Developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the development
of childrens social and instrumental competence since at least the
1920s. One of the most robust approaches to this area is the study of
what has been called "parenting style." This Digest defines
parenting style, explores four types, and discusses the consequences of
the different styles for children.
Parenting Style Defined
is a complex activity that includes many specific behaviors that work
individually and together to influence child outcomes. Although specific
parenting behaviors, such as spanking or reading aloud, may influence
child development, looking at any specific behavior in isolation may be
misleading. Many writers have noted that specific parenting practices
are less important in predicting child well-being than is the broad pattern
of parenting. Most researchers who attempt to describe this broad parental
milieu rely on Diana Baumrinds concept of parenting style. The construct
of parenting style is used to capture normal variations in parents
attempts to control and socialize their children (Baumrind,
1991). Two points are critical in understanding this definition. First,
parenting style is meant to describe normal variations in parenting.
In other words, the parenting style typology Baumrind developed should
not be understood to include deviant parenting, such as might be observed
in abusive or neglectful homes. Second, Baumrind assumes that normal parenting
revolves around issues of control. Although parents may differ
in how they try to control or socialize their children and the extent
to which they do so, it is assumed that the primary role of all parents
is to influence, teach, and control their children.
style captures two important elements of parenting: parental responsiveness
and parental demandingness (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).
Parental responsiveness (also referred to as parental warmth or supportiveness)
refers to "the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality,
self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and
acquiescent to childrens special needs and demands" (Baumrind,
1991, p. 62). Parental demandingness (also referred to as behavioral
control) refers to "the claims parents make on children to become
integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision,
disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys"
(Baumrind, 1991, pp. 61-62).
Four Parenting Styles
parents according to whether they are high or low on parental demandingness
and responsiveness creates a typology of four parenting styles: indulgent,
authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Each of these parenting styles
reflects different naturally occurring patterns of parental values, practices,
and behaviors (Baumrind, 1991) and a distinct balance of responsiveness
parents (also referred to as "permissive" or "nondirective")
"are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional
and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation,
and avoid confrontation" (Baumrind, 1991,
p. 62). Indulgent parents may be further divided into two types:
democratic parents, who, though lenient, are more conscientious, engaged,
and committed to the child, and nondirective parents.
parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive.
"They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders
to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind,
1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured
environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can
be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive,
but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive,
who are highly intrusive.
parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor
and impart clear standards for their childrens conduct. They
are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary
methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children
to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated
as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991,
parents are low in both responsiveness and demandingness. In extreme
cases, this parenting style might encompass both rejectingneglecting
and neglectful parents, although most parents of this type fall within
the normal range.
parenting style is a typology, rather than a linear combination of responsiveness
and demandingness, each parenting style is more than and different from
the sum of its parts (Baumrind, 1991). In addition
to differing on responsiveness and demandingness, the parenting styles
also differ in the extent to which they are characterized by a third dimension:
psychological control. Psychological control "refers to control attempts
that intrude into the psychological and emotional development of the child"
(Barber, 1996, p. 3296) through use of parenting
practices such as guilt induction, withdrawal of love, or shaming. One
key difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting is in
the dimension of psychological control. Both authoritarian and authoritative
parents place high demands on their children and expect their children
to behave appropriately and obey parental rules. Authoritarian parents,
however, also expect their children to accept their judgments, values,
and goals without questioning. In contrast, authoritative parents are
more open to give and take with their children and make greater use of
explanations. Thus, although authoritative and authoritarian parents are
equally high in behavioral control, authoritative parents tend
to be low in psychological control, while authoritarian parents
tend to be high.
Consequences for Children
style has been found to predict child well-being in the domains of social
competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, and problem
behavior. Research based on parent interviews, child reports, and parent
observations consistently finds:
and adolescents whose parents are authoritative rate themselves
and are rated by objective measures as more socially and instrumentally
competent than those whose parents are nonauthoritative (Baumrind,
1991; Weiss & Schwarz, 1996; Miller
et al., 1993).
and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly
in all domains.
parental responsiveness predicts social competence and psychosocial functioning,
while parental demandingness is associated with instrumental competence
and behavioral control (i.e., academic performance and deviance). These
and adolescents from authoritarian families (high in demandingness,
but low in responsiveness) tend to perform moderately well in school
and be uninvolved in problem behavior, but they have poorer social
skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression.
and adolescents from indulgent homes (high in responsiveness,
low in demandingness) are more likely to be involved in problem behavior
and perform less well in school, but they have higher self-esteem,
better social skills, and lower levels of depression.
the literature on parenting style, one is struck by the consistency with
which authoritative upbringing is associated with both instrumental and
social competence and lower levels of problem behavior in both boys and
girls at all developmental stages. The benefits of authoritative parenting
and the detrimental effects of uninvolved parenting are evident as early
as the preschool years and continue throughout adolescence and into early
adulthood. Although specific differences can be found in the competence
evidenced by each group, the largest differences are found between children
whose parents are unengaged and their peers with more involved parents.
Differences between children from authoritative homes and their peers
are equally consistent, but somewhat smaller (Weiss &
Schwarz, 1996). Just as authoritative parents appear to be able to
balance their conformity demands with their respect for their childrens
individuality, so children from authoritative homes appear to be able
to balance the claims of external conformity and achievement demands with
their need for individuation and autonomy.
Sidebar: Children with ADHD, ODD, and other behavioral disorders are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem. They frequently experience school problems, have difficulty making friends, and lag behind their peers in psychosocial development. They are more likely than other children to bully and to be bullied. Parents of children with behavior problems experience highly elevated levels of child-rearing stress, and this may make it more difficult for them to respond to their children in positive, consistent, and supportive ways.
Influence of Sex, Ethnicity, or Family Type
is important to distinguish between differences in the distribution and
the correlates of parenting style in different subpopulations. Although
in the United States authoritative parenting is most common among intact,
middle-class families of European descent, the relationship between authoritativeness
and child outcomes is quite similar across groups. There are some exceptions
to this general statement, however: (1) demandingness appears to be less
critical to girls than to boys well-being (Weiss
& Schwarz, 1996), and (2) authoritative parenting predicts good
psychosocial outcomes and problem behaviors for adolescents in all ethnic
groups studied (African-, Asian-, European-, and Hispanic Americans),
but it is associated with academic performance only among European Americans
and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic Americans (Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992; Steinberg,
Darling, & Fletcher, 1995). Chao (1994) and
others (Darling & Steinberg, 1993) have argued that observed ethnic
differences in the association of parenting style with child outcomes
may be due to differences in social context, parenting practices, or the
cultural meaning of specific dimensions of parenting style.
style provides a robust indicator of parenting functioning that predicts
child well-being across a wide spectrum of environments and across diverse
communities of children. Both parental responsiveness and parental demandingness
are important components of good parenting. Authoritative parenting, which
balances clear, high parental demands with emotional responsiveness and
recognition of child autonomy, is one of the most consistent family predictors
of competence from early childhood through adolescence. However, despite
the long and robust tradition of research into parenting style, a number
of issues remain outstanding. Foremost among these are issues of definition,
developmental change in the manifestation and correlates of parenting
styles, and the processes underlying the benefits of authoritative parenting
(see Schwarz et al., 1985; Darling & Steinberg, 1993; Baumrind,
1991; and Barber, 1996).
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Source: Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education
Author: Nancy Darling, PhD, MS
EDO-PS-99-3, March 1999
Page last modified or reviewed by AH on March 28, 2012