The role of parenting style of single parents in young children’s risk-taking

  • Erin E. WoodEmail author
  • Shelia M. Kennison
  • Geena C. Jackson


The present study was designed to understand how differences in parenting styles between single mothers and single fathers influenced the factors related to child risk-taking behaviors. The results showed that mothers’ higher level of authoritarian parenting style was related to higher levels of risk-taking for both daughters and sons. In contrast, father’s higher level of permissive parenting style was related to higher levels of risk-taking for sons, but not daughters. Overall, the amount of the authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative parenting style did not differ significantly for mothers and fathers, and risk-taking did not vary significantly for sons and daughters. Sensation-seeking was significantly higher for sons than daughters. Theoretical and practical implications regarding risk-taking development are discussed.


Children’s Risk-Taking Single Mothers Single Fathers Sensation Seeking Parenting Styles 


Compliance with ethical standards

Research Compliance Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors have no conflict of interest to report in relation to the research in this report.


  1. Amato, P. R., & Patterson, S. E. (2017). Single-parent households and mortality among children and youth. Social Science Research., 63, 253–262. Scholar
  2. Apel, R., & Kaukinen, C. (2009). On the relationship between family structure and antisocial behavior: parental cohabitation and blended households. Criminology, 46, 35–70.Google Scholar
  3. Apicella, C. L., Crittenden, A. N., & Tobolsky, V. A. (2017). Hunter-gatherer males are more risk-seeking than females, even in late childhood. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38(5), 592–603. Scholar
  4. Arditti, J. A., Godwin, D. D., & Scanzoni, J. (1991). Perceptions of parenting behavior and young women’s gender role traits and preferences. Sex Roles, 25, 195–211. Scholar
  5. Aronowitz, T., & Morrison-Beedy, D. (2004). Resilience to risk-taking behaviors in impoverished African American girls: The role of mother–daughter connectedness. Research in Nursing & Health, 27(1), 29–39. Scholar
  6. Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43–88.Google Scholar
  7. Belsky, J., Steinberg, L., & Draper, P. (1991). Childhood experience, interpersonal development, and reproductive strategy: An evolutionary theory of socialization. Child Development., 62, 647–670. Scholar
  8. Belsky, J., Jaffee, S. R., Silgo, J., Woodward, L., & Silva, P. A. (2005). Intergenerational transmission of warm-sensitive stimulating parenting: A prospective study of mothers and fathers of 3-year-olds. Child Development, 72(2), 384–396. Scholar
  9. Belsky, J., Houts, R. M., & Fearson, P. (2010a). Infant attachment security and the timing of puberty: Testing an evolutionary hypothesis. Psychological Science, 21, 1195–1201. Scholar
  10. Belsky, J., Steinberg, L., Houts, R. M., & Halpern-Felsher, B. L. (2010b). The development of reproductive strategy in females: Early maternal harshness→ earlier menarche→ increased sexual risk taking. Developmental psychology, 46(1), 120. Scholar
  11. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155–162. Scholar
  12. Berg, N., Kiviruusu, O., Karvonen, S., Rahkonen, O., & Huurre, T. (2017). Pathways from poor family relationships in adolescents to economic adversity in mid-adulthood. Advances in Life Course Research, 32, 65–78. Scholar
  13. Biblarz, T. J., & Gottainer, G. (2004). Family structure and children’s success: A comparison of widowed and divorced single-mother families. Journal of Marriage and Family., 62(2), 533–548. Scholar
  14. Bratko, D., & Butković, A. (2003). Family study of sensation seeking. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(7), 1559–1570. Scholar
  15. Brody, G. H., & Flor, D. L. (1998). Maternal resources, parenting practices, and child competence in rural, single‐parent African American families. Child Development, 69(3), 803–816.
  16. Bronte-Tinkew, J., Scott, M. E., & Lilja, E. (2010). Single custodial fathers’ involvement and parenting: implications for outcomes in emerging adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(5), 1107–1127. Scholar
  17. Brown, S. L. (2004). Family structure and child well-being: The significance of parental cohabitation. Journal of Marriage and Family., 66, 351–367. Scholar
  18. Brussoni, M., & Olsen, L. L. (2013). The Perils of Overprotective Parenting: Fathers' Perspectives Explored. Child: Care, Health & Development, 39(2), 237–245.Google Scholar
  19. Butković, A., & Bratko, D. (2003). Generation and sex differences in sensation seeking: Results of the family study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 97(3, Pt 1), 965–970. Scholar
  20. Byrd-Craven, J., & Geary, D. C. (2007). Biological and evolutionary contributions to developmental sex differences. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 15(2), 12–22. Scholar
  21. Cavanagh, S. E., & Huston, A. C. (2006). Family instability and children's early problem behavior. Social Forces, 85(1), 551–581. Scholar
  22. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). National hospital ambulatory medical care survey: 2014 emergency department summary tables. Retrieved from
