Parenting Children of Different Ages: Adjusting Child Rearing Practices

Renee M Shamah, Pace University


There are many developmental theories positing that individuals' needs change as they grow and develop. There are also many parenting theories that focus on which parenting behaviors tend to promote optimal developmental outcomes in children. Still, few parenting theories are sensitive to children's ages and how parenting might adjust to accommodate children's developmental needs. This study examines changes in parenting behaviors in relation to children's age appropriate developmental needs. Respondents in this study include 302 subject matter experts (SMEs) who completed a modified version of the Parent Behavior Importance Questionnaire-Revised (PBIQ-R). The modified PBIQ-R elicits respondents' opinions about the importance of various parenting behaviors for six child age groups that range from infancy through adulthood; the PBIQ-R parenting behaviors correspond to six positive parent role characteristics including bonding, discipline, education, general welfare and protection, responsivity, and sensitivity, as well as one negative parent role characteristic. Results from this study indicate that the modified PBIQ-R is a reliable and valid measure with small subgroup response differences based on demographic variables. Results support that parenting behaviors change in importance across the lifespan of children. Regarding the positive parent role characteristics, importance ratings initially increase (i.e., infant/toddler to preschooler child age groups), then either increase (i.e., discipline, education), decrease (i.e., bonding, responsivity, sensitivity), or remain constant (i.e., general welfare and protection) for elementary school-aged children, and subsequently decrease across the remaining child age groups (i.e., adolescent, late adolescent, adult). Regarding the negative parent role characteristic, although importance ratings remain low across developmental levels, the negative parenting behaviors significantly decrease in importance as children age. Results from this study also reveal that for each child age group (e.g., infant/toddler, preschooler), some parent role characteristics are significantly more important than others. The bonding, responsivity, and sensitivity parent role characteristics are generally most important for all child age groups while the discipline parent role characteristic is the least important positive parent role characteristic for all child age groups. The general welfare and protection and education parent role characteristics change in their relative importance to the other parent role characteristics based on the child's age group; they are more important for younger child age groups than for older child age groups. Results from this study may inform practitioners and assist their work with parents. More specifically, practitioners who work with parents (e.g., family therapists, school psychologists) might educate parents on the importance of different parenting behaviors based on children's age as well as how parents might adjust parenting practices to accommodate children's developmental changes and needs. This is especially pertinent for parents of late adolescent and adult aged children as results from the study indicate parenting behaviors continue to be important through adulthood. Findings from the present study can also be used to develop parent training materials. Future research might establish the PBIQ-R as an assessment measure of parenting which can be used by practitioners to identify areas of intervention in terms of parenting behaviors.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Individual & family studies

Recommended Citation

Shamah, Renee M, "Parenting Children of Different Ages: Adjusting Child Rearing Practices" (2011). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3451585.



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