A new study from the University of Bristol has shown that many of the qualities that make a successful romantic partner are also key qualities in a good parent: sensitivity, cooperativeness, supportiveness, and congratulatory. Those that are less secure and successful in their romantic relationships are likely to use less desirable methods for parenting.
“If you can do responsive care-giving, it seems that you can do it from across different relationships,” says Abigail Millings, one of the study’s researchers. She says that responsive care giving is a combination of many things, including cooperation but not bossiness and recognizing and providing for your partner’s needs.
Those who are secure in their relationships generally have less anxiety and avoidance tendencies, which means they can be independent while knowing their partner is there for them. This lack of anxiety allows parents to be more straightforward with kids, parenting with an ideal level of authoritativeness and understanding rather than being pushovers. They will be more comfortable with setting boundaries for children, and will be able to do so while keeping the overall environment warm and loving.
On the other hand, those who have struggled in their romantic relationship tend to be more avoidant and anxious and offer less support to each other. They don’t cooperate as well and aren’t as sensitive to each other’s needs. This can translate over to parenting styles that are overly authoritarian or too permissive.
“It might be the case that practicing being sensitive and responsive—for example, by really listening and by really thinking about the other person’s perspective—to our partners will also help us to improve these skills with our kids,” Millings said. “But we need to do more research and see whether the association can actually be used in this way.”