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Study: 'Positive' parenting helpful with disabled children

A recent analysis of several past studies determined that parenting style has an influential effect on children with disabilities. Researchers determined that children with special needs exhibited greater independence, better language skills, stronger emotional expression and social interaction in response to "positive" parenting.

The researchers defined positive parenting as falling in between "permissive parenting" and "authoritarian parenting." They described permissive parents as those who accept behavior and are not demanding. On the other hand, authoritarian parents are more controlling over their children, the researchers said.

Positive parents were described as moms and dads who find a balance between letting their children be self-willed while still harboring expectations and discipline. The researchers pointed out that it can be very difficult for parents of disabled children to find this middle ground, but when they do, the children benefit greatly.

"When you think of parenting a child with a developmental disability, it might be more intuitive to be authoritarian and assume that the child can't figure out things alone. On the other hand, with a child who has autism, it may seem easier and less contentious to be more permissive with the child and thereby avoid conflict," said one of the researchers. "But there needs to be a balance. A child with a disability should not be subject to different rules in a family, nor be the center of a family."

The researchers concluded that a child's disability was more likely to decrease after time if the positive parenting approach was used. They based their conclusion on 14 studies that were conducted between 1990 and 2008, and focused on children with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

The analysis was published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities in November.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Parenting Style Has Big Impact On Kids With Disabilities," Michelle Diament, Nov. 16, 2013

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