Parenting styles are shaped by economic factors that incentivise one strategy over others, a study has found.
Researchers suggest that economic conditions, especially inequality and return to education, influence child-rearing strategy.
"All parents want their children to succeed, and we argue that the economic environment influences their methods of childrearing," said Fabrizio Zilibotti, professor at Yale University in the US.
"For instance, greater occupational mobility and lower inequality today makes an authoritarian approach less effective than generations ago," said Zilibotti.
"It is not that parents spare the rod because they are more concerned about their childrens wellbeing now than they were 100 years ago. Rather, parenting strategies adapted to the modern economy, he said.
Parents are driven by a combination of altruism - a desire for their children to succeed - and paternalism that leads them to try to influence their childrens choices, either by molding their childrens preferences or restricting them.
These motivations manifest in three parenting styles: one is permissive style that affords children the freedom to follow their inclinations and learn from their own experiences, according to the study published in the journal Econometrica.
The other styles include an authoritative style in which parents try to mold their childrens preferences to induce choices consistent with the parents notions of achieving success; and an authoritarian style in which parents impose their will on their children and control their choices.
"There is an element of common interest between parents and children - a drive for success - but there is tension where parents care more about their childrens wellbeing as adults," Zilibotti said.
"We postulate that socioeconomic conditions drive how much control or monitoring parents exercise on their childrens choices," he said.
The researchers apply their model across time periods and between countries.
Parenting became more permissive in the 1960s and 1970s when economic inequality reached historic lows in industrialised countries and parents could realise a return on letting children learn from their own experiences, they noted.
Across countries, they document a link between parenting, on the one hand, and income inequality and return to education, on the other hand.
Authoritarian and authoritative parents are those who insist on the importance of hard work and obedience, respectively, researchers said.
They show that parents in more unequal countries are less permissive. The same pattern emerges when they consider redistributive policies.
In countries with more redistributive taxation, more social expenditure, and even stronger civil right protection, parents are significantly more permissive, they said.