Is there any evidence that children of parents who are accepting and affirming in general of their children have lower rates of depression?

I mean the opposite of personally critical, negating, condemning or negatively judging (which could be towards one child and not another); as well as cooperating with their children’s desires and wishes rather than rejecting, forcing, or controlling them.


1 Answer 1


What you are referring to is Positive Parenting (National Childbirth Trust [NCT], n.d.) and according to Seay, et al. (2014), positive parenting can be a powerful approach.

Referring to Lea Waters (2017), who is involved in a lot of research on the subject, the NCT points out that:

Often our natural default position, as a parent and a partner, is to nit-pick. It’s easy to focus on what your baby or toddler is doing wrong. But shifting your focus to their strengths is the blueprint of this parenting style. And the research shows it’s a more effective way to parent (Waters, 2017).

We’re under social pressures to ‘fix’ our kids’ behaviours based on what we think is missing or lacking. This may be the way we were parented ourselves, so it might have become our default setting. But by learning how to shift our focus to our child’s strengths, we can override this negativity bias.

Lower rates of depression in Positive Parented Children.

The NCT points out, with references if you use the selector at the top to 'show references', that:

The research is extensive and compelling. Favourable outcomes for the child range from social, to emotional, to behavioural, to language, cognition and health benefits (Hartwig et al, 2017).

Studies show that using positive parenting strategies with babies and toddlers:

  • improves social-emotional development and reduces disruptive behaviours, e.g. attention problems, hyperactivity, aggression, separation distress and externalising problems
  • positively influences cognitive outcomes in later toddlerdom (at 18, 24 and 36 months) and gives them a better chance of higher educational achievement years later
  • improves their ability to cope with stressful situations and their physical and mental effectsleads to greater gains in imitation and play. (Malmberg et al 2016; Weisleder et al, 2016; Mendelsohn et al, 2018)

For practical help on positive parenting, the UK's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has a PDF guide, which shares practical advice and tips for positive parenting techniques that work well for children - from babies to teenagers (NSPCC, n.d.)


Malmberg, L. E., Lewis, S., West, A., Murray, E., Sylva, K., & Stein, A. (2016). The influence of mothers' and fathers' sensitivity in the first year of life on children's cognitive outcomes at 18 and 36 months. Child: care, health and development, 42(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.12294

Mendelsohn, A. L., Cates, C. B., Weisleder, A., Berkule Johnson, S., Seery, A. M., Canfield, C. F., ... & Dreyer, B. P. (2018). Reading aloud, play, and social-emotional development. Pediatrics, 141(5). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3393

NCT. (n.d.). What is positive parenting and how is it done? https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/parenting-styles-and-approaches/what-positive-parenting-and-how-it-done

NSPCC. (n.d.). Positive Parenting Guide. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/1195/positive-parenting.pdf

Seay A, Freysteinson WM, McFarlane J. (2014). Positive parenting. Nursing Forum. 49(3):200-208. https://doi.org/10.1111/nuf.12093

Waters L. (2017) The strength switch: how the new science of strength-based parenting helps your child and your teen flourish. Scribe publications, London.

Weisleder, A., Cates, C. B., Dreyer, B. P., Berkule Johnson, S., Huberman, H. S., Seery, A. M., ... & Mendelsohn, A. L. (2016). Promotion of positive parenting and prevention of socioemotional disparities. Pediatrics, 137(2). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-3239

  • $\begingroup$ Though you use the heading "Lower rates of depression in Positive Parented Children", it's not clear to me whether depression specifically is an outcome in any of the specific results discussed. Emotional, behavioural, and health outcomes could include depression, though it's not clear they do. If depression is an outcome in one of the cited works, could you include that result and size of the effect? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:48

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