In many two-parent households, both parents work full-time jobs, and in single-parent households, the parent usually works full-time. This means that many children spend their after-school hours alone or under the care of a sitter. This often results on a lack of parental control. Other children may not have a high degree of parental control in their lives due to a laissez-faire parenting style. Either way, a lack of parental control can have significant effects on children--both positive and negative.
Children whose parents are not around all the time may have no choice but to become self-reliant. They must learn how to cook for themselves, how to stay safe and how to entertain themselves. Older children also learn how to look after younger children.
Unfortunately, not all the effects of a lack of parental control are so positive. In fact, most are overwhelmingly negative. For instance, a 1995 article on BNet by Lee A. Beaty notes that research literature overwhelmingly suggests that the absence of a father presence often results in psychological issues and difficulties forming interpersonal relationships. Beaty focuses on absent fathers because there is significantly less written about absent mothers. Many parenting experts believe that children who are lacking parental control are more prone to exhibiting narcissistic behavior, low self-esteem and depression. A 2006 study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands, and published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, supports this belief. The study found that among subjects where a lack of parental control existed, the incidence of psychiatric conditions was much higher than in the general population.
Another BNet survey of literature on the topic of parental control points out that children whose parents are often missing tend to experience academic problems. This 1993 article, written by Joseph R. Ferrari and Michael J. Olivette, looked not only at a lack of parental control due to parental absenteeism, but also due to a permissive parenting style. This may be partly due to the fact that children are less likely to do their homework and study if there isn’t a parent around reminding them to do so.
A separate study conducted in the Netherlands and published in 2007 in Substance Use & Misuse demonstrated that children who grow up without parental control are more likely than others to begin smoking. Children may also be more likely to engage in other risky behavior, including alcohol and drug use, if they are lacking parental control in their lives, because such a lack usually means less supervision and a diminished likelihood of getting caught.
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