Do you know your parenting style? If not, you could be reinforcing behaviors in your children that you don’t like and may want to eliminate.
Developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the development of children’s social, cognitive, and behavioral competence since before the Great Depression. Researchers studying the parent-child relationship have examined the parents' “parenting style” and its effect on children as they grow into adults. Diana Baumrind and others have spent decades studying these relationships and the effect of parenting style on many areas of child development and competency.
Parenting Style Defined
To be sure, there are some specific parental behaviors that can have a definite impact on children, such as disciplining them in anger or rage, spanking, or reading to them every day and teaching them the alphabet and basic math. But to evaluate the impact parents have on childrearing, we must examine the whole relationship parents have with their children across all events over time. How parents interact with their children, respond to their needs, impose expectations, guide and teach them from infancy through adolescence, is all inclusive in determining how parenting styles affect our children’s development.
To evaluate the impact parents have on childrearing, we must examine the whole relationship parents have with their children across all events over time.
Most researchers who attempt to describe this broad parental milieu rely on Diana Baumrind’s 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). Baumrind’s parenting styles define non-abusive styles and are not intended to include or describe parental behavior that includes abuse or neglect. Parenting style includes parents using two central forces to achieve these goals, referred to as “responsiveness” and “demandingness” (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).
Four Parenting Styles
Categorizing 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 and demandingness.
Because 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 the use of parenting practices such as guilt induction, withdrawal of love, or shaming.
Authoritative parents tend to be low in psychological control, while authoritarian parents tend to be high. Authoritative parents understand their role to include helping children to develop their own convictions, opinions, and beliefs and test them out while still under their parents' guidance.
Consequences for Children
Parenting style has been found to predict child wellbeing in the domains of social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, and problem behavior. Research based on parent interviews, child reports, and parent observations consistently find:
In general, 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 findings indicate:
In reviewing the research, children with an authoritative upbringing are 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.
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.
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 children’s 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.
Influence of Sex, Ethnicity, or Family Type
It 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), but (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.
Parenting style provides a strong indicator of parental functioning that predicts child well-being. Both parental responsiveness and parental demandingness are important components of good parenting. Authoritative parenting, which uses 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).