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Principles of Parenting in Psychology Essay

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Updated: Mar 21st, 2019


Principles of psychology are very important in parenting as they guide parents and caregivers on how to nurture children from childhood to adulthood. Parenting is a psychological work that requires proper understanding of human development in order nurture children appropriately for them to achieve appropriate physical and psychological health in the society.

Psychological principles have enabled parents and caregivers to give systemic care to the children and have greatly transformed parenting styles in the society. Children development theories on psychology such as psychosexual theory by Sigmund Freud, psychosocial theory by Erick Erickson, cognitive development theory by Jean Piaget, social learning theory by Albert Bandura and many other development theories have made significant contribution in enhancing parenting and development of children.

Diana Baumrind in her theory of parenting argues that, “parenting styles contribute significantly to the children’s cognitive development” (Tiller 22). Thus, proper growth and development of children depend on psychological principles applied in different parenting styles. Since psychology is an essential part of parenting, psychological theories have made significant contribution to the process of childhood development.

Psychosexual theory

Sigmund Freud, in his psychosexual theory explored the concept of sexual development from psychological point of view arguing that sexual development intricately links the behavior, beliefs, and psychology of an individual. He divided childhood development into five psychosocial stages namely oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.

Sigmund Freud changed the perception of sex when he proposed that sexuality forms an integral part of childhood development as sex mediates between the body and the mind. He further noted that sexual instincts are major driving forces in personality development.

Thus, understanding by the parents and caregivers that sexual drives are the determinants of personality development has enhanced parenting care since children display strange behaviors related to psychosexual stages that usually seem to be quite abnormal.

For instance, when children are at the oral stage, they have the habit of sucking fingers and putting any objects into the mouth because according to Sigmund Freud, mouth is the primary source of sexual drive during infancy. In order to avoid fixation, the parents and caregivers should aid the infant in satisfying psychosexual drives at various stages of development.

In his psychoanalysis theory, Freud proposed that the psyche has three components, namely, the ego, the super-ego, and the id. Super-ego is the conscious component of the psyche that imposes and regulates cultural sexual constraints while the id is the unconscious component that determines the sexual instincts of pleasure and is important in socialization.

The ego is the component of the psyche that interfaces and coordinates the super-ego and the id in the harmonization of the conflicting sexual instincts and cultural sexual constrains in the process of psychosexual development. Thus, if parents and caregivers understand the three elements of psyche, super ego, ego, and id, they are going to help children’s ego in identification of sexual orientations and resolution of sexual dilemmas due to cultural and innate constrains.

Moreover, Freud came up with concept of Oedipal and Electra complexes when explaining different sexual orientations and attachment experienced in the families. Oedipus complex explores the fact that attachment and attraction of a boy to the mother is more than to the father, while Electra complex shows that attachment and attraction of a girl is more to the father than to the mother. Without psychology, then parents and caregivers would be wondering about the weird experiences concerning strange associations in the family. Hence, psychological understanding of associations has helped parents and caregivers to give children sufficient freedom of association.

Psychosocial Theory

Erikson postulates that the genesis of the personality development is from the innate characteristics of a child that are sequentially build through the eight stages of personality development under the influence of the society and culture. Erikson believes that personality development does not end at adolescence as depicted by Freud but it is a lifelong process.

He explains that each stage has an optimal time required for the ego to resolve a psychosocial crisis because resolution of the psychosocial crises at the preceding stages cumulatively determines the personality. Since children experience psychosocial crises at each stage, the parents and caregivers need to understand these crises to help children to resolve the crises appropriately. Proper resolution of the psychosocial crisis in each stage results into a personality virtue while poor resolution of the psychosocial crisis results into mal-adaptation or malignancy.

For example, during the infancy stage, the psychosocial crisis is between the trust and mistrust depending on the perceived quality of the maternal care by the infant. Proper resolution and balance of the trust and mistrust by the ego, results into a virtue of faith and hope that gives an infant the qualities of patience and tolerance when the needs are not satisfied in time.

Improper and imbalanced resolution of trust and mistrust by the ego will result into malignancy or mal-adaptation. Too much maternal care will result into sensory maladjustment as a mal-adaptation that makes an infant to trust anybody through into the adulthood without imagining of possible harm from the strangers.

On the other hand, poor maternal care will result into withdrawal as malignancy that makes an infant to develop mistrust, depression, and psychosis through into the adulthood. Thus, parenting is critical in guiding and helping children to resolve psychosocial crises in order to avoid anomalies of personality development due to poor resolution of these crises.

Other theories

Jean Piaget in cognitive development theory posits that children have cognitive capacity like adults but they only think differently in that, if provided with appropriate knowledge and skill, they would expand their cognitive abilities accordingly.

Cherry argues that, “children play an active role in gaining knowledge of the world and can be thought of as ‘little scientists’ who actively construct their knowledge and understanding of the world” (12). Thus, understanding that children have cognitive capacity as adults is very important for the parents and caregivers to give appropriate skills and knowledge to the children.

Albert Bandura in social learning theory argues that children acquire new behaviors by observing what other people are doing in the family, school, and society. This observation means that children emulate what the parents, caregivers and other close people do, hence environment reflects the kind of behaviors that children acquire.


Psychological theories and principles play a significant role in parenting as they determine the kind of parenting styles that parents and caregivers are applying when shaping behaviors and personality of the children. The psychosexual theory gives sexual drives through the five stages of development that need satisfaction for effective personality development, while psychosocial theory explains different psychosocial crises across the eight stages of development that need proper resolution as a requirement of personality development. Other theories of cognitive development and social learning together with the aforementioned theories are very critical in parenting for they stipulate requirements that children need for appropriate development.

Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “Child Development Theories.” Journal of Psychology 2.6 (2010): 1-27.

Tiller, Amy. “The Influence of Parenting Styles on Children’s Cognitive Development.”International Journal of Behavioral Development 21.4 (2005):1-39.

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