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11-10-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 3/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 3/2020

Examining Parental Internal Processes Associated with Indulgent Parenting: A Thematic Analysis

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 3/2020
Sarah N. Wolford, Carol A. Darling, Marsha Rehm, Ming Cui
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This study examined the external influences and internal processes in parental beliefs, perceptions, and emotions regarding the parenting of adolescent children and the role of parental indulgence.


Interviews of 29 parents of adolescents, who were approximately 15 years old, were conducted regarding the perceptions of parental indulgence they had experienced and currently practice. The study incorporated a family ecosystem approach with qualitative analytic methods including MAXQDA to identify thematic findings.


Findings revealed three themes and their subthemes: (1) Responding to the external world: Family life adjustments and indulgence, which encompassed (a) Family life adjustments (i.e., divorce, separation) and managing (b) Increased demands (i.e., responsibilities at home and school); (2) Reflecting on the parenting patterns in hindsight—Internal search for clarity and effectiveness with an in-depth (a) Parent reflection process regarding their choice to indulge, and (b) Clear parenting choices, or, exceptions to indulgence; and (3) Reconciling personal experiences of being parented: Discontinuity and continuity, involved reflections on parents desire to change or keep the parenting practices modeled by their caregivers. Emotional experiences were shaped by parents’ own perceptions that parenting needs to be effective, but vulnerability occurred when faced with distractions in the family due to internal pressures such as marital disruptions and external stresses of social norms and cultural expectations.


Results demonstrate how parents emotionally cope with pressure and how multiple emotional undertones potentially drive their decisions to indulge. Directions for future research are discussed.

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