Parenting style as an investment in human development

  • Deborah A. Cobb-Clark
  • Nicolás Salamanca
  • Anna Zhu
Original Paper


We propose a household production function approach to human development that explicitly considers the role of parenting style in child rearing. Specifically, parenting style is modeled as an investment that depends not only on inputs of time and market goods, but also on attention. Our model relates socioeconomic disadvantage to parenting style and human development through the constraints that disadvantage places on cognitive capacity. We find empirical support for key features of our model. Parenting style is a construct that is distinctive to standard parental investments and is important for young-adult outcomes. Effective parenting styles are negatively correlated with disadvantage.


Parenting style Cognitive load Locus of control Socioeconomic disadvantage Parental investments Human development 

JEL classification

D13 I31 J13 



The data used for this research come from the Youth in Focus Project which is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the Australian Research Council (Grant Number LP0347164) and carried out by the Australian National University. The research was also supported by the Australian Research Council through a Discovery Program Grant (DP140102614) and the Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (project number CE140100027). The Centre is administered by the Institute for Social Science Research at The University of Queensland, with nodes at The University of Western Australia, The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney. We thank Dan Hamermesh, David Ribar, two anonymous referees, and the editor of this Journal for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper, and several seminar participants and conference attendees for their useful comments. The views expressed herein are solely those of the authors.


The data used for this research come from the Youth in Focus Project which is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the Australian Research Council (Grant Number LP0347164) and carried out by the Australian National University. The research was also supported by the Australian Research Council through a Discovery Program Grant (DP140102614) and the Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (project number CE140100027).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah A. Cobb-Clark
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicolás Salamanca
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anna Zhu
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of EconomicsThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life CourseBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)BonnGermany
  4. 4.Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social ResearchThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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