Canadian Parents More Lenient than French and Italians: Study



September 1, 2010

By Patrick B. Craine, MONTREAL, Quebec, August 31, 2010 ( – Canadian parents are more lenient than Italians and the French, suggests a new study of parental behaviours in the three countries. According to Gwen Landolt of REAL Women, the study is “worrisome” for Canadians. Without adequate boundaries children easily fall into illicit activities such as drugs and promiscuity, said Landolt.

The researchers surveyed 1,256 teens from Montreal, Rennes, and Milan, asking them to describe their parents in terms of emotional bonding, communication, frequency of conflict, rules, discipline and tolerance of friend-related activities.

The teens perceived comparable levels of emotional bonding between the three countries, but there was a strong contrast in their perception of parental control between Canada and Italy.

“Our study found Canadian parents to be the most tolerant. They had less rules and less disciplinary actions,” said Dr. Michel Claes, a psychology professor at the University of Montreal. “Canadian mothers and fathers were seen as less punitive, less coercive and more tolerant than French and Italian mothers.”

They also found that in each country teens perceived a gradual decrease in parental control from ages 11 to 19, with less requirements and disciplinary constraints.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, was conducted by researchers from the University of Montreal, the Université de Rennes in France and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy.

The researchers say they chose Canada, France, and Italy because of their common Catholic heritage, advanced industrialization, and use of Latin languages.

“Everyone who’s been a parent knows children need parameters,” commented Landolt.  “To be lenient and let the child make many decisions arbitrarily without any world experience or background is extremely harmful to the child.”

Landolt said she believes the results of parental leniency are manifest in North America, citing increased instances of drugs, alcoholism, and sexual permissiveness.  “That certainly hasn’t led to the children’s greater happiness,” she said.  “If anything it’s led to depression and anxiety.”

She suggested the results may be due to the fact that parents are over-extended and stressed.  “But certainly a parent’s first responsibility is towards their children,” she said.  “That comes before everything else.”

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