  23. Clearfield, M. W., & Nelson, N. M. (2006). Sex differences in mothers’ speech and play behavior with 6-, 9-, and 14-month-old infants. Sex Roles, 54, 127–137.Google Scholar
  24. Di Norcia, A., Bombi, A. S., Cannoni, E., & Marano, G. (2018). Physical Risk Taking in Preschoolers: A Comparison Between Children's and Mothers' Perceptions. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(9), 3027–3036.Google Scholar
  25. Dufur, M. J., Howell, N. C., Downey, D. B., Ainsworth, J. W., & Lapray, A. J. (2010). Sex differences in parenting behaviors in single-mother and single-father households. Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy, 72, 1092–1106. Scholar
  26. Ellis, B. J., & Bjorklund, D. F. (2012). Beyond mental health: An evolutionary analysis of development under risky and supportive environmental conditions: An introduction to the special section. Developmental Psychology, 48(3).Google Scholar
  27. Endendijk, J. J., Groeneveld, M. G., van Berkel, S. R., Hallers-Haalboom, E. T., Mesman, J., & Bakermans-Kranenburb, M. J. (2013). Gender sterotypes in the family context: Mothers, fathers. and siblings. Sex Roles, 68(9-10), 577–590. Scholar
  28. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS, 3rd ed. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  29. Geary, D. C., Byrd-Craven, J., Hoard, M. K., Vigil, J., & Numtee, C. (2003). Evolution and development of boys’ social behavior. Developmental Review, 23(4), 444–470. Scholar
  30. Golombok, S., & Rust, J. (1993). The preschool activities inventory: a standardized assessment of gender role in children. Psychological Assessment, 5, 131–136.Google Scholar
  31. Granie, M. A. (2010). Gender stereotype conformity and age as determinants of preschoolers’ injury-risk behaviors. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42(2), 726–733. Scholar
  32. Hagan, L. K., & Kuebli, J. (2007). Mothers’ and fathers’ socialization of preschoolers’ physical risk-taking. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 2–14. Scholar
  33. Hilton, J. M., & Devall, E. L. (1998). Comparison of parenting and children’s behavior in single-mother, single-father, and intact families. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 29(3-4), 23–54. Scholar
  34. Horvath, P., & Zuckerman, M. (1993). Sensation seeking, risk appraisal, and risky behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 41–52. Scholar
  35. James, J., Ellis, B. J., Schlomer, G. L., & Garber, J. (2012). Sex-specific pathways to early puberty, sexual debut, and sexual risk taking: Tests of an integrated evolutionary–developmental model. Developmental psychology, 48(3), 687.Google Scholar
  36. Karazsia, B. T., & Kirschman, K. B. (2013). Evidence-based assessment of childhood injuries and physical risk-taking behaviors. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 38(8), 829–845. Scholar
  37. Kennison, S. M., & Ponce-Garcia, E. (2012). The role of childhood relationships with older adults in reducing risk-taking by young adults. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 10, 22–33. Scholar
  38. Kennison, S., Wood, E., Byrd-Craven, J., & Downing, M. (2016). Financial and ethical risk-taking by young adults: A role for family dynamics during childhood. Cogent Economics & Finance, 22.
  39. LaFreniere, P. (2011). Evolutionary Functions of Social Play: Life Histories, Sex Differences. and Emotion Regulation. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 464–488.Google Scholar
  40. Lin, Y. C., & Billingham, R. E. (2014). Relationship between parenting styles and gender role identity in college students. Psychological Reports: Relationships and. Communications, 114, 250–271. Scholar
  41. Little, H., & Wyver, S. (2010). Individual differences in children’s risk perception and appraisals in outdoor play environments. International Journal of Early Years Education, 18(4), 297–313. Scholar
  42. Loman, M. M., Johnson, A. E., Quevedo, K., Lafavor, T. L., & Gunnar, M. R. (2014). Risk-taking and sensation-seeking propensity in postinstitutionalized early adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 55(10), 1145–1152. Scholar
  43. Maccoby, E. E. (2003). The gender of child and parent as factors in family dynamics. Children's influence on family dynamics: The neglected side of family relationships, 191‑206.Google Scholar
  44. McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., & Tucker, C. J. (1999). Family context and gender role socialization in middle childhood: Comparing girls to boys and sisters to brothers. Child Development, 70(4), 990–1004. Scholar
  45. Morrongiello, B. A., & Dawber, T. (1999). Parental influences of toddlers’ injury-risk behaviors: Are sons and daughters socialized differently? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20(2), 227–251. Scholar
  46. Morrongiello, B. A., & Hogg, K. (2004). Mothers' reactions to children misbehaving in ways that can lead to injury: Implications for gender differences in children's risk taking and injuries. Sex Roles, 50(1-2), 103–118.Google Scholar
  47. Morrongiello, B. A., Walpole, B., & McArthur, B. A. (2009). Brief report: Young children's risk of unintentional injury: A comparison of mothers’ and fathers’ supervision beliefs and reported practices. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34(10), 1063–1068. Scholar
