Superior parenting

There has been a lot of interest in an article circulating in the media about the difference between French and American parents.

The article is titled “Why French Parents are Superior” by Pamela Druckerman and can be accessed here http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204740904577196931457473816.html.

Dr Laura Markham provided a lengthy critique on the article http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/Are_French_Parents_Better_or_Do_They_Just_Spank_More/

As a family worker, I am concerned about over-compliance in children. The quiet child in the corner playing by himself may have learnt that he can’t rely on his caregiver to meet his emotional needs, and increases his level of independent activity to accommodate his caregiver’s needs. Are the French children displaying an insecure avoidant style of attachment?

However, what shines throughout the article for me is caregiver state of mind. There is a huge body of evidence available (van Ijzendoorn, Fonagy/Steele, Dozier, to name a few) that places caregiver state of mind at the top of parenting qualities. Studies have shown that caregiver state of mind predicted secure/insecure attachment in children with up to 85% reliability. It’s the reason that Australian women are screened for depression at their first antenatal visit.

Based on this article, the French parents appeared to have a high degree of confidence when compared to their more anxious American counterparts. They had a different approach – education versus discipline (caregiver state of mind again)  and were described as having high warmth and high expectations which resonates with Baumrind’s work.

It would be interesting to see studies from France on attachment style in caregivers. A quick search on the internet brought up a cross cultural study from 2004 (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/184/46/s31.full.pdf+html), where Parisian mothers rated highly for anxious and avoidant attachment when compared to mothers in other cities worldwide.

The article by Ms Druckerman is perhaps subjective, but interesting nonetheless. It raises some important differences between parents in general regardless of nationality.

Reference

Maternal attachment style and depression associated with childbirth: preliminary results from a European and US cross-cultural study. Antonia Bifulco, Barbara Figueiredo, Nicole Guedeney, Laura L. Gorman, Sandra Hayes, Maria Muzik, Elisabeth Glatigny-Dallay, Vania Valoriani, Martin H. Kammerer and Carol A. Henshaw. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2004, 184:s31-37.

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About Narelle Smith

Child & Family Worker

3 Responses to “Superior parenting”

  1. I did see one of the interviews she did on tv. I would say some American children are probably more indulged than most kids, they rule the roost, so to speak. Parents just seem to abdicate their responsibility. Doubt this article, her findings will have much impact on American parenting style.

    • Hi Marcia

      I’m sorry to hear that. Parenting is a balance of being kind and taking charge. The tricky bit is knowing when to do what.

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