RATIONALE FOR AN ECOLOGIC APPROACH
This conference brings me back full circle to where I started my academic career in the mid-1960s studying the effects of different child-rearing styles on the behavior and development of children. At that time I was interested in the studies of Lewin et al1 that demonstrated how different leadership styles affect child behavior in groups. I used that model to develop an interview method for identifying different approaches to child rearing by having mothers describe how they handled many common rearing situations with young children.2 Those mothers who made frequent use of unmodified directives and physical and/or psychological punishment for noncompliance were identified as authoritarian and those who responded with reasoning and more flexible approaches to discipline, such as using distraction and time out, were identified as accommodative.3 I was interested to see whether pediatricians could identify high-risk styles that would be harmful to children and then work with the parents to change those styles. This led me to develop a longitudinal study that followed a group of 135 2-year-olds experiencing different parenting styles into first grade.4 The parents of these children were recruited from two suburban pediatric group practices. The first observation we made was that even with this middle class population it was difficult to find an adequate sample of parents of 2-year-olds who did not use a lot of unmodified directives and spanking. We did, after considerable effort, find a suitable contrast group in a highly educated subsample of the population. As for corporal punishment, the parents using an authoritarian style generally reported using physical punishment once a day or more to control behavior and those with an accommodative style once a week or less.
- Copyright © 1996 by the American Academy of Pediatrics