Volume 22, Issue 3 (Autumn 2021)                   jrehab 2021, 22(3): 362-377 | Back to browse issues page

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Esmaeili F, Tahmsebi S, Mohammadi Arya A, Soltani P R. The Relationship Between Parenting Styles and Moral Development of Preschool Children Mediated by Children’s Attachment. jrehab 2021; 22 (3) :362-377
URL: http://rehabilitationj.uswr.ac.ir/article-1-2854-en.html
1- Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences and Social Welfare, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
2- Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences and Social Welfare, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, Iran. , siyamak.tahmasebi@gmail.com
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he principles of humanity and morality are taught in the family. This education is crucial for children. Understanding morals are developed from infancy to adulthood [1]. Moral development is one of the critical issues in children to avoid committing crimes and behave ethically [2]. Today, people should pay attention to moral values more than ever because socio-political developments have caused traditional moral systems to lose their former effectiveness [3]. Achieving moral growth has consequences such as praising people [4]. Lack of moral development exposes children to anxiety and depression through antisocial and suicidal behaviors [5]. 
Parenting styles are the methods that parents use to raise their children. By these methods, they express their attitudes towards their children and the rules and standards that they apply to their children [6]. Parenting in different styles (authoritative, authoritarian, permissive) can affect children’s personalities and behavior [7]. Authoritative parents control their children’s behavior and have high expectations for puberty-based behavior. Authoritarian parents are very controlling and strict. Finally, permissive parents are loving parents who have no control over their children’s behavior [8].
The child’s desire to have intimate relationships with others and to feel more secure in their presence is called attachment [9]. The attachment between mother and child lays the foundation of a child’s moral development in the future [10]. Therefore, parents and educators wish to raise moral children to have a healthy society [11]. According to Septani Mula et al., parents who create a secure attachment to their children and raise them in an authoritative parenting style produce children with social, emotional, and moral development [10]. Rahbar and Esmaeilpour studied primary school children in Jask Port, Iran. Their results showed that moral development had a significant negative relationship with authoritarian parenting style and a significant positive relationship with authoritative parenting style and secure attachment [12]. 
Although several studies have examined the relationship of parenting styles and attachment with children’s moral development, very few studies have examined the mediating role of attachment. Therefore, the present study aims to investigate the relationship between parenting styles and moral development of preschool children mediated by children’s attachment.
Materials and Methods
This research is a descriptive cross-sectional study conducted in 2019 for six months. The study population consisted of all preschool children (both genders) in Tehran City, Iran. Of whom, 128 children aged 6 years were selected from the schools in the north, west, east, and south of Tehran using the stratified sampling method. The inclusion criteria were willingness to participate in the study, having educated parents, and without mental health problems, while the exclusion criterion was returning incomplete questionnaires. Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects, and they were assured of the confidentiality of their information. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (Code: IR.USWR.REC.1399.043).
The data collection tools were the Moral Development Questionnaire (MDQ) completed through interviews with the children, the Baumrind Parenting Styles Questionnaire (PSQ), and the Kinship Center Attachment Questionnaire (KCAQ), which were completed by mothers of children. The MDQ was developed by Lotfabadi to measure the moral development of children aged 5-11 years. It has 18 items and 6 subscales related to social and psychological factors of moral development. The face and content validities of this instrument were confirmed by experts, and its reliability was above 0.7 using the Cronbach α for the whole questionnaire [12]. The PSQ assesses Baumrind’s permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles. The reliability values of this questionnaire have been reported to be 0.69 for permissive, 0.77 for authoritarian, and 0.73 for authoritative dimensions [13]. Halpern and Copenberg developed the KCAQ to measure children’s attachment in middle childhood (pre-primary and primary school) aged 3-12 years. The mother completed the questionnaire. The internal consistency of the KCAQ questionnaire is 0.85, and its reliability based on the split-half method is 0.83. Table 1 presents the Cronbach α and test-retest coefficients for total KCAQ and its four dimensions obtained for its Persian version in our study on 400 subjects [14].

The correlation between initial test and retest scores was significant (P= 0.001).
The normality of quantitative data distribution was evaluated using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test in SPSS v. 21. The data were described by descriptive statistics (mean and Standard Deviation) and analyzed using the correlation test (Enter method), analysis of variance, and linear regression analysis, considering 0.05 as the significant level.
The study participants included 64 girls (50%) and 64 boys (64; 50%). The educational level of children’s fathers and mothers mainly was diploma (n=62, 48.4% for fathers; n=61, 47.7% for mothers), and the lowest frequency was related to the Master’s degree (n=8, 6.3% for fathers; n=3, 2.3% for mothers). As shown in Table 2, the mean total scores for the variables of parenting styles, moral development, and attachment were high.

The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test results showed that data were normally distributed according to skewness and kurtosis values (Table 3).

The results of regression analysis (Table 4) showed the significant relationship of parenting styles with moral development (R=0.74, Adjusted R2=0.54, P=0.000) and the relationship of attachment with moral development (R=0.71, Adjusted R2=0.49, P=0.000).

