PhotoAs a parent, you may wonder what the future holds for your child. While there’s no crystal ball that can tell you what kind of career your son or daughter will have, you might be able to determine whether they’ll grow up to be a smart shopper.

A new study finds that the fate of kids’ future shopping habits may rest in the hands of his or her parents. Researchers found that a child's parents -- not other adults or organizations, such as churches -- have the biggest impact on the way kids interact with the world around them in adulthood.

To raise a smart and informed consumer, parents may simply need to pick the right parenting style. In an analysis of data from 73 studies nationwide, researchers found that kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to consume healthier foods, make safer choices, and enter adulthood armed with the skills and attitudes needed to be smart consumers.

Parenting style differences

To find out which parenting styles were most effective in teaching kids how to be wise shoppers, the study authors examined the effects of four basic parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, neglecting, and indulgent.

Authoritative parenting was found to produce the best outcomes. An authoritative parent tells children what they want them to do while also explaining why, which the researchers describe as “restrictive” and “warm” communication. Kids raised by authoritative parents are usually expected to act maturely and follow family rules but are also allowed a bit of autonomy.

Authoritarian parents are restrictive too, but they differ from authoritative parents in terms of warmth. These parents are "more likely to tell a child what to do and not explain why," explained researcher Les Carlson, a professor of marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Neglecting parents tend to be hands-off, offering little guidance for their children’s development and monitoring activities only to a limited extent. The final parenting style studied was the indulgent parenting style, in which parents are lenient and kids are given adult rights without being expected to take on responsibilities.

Restrictions are important

Parents are often more permissive with their children these days, but the researchers say there’s something to be said for restrictions. The meta-analysis found that kids with restrictive parents were less likely to engage in “negative consumer socialization outcomes” such as cyberbullying, theft, vandalism, drug use, and feelings of having an unattractive body shape.

“We found a lot of evidence that demonstrated that it is okay to be restrictive with kids," Carlson said in a statement. He added that it’s also important to explain to kids why the restrictions are important.

To put your child on track towards becoming a smart consumer, Carlson suggests doing activities such as shopping together. Parents can take their child shopping and guide them in decisions, or talk to them about why they’re skeptical of advertising they may see in a store.

Teaching children how to filter information in this way can help them grow up to become informed consumers, he says.

The study has been published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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