Parenting comprises all the tasks involved in raising a child to an independent adult. Parenting begins even before the child is born or adopted and may last until the death of the parent or child. Parenting is a part of the relationship within a family.
Aspects of parenting
- Physical care:
- Social development and emotional support:
Parenting practices are highly dependent on culture. For example, in Canada and the USA children live at home until late adolescence or early adulthood, and during this time are expected to leave home for college or work to support themselves. In some Asian countries, such as China, children live at home until they are married, a practice that is also common in European countries such as Greece or Portugal.
Other cross cultural differences are evident in decisions pertaining to circumcision. The parents' decision to have a child circumcised is more common in some societies than others. In the United States, where many male babies are routinely circumcised, parents make that decision independently, and obstetric and pediatric professionals will usually follow the parents' decision. In Jewish and Muslim communities, circumcision is part of most interpretations of religious doctrine.
Parenting may involve praise but also punishment, for instance putting a child over the knee for a spanking. The term "child training" implies a specific type of parenting that focuses on holistic understanding of the child. The "Taking Children Seriously" philosophy sees both praise and punishment as manipulative and harmful to the child and seeks other way to reach agreement with them. The term "attachment parenting" seeks to create strong emotional bonds and avoid physical punishment, with discipline being accommodated by interactions with a child's emotional needs.
Pregnancy and the early years
During pregnancy the unborn child is affected by many decisions his or her parents make, particularly choices linked to their lifestyle. The health and diet decisions of the mother can have either a positive or negative impact on the child.
Specific care includes:
- providing food and drinks, and in the case of small children, the process of feeding or helping with that;
- providing a toilet and facilities for washing, and in the case of small children, the washing itself or helping with that, and providing diapers or helping using the toilet;
- providing clothing, and in the case of small children, putting the clothes on and taking them off or helping with that;
Parents may receive assistance from a variety of individuals and organizations. Employers may offer specific benefits or programs for parents.
Benjamin Spock was an authority on parenting to a generation of North American parents. A current authority is T. Berry Brazelton, the founder of the Child Development Unit at Children's Hospital, Boston, and Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School.
There are several parent self-report measures that have been developed for use by clinicans and researchers to assess parenting, such as the Parenting Stress Index (PSI; Abidin, 1995) and Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI; Bavolek, 1984). Parenting measures can also be observational, such as the Parent-Child Interaction Assessment-II (PCIA-II; Holigrocki, Kaminski, & Frieswyk, 1999).
Abidin, R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index: Professional Manual. 3rd Ed. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
Bavolek, S. J. (1984). Handbook for the Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory. Eau Claire, Wisconsin: Family Development Associates, Inc.
Holigrocki, R. J, Kaminski, P. L., & Frieswyk, S. H. (1999). Introduction to the Parent-Child Interaction Assessment. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 63(3), 413-428.