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Proximal and Distal Parenting

Proximal parenting implies close body contact and stimulation, while the distal parenting style is characterized by communication through the distant senses – fact-to-face contact and object stimulation (Keller et al., 2009). Regarding proximal parenting, it promotes closeness and warmth while contributing to children’s early development of compliance. At the same time, distal parenting promotes the independence and autonomy of a child, leading to the early development of self-recognition.

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It is important to note that a parent may not make a conscious choice between the two styles of parenting in many cases. A parent can just choose the style that was applied to them during their childhood or the one that their immediate environment recognizes as a social norm. Regarding social norms in parenting, the socio-economic and geographical factors may contribute heavily to the parenting style choice. For instance, proximal parenting is more widespread in traditional rural societies, as for them, hierarchy, obedience, and compliance are encouraged (Keller et al., 2009). On the contrary, urban post-industrial families could encourage their children to lean toward individual achievements and higher levels of autonomy as that reflects their values and values of their environment.

There may be various signs of child maltreatment that can be manifested in a physical, psychological, and behavioral way (CWIG, 2019). Physical maltreatment signs are the most obvious ones; they can be detected by observing a person’s appearance; for instance, these could be bruises or scratches. Psychological maltreatment signs can be observed mostly by professionals during direct contact with a child, as these signs represent a child’s own emotional and thinking processes. Finally, behavioral maltreatment signs can be observed by the majority but understood and interpreted in the right way only by professionals. Each of the signs may have both short-term and long-term consequences for a child. Short-term consequences may include health problems that a child can have due to their injuries; long-term effects may consist of psychological, behavioral, and even societal consequences. Regarding psychological consequences, these are diminished executive functioning and cognitive skills, poor mental and emotional health, attachment and social difficulties, and even posttraumatic stress (CWIG, 2019). Regarding behavioral consequences, these may include unhealthy sexual practices, alcohol and drug abuse, and future perpetration of maltreatment (CWIG, 2019).


Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). (2019). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect.

Keller, H., Borke, J., Staufenbiel, T., Yovsi, R. D., Abels, M., Papaligoura, Z., Jensen, H., Lohaus, A., Chaudhary, N., Lo, W., & Su, Y. (2009). Distal and proximal parenting as alternative parenting strategies during infants’ early months of life: A cross-cultural study. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33(5), 412–420.

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