Parenting methods, intimate upbringing, and discussion of moral issues help children understand morality. Children whose parents listen to them wholeheartedly ask enlightening questions, confront high-level reasoning, and make great strides in moral development. In contrast, children whose parents use threats or harsh statements change little or stop at the early stages of moral development. 
According to the results in Table 5, with one unit change in permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles, the moral development of preschool children can be predicted by 43.5%, 19%, and 37.6%, respectively.

Moreover, with one unit change in positive adjustment/development, negative behavior, emotional reactivity, and distancing from caregiver support dimensions of attachment, the moral development of preschool children can be predicted by 33.6%, 38.4%, -26.4%, and -11.4%, respectively. Children with authoritative parents are more psychologically and socially competent than their peers with authoritarian or permissive parents. These children are responsible, adaptive, creative, curious, and confident. According to psychologists, the authoritative parenting style is the most efficient method; children of authoritative parents have more social skills and self-esteem than those of authoritarian or permissive parents. According to the results of the Sobel test in Table 6, it was found that the variable of attachment styles is a mediating variable.

The z value was 2.96, greater than 1.96, indicating the effect of children’s attachment on the relationship between parenting styles and moral development.
Discussion and Conclusion
This study aimed to determine the mediating role of preschool children’s attachment in the relationship between parenting styles and moral development. The level of authoritarian parenting style was different according to gender, whereas women’s attitudes toward this style were higher. Distancing from caregiver support as one of the attachment components was different in terms of gender, where the girls had higher scores. The mean scores of parenting style, attachment, and moral development were also different in terms of parents’ education, but it was not statistically significant.
The moral development of children had a significant positive relationship with permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles (P=0.001). This finding is consistent with the results of Rahbar and Salaripour [17], Babajanzadeh and Otaghsara [19], Morvati et al. [23]. Zokaei’s study found no significant relationship between authoritarian parenting style and social development [18]. In our study, there was also a significant relationship between children’s moral development and attachment. This result is consistent with the results of Shahri [24], Pour Movadat [25], and Safaee [26]. In Septani et al.’s study, a family with four children was selected, and its authoritative parenting method and secure attachment were assessed. In contrast, in our study, 128 children and their mothers participated, and the children’s attachment was measured as a mediating variable. The results regarding the mediating role of children’s attachment in the relationship between parenting styles and moral development were consistent with the results of Ghorbani [27] and Peymannia [28].
When parents are consistent in their parenting styles, they provide their children with assertive and trusting behaviors; they listen to their children and promote dialogue with them. Their discipline is accompanied by warmness, logic, and flexibility, and they give their children freedom to some extent. This treatment helps children develop their social behavior [17]. Authoritarian style is an inefficient method that can cause various emotional, moral, and behavioral problems in children [15]. However, children of authoritative parents show positive social behaviors such as cooperation, love, empathy, etc. A healthy parenting style can predict children’s social and moral characteristics [3]. Parents are the source of children’s social experiences due to their emotional dependence on them, which ultimately leads to the formation of moral values during childhood and adulthood. The formation of secure attachment seems to be the basis of a healthy moral orientation. Secure attachment develops in childhood when parents respond to the children’s needs. The children can explore the environment with a sense of security and confidence to confront challenges. According to attachment theory, the initial interaction of a child with a caregiver takes the form of internal beliefs. The effects of attachment in childhood extend to adulthood in the areas of moral development and close relationships. This study had some limitations, including the lack of similar studies in Iran and other countries, a high number of questions that made children tired, and the lack of cooperation of some mothers in completing questionnaires.
Parents use various parenting styles in dealing with their children, but the predominant style is the permissive style. In addition to the direct effect, children’s attachment is indirectly related to their moral development. Moral development is formed in the safe context of the family and during the communication and emotional interaction of parents with children; thus, children direct their behaviors accordingly. Insecure, avoidant, and ambivalent people are underprivileged due to deviation from the main path of the attachment system. The results of this study can provide important information to parents, teachers, and educators. If parents pay attention to their children’s needs with more kindness and sensitiveness, the children’s attachment can be more secure. Since secure attachment develops in childhood, the moral development of adolescents and youth depends on their attachment in childhood. For parents who raise their children with permissive and authoritative styles, teaching parenting skills and familiarity with parenting techniques can help them promote their children’s moral development. They should be reminded that the child’s psychological and cultural personality is established before the age of 6 when the child spends more time in the family.

Ethical Considerations
Compliance with ethical guidelines

This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (Code: IR.USWR.REC.1399.043). All ethical principles are considered in this article. The participants were informed about the purpose of the research and its implementation stages. They were also assured about the confidentiality of their information. They were free to leave the study whenever they wished, and if desired, the research results would be available to them.

The paper was extracted from the MA. thesis of the first author at the Department of Preschool Education, Faculty of Educational Sciences and Social Welfare, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran. 

Authors' contributions
Conceptualization: Farzaneh Ismaili, Siamak Tahmasebi, Alireza Mohammadi Aria; Research: Pouria Reza Soltani; Editing and finalizing: Farzaneh Ismaili and Siamak Tahmasebi.

Conflict of interest
The authors declared no conflict of interest.

The authors would like to thank the Education Organization of Tehran Province and the parents of children who participated in this study.

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Type of Study: Original | Subject: Rehabilitation Management
Received: 28/11/2020 | Accepted: 11/04/2021 | Published: 1/10/2021

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