  48. Morrongiello, B. A., Sandomierski, M., & Valla, J. (2010a). Early identification of children at risk of unintentional injury: a sensation seeking scale for children 2–5 years of age. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42(4), 1332–1337. Scholar
  49. Morrongiello, B. A., Zdzieborski, D., & Normand, J. (2010b). Understanding Gender Differences in Children's Risk Taking and Injury: A Comparison of Mothers' and Fathers' Reactions to Sons and Daughters Misbehaving in Ways that Lead to Injury. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31(4), 322–329.Google Scholar
  50. Morrongiello, B. A., McArthur, B. A., & Bell, M. (2014). Managing children's risk of injury in the home: Does parental teaching about home safety reduce young children's hazard interactions? Accident Analysis and Prevention, 71194–71200.
  51. Morrongiello, B. A., McArthur, B. A., & Spence, J. R. (2016). Understanding gender differences in childhood injuries: Examining longitudinal relations between parental reactions and boys’ versus girls’ injury-risk behaviors. Health Psychology, 35(6), 523–530. Scholar
  52. Pew Research Center (2013). The rise of single fathers: A ninefold increase since 1960. Retrieved from:
  53. Pinquart, M. (2017). Associations of Parenting Dimensions and Styles with Externalizing Problems of Children and Adolescents: An Updated Meta-Analysis. Developmental Psychology, 53(5), 873–932.Google Scholar
  54. Popham, L. E., Kennison, S. M., & Bradley, K. I. (2011). Ageism, sensation-seeking, and risk-taking behavior in young adults. Current psychology, 30(2), 184. Scholar
  55. Potts, R., Martinez, I. G., & Dedmon, A. (1995). Childhood risk taking and injury: Self-report and informant measures. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 20(1), 5–12. Scholar
  56. Rodriguez, M. M. D., Donovick, M. R., & Crowley, S. L. (2009). Parenting styles in a cultural context: Observations of “protective parenting” in first-generation Latinos. Family Process., 48(2), 195–210.Google Scholar
  57. Schwebel, D. C., & Gaines, J. G. (2007). Pediatric unintentional injury: Behavioral risk factors and implications for prevention. Journal of Developmental Behavior and Pediatrics., 23(3), 245–254. Scholar
  58. Simons, R. L., Beaman, J., Conger, R. D., & Wei, C. (1993). Stress, support, and antisocial behavior trait as determinants of emotional well-being and parenting practices amond single mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 55(2), 385. Scholar
  59. Speltz, M. L., Gonzales, N., Sulzbacher, S., & Quan, L. (1990). Assessment of injury risk in young children: a preliminary study of the injury behavior checklist. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 15(3), 373–383.Google Scholar
  60. St. George, J., Fletcher, R., Freeman, E., Paquette, D., & Dumont, C. (2015). Father–child interactions and children's risk of injury. Early Child Development And Care, 185(9), 1409–1421. Scholar
  61. Steinberg, L., Icenogle, G., Shulman, E. P., Breiner, K., Chein, J., Bacchini, D., et al. (2018). Around the world, adolescence is a time of heightened sensation seeking and immature self-regulation. Developmental Science, 21(2), 1–13.Google Scholar
  62. Trivers, R. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection (Vol. 136, p. 179). Cambridge, MA: Biological Laboratories, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  63. Wang, B., Deveaux, L., Lunn, S., Dinaj-Koci, V., Li, X., & Stanton, B. (2016). The influence of sensation-seeking and parental and peer influences in early adolescence on risk involvement through middle adolescence: A structural equation modeling analysis. Youth & Society, 48(2), 220–241. Scholar
  64. Weitoft, G. R., Hjern, A., Haglund, B., & Rosen, M. (2003). Mortality, severe morbidity, and injury in children living with single parents in Sweden: a population-based study. Lancet., 361, 289–295. Scholar
  65. Wells, M., Morrongiello, B. A., & Kane, A. (2012). Unintentional injury risk in school-age children: Examining interrelations between parent and child factors. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(4), 189–196. Scholar
  66. White, L., & Gilbreth, J. G. (2001). When children have two fathers: Effects of relationships with stepfathers and noncustodial fathers on adolescent outcomes. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(1), 155–167. Scholar
  67. Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1985). Competitiveness, risk taking, and violence: The young male syndrome. Evolution and Human Behavior, 6, 59–73. Scholar
  68. Wood, E. E., & Kennison, S. M. (2017). Young children’s risk-taking: Mothers’ authoritarian parenting predicts risk-taking by daughters but not sons. Child Development Research.
  69. Zuckerman, M. (1994). Behavioural expressions and biosocial bases of sensation-seeking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Zuckerman, M., Kolin, E. A., Price, L., & Zoob, I. (1964). Development of a sensation-seeking scale. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 28, 477–482.Google Scholar
  71. Zuckerman, M., Eysenck, S., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Sensation seeking in England and America: Cross-cultural, age, and sex comparisons. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 139–149.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

Personalised recommendations