 0.0275. In other words, the students from intact homes were more stressed than students from non-intact homes.
Finally, the last hypothesis held that students from non-intact families would have had different parenting styles from students from intact families. The independent samples t-test analysis comparing authoritarian parenting styles to if the students came from intact or non-intact homes indicated that intact family students (M=32.12, SD=7.26) were not significantly different than students from non-intact home (M=34.08, SD=6.41), t (90) = -1.372, p = 0.174. The independent samples t-test analysis comparing authoritative parenting styles to if the students came from intact or non-intact homes indicated that intact family students (M=36.53, SD=5.83) were not significantly different than students from non-intact home (M=35.67, SD=7.61), t (93) = 0.609, p = 0.544. In other words, no parenting style was affected or different based on if the home was intact or non-intact. In addition, the independent samples t-test analysis comparing stress levels for men and women indicated that women (M=39.52, SD=9.25) were significantly higher than men (M=36.54, SD=6.81), t (96) = -1.670, p = 0.049. Thus, women were found to be more stressed than men.
The first hypothesis was that if students perceived their parents to have had a negative parenting style (e.g., authoritarian) when they were children, then they will be more stressed than students of more positive parenting styles (e.g., authoritative), and it was not supported. The independent sample t-test showed that there was not a significant difference between stress levels of students from authoritarian or authoritative parents, nor that the stress levels of those from authoritarian parents were significantly higher than authoritative parents. However, students from authoritarian parents were more stressed than those of authoritative parents, but at a significance level of 0.07, it was not significant. It is possible that with a larger sample size better results could have been found. From these results it can be concluded that parenting style does have an effect on stress levels, but it may not be as significant as one may assume. It would be beneficial to show parents how to become aware of their parenting styles or even to teach them positive parenting styles in order to further decrease stress in the future.
The hypothesis that students from non-intact families will be more stressed was supported. The independent sample t-test demonstrated that students who came from an intact family were less stressed than those from a non-intact family. These findings may have an effect on the way that families structure their household. It may be possible that families with step and single parents can provide positive, clear boundaries that help keep the family intact even without a traditional idea of family.
Finally, the hypothesis that students from non-intact families will have had different parenting styles from students from intact families was not supported. Students from intact families did not have a significantly different parenting style than students from non-intact families. These findings suggest that the structure of the family does not change the parenting style, and a non-intact home will have no affect on creating a negative parenting style. Further findings showed that women have higher levels of stress than men. These results are consistent with previous research and may mean that women are more affected by a negative parenting style because they are already more stressed than men.
There were several limitations within the present study. For instance, the sample size was small, from a private university, and was from a convenient sample. With so many students from nearly the same age group and similar regional areas, it is difficult to generalize any of the results. Also, there were a very limited number of participants who experienced a permissive parenting style. With a lack of representation from the permissive parenting style, it is impossible to make any generalization about it or compare it with the authoritarian and authoritative styles. In addition, the survey questions used to interpret whether the student came from a home that was intact or non-intact were unclear making the determinations inaccurate. Some homes may have been classified incorrectly, which would have altered the results.
Further research should be performed on parenting styles in relation to family structure in terms of intact or non-intact. Family structure could possibly even determine a parenting style that has not been observed previously when all homes consisted of one mother and one father. The way in which the family structure and parenting styles relate to the stress levels of students in the future may help determine how to better teach parents the skills they need to help their children. It may be possible that with effective strategies parents can counteract the effects of a non-intact home by using more effective parenting styles or other techniques not previously researched.
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