Study describes analyzes 4 parenting types

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Russ Jones (

The University of Virginia has released a new study that evaluates differing parenting types. The study, notes Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, not only looks at what parents believe, but what they model to their children.

Four types of family cultures - the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and the American Dreamers - are molding the next generation of Americans, as a three-year study by the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture finds.

The Faithful

The Faithful (20% of American parents) adhere to a divine and timeless morality, handed down through Christianity, Judaism or Islam, giving them a strong sense of right and wrong. Understanding human nature as "basically sinful" and seeing moral decline in the larger society, including in the public schools, the Faithful seek to defend and multiply the traditional social and moral order by creating it within their homes and instilling it in their children, with support from their church community. Raising "children whose lives reflect God's purpose" is a more important parenting goal than their children's eventual happiness or career success.

Engaged Progressives

For Engaged Progressives (21% of parents), morality centers around personal freedom and responsibility. Having sidelined God as morality's author, Engaged Progressives see few moral absolutes beyond the Golden Rule. They value honesty, are skeptical about religion and are often guided morally by their own personal experience or what "feels right" to them. Politically liberal and the least religious of all family types, they are generally optimistic about today's culture and their children's prospects. Aiming to train their children to be "responsible choosers," Engaged Progressives strategically allow their children freedom at younger ages than other parents. By age 14, their children have complete information about birth control, by 15 they are surfing the Internet without adult supervision, and by age 16 they are watching R-rated movies.

The Detached

The parenting strategy of The Detached (19% of parents) can be summarized as: Let kids be kids and let the cards fall where they may. The Detached are primarily white parents with blue-collar jobs, no college degree and lower household income. Pessimistic about the future and their children's opportunities, they report lower levels of marital happiness and do not feel particularly close to their children. They feel they are in a "losing battle with all the other influences out there" and it shows in their practices. They spend less than two hours a day interacting with their children, they do not routinely monitor their children's homework and they report lower grades for their children. When they do have dinner together as a family, it is often in front of the television.

American Dreamers

American Dreamers (27% of parents) are defined by their optimism about their children's abilities and opportunities. These parents, with relatively low household income and education, pour themselves into raising their children and providing them every possible material and social advantage. They also invest much effort protecting them from negative social influences and shaping their children's moral character. This is the most common family culture among blacks and Hispanics, with each group making up about a quarter of American Dreamers. American Dreamers describe their relationships with their children as "very close" and express a strong desire to be "best friends" with their children once they are grown.

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112712So what's the message to parents?

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America notes the study not only looks at what parents believe, but what they model to their children.

"It's really important that parents - a married couple, mom and dad - live in front of their kids the kind of give-and-take that is required for a couple to really mesh and be united as a couple," she says. "And that's the same kind of thing that it takes to have a good community. If kids don't see that lived out on a day-to-day basis, they are the poorer for it."

The study found most parents feel as if they are "going it alone," reporting a very thin support network. Many also reported feeling helpless to the negative effects of modern technology.

Crouse, Janice (CWA)

"So many parents said they felt they were at the mercy of external influences, the cultural kinds of things that they can't keep their kids protected from: the Internet, movies, Facebook, entertainment in general. All of those kinds of things have such a negative influence on kids," she tells OneNewsNow. "And parents are pretty helpless when it comes to shielding their kids from it because it's all pervasive. It's out there everywhere."

This study, funded by an $850,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation, goes beyond parenting styles to analyze parents' habits, dispositions, hopes, fears, assumptions and expectations for their children.

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