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
- Responsiveness from a parent occurs when the parent is attentive to the child’s special needs, using warmth, support or encouragement. The parent demonstrates a concern for the child’s emotional needs, personal opinions, and their internal well-being.
- Demandingness from a parent is focused on the child’s behavior and imposing expectations, discipline, and rules for participation in the family, as well as self-control and dealing with disobedience.
Four Parenting Styles
- Indulgent 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.
- Authoritarian parents are highly demanding, directive and autocratic, 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 and autocratic.
- Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. “They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s 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, p. 62).
- Uninvolved parents are low in both responsiveness and demandingness. In extreme cases, this parenting style might encompass both rejecting–neglecting and neglectful parents, although most parents of this type fall within the normal range. They are often distant and detached in their parenting role.
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.
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. 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
- Children 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).
- Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all domains.
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:
- Children 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.
- Children 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.
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.
Influence of Sex, Ethnicity, or Family Type
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.
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).
- Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental Psychological Control: Revisiting a Neglected Construct. Child Development, 67(6), 3296-3319.
- Baumrind, D. (1989). Rearing Competent Children. In W. Damon (Ed.), Child Development Today and Tomorrow (pp. 349-378). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.
- Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond Parental Control and Authoritarian Parenting Style: Understanding Chinese Parenting through the Cultural Notion of Training. Child Development, 65(4), 1111-1119.
- Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting Style as Context: An Integrative Model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487-496.
- Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-Child Interaction. In P. H. Mussen (Ed.) & E. M. Hetherington (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4.Socialization, Personality, and Social Development (4th ed., pp. 1-101). New York: Wiley.
- Miller, N. B., Cowan, P. A., Cowan, C. P., & Hetherington, E. M. (1993). Externalizing in Preschoolers and Early Adolescents: A Cross-study Replication of a Family Model. Developmental Psychology, 29(1), 3-18.
- Schwarz, J. C., Barton-Henry, M. L., & Pruzinsky, T. (1985). Assessing Child-rearing Behaviors: A Comparison of Ratings Made by Mother, Father, Child, and Sibling on the CRPBI. Child Development, 56(2), 462-479.
- Steinberg, L., Darling, N., & Fletcher, A. C. (1995). Authoritative Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: An Ecological Journey. In P. Moen, G. H. Elder, Jr., & K. Luscher (Eds.), Examining Lives in Context: Perspectives on the Ecology of Human Development (pp. 423-466). Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.
- Steinberg, L., Dornbusch, S. M., & Brown, B. B. (1992). Ethnic Differences in Adolescent Achievement: An Ecological Perspective. American Psychologist, 47(6), 723-729.
- Weiss, L. H., & Schwarz, J. C. (1996). The Relationship Between Parenting Types and Older Adolescents’ Personality, Academic Achievement, Adjustment, and Substance Use. Child Development, 67(5), 2101-2114.