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The three-year study of 214 children and their mothers revealed that a good match between parenting styles and the child's personality reduced the child's risk of depression and anxiety symptoms by half.
But children in a mismatched relationship had twice the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms.
The children were an average of 9 years old at the start of the University of Washington study, published online Aug. 1 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
"This study moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and gives specific advice to parents on how to mitigate their child's anxiety and depression," lead author Cara Kiff, a psychology resident at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "We're considering characteristics that make children vulnerable to anxiety and depression, and factoring in how that shapes how kids react to different parenting approaches."
"We hear a lot about over-involved parents, like 'tiger moms' and 'helicopter parents,'" co-author and psychology professor Liliana Lengua said in the news release. "It is parents' instinct to help and support their children in some way, but it's not always clear how to intervene in the best way. This research shows that parenting is a balance between stepping in and stepping out with guidance, support and structure based on cues from kids."
Children who were better able to control their emotions and behavior were more likely to be anxious or depressed if they had a very controlling parent. These children did better emotionally when their mothers gave them some autonomy.
But kids who were less able to regulate their emotions and actions benefitted from more structure and guidance, the researchers found.
"Parents should be there to help -- but not take over -- in difficult situations and help their children learn to navigate challenges on their own," Lengua added.
The Nemours Foundation offers positive parenting tips.