What Is A Parenting Style?
The parenting style construct commonly used in psychology today is based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist.
Baumrind noticed that preschoolers exhibited three different types of behavior.
Each type of behavior was highly correlated to a specific kind of parenting.
Based on extensive observation, interviews and analyses, Baumrind initially identified three different parenting styles: authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting and permissive parenting (1967).
Maccoby and Martin (1983) expanded this parenting style model using a two-dimensional framework.
They made further distinction by expanding Baumrind’s permissive parenting into two different types: permissive parenting (also known as indulgent parenting) and neglectful parenting (also known as uninvolved parenting).
These four parenting styles are sometimes called the Baumrind parenting styles or Maccoby and Martin parenting styles.
Definition Of The 4 Parenting Styles
Parenting styles are categorized based on two dimensions of parenting behavior:
Demandingness refers to the extend parents control their children’s behavior or demand their maturity.
Responsiveness refers to the degree parents are accepting and sensitive to their children’s emotional and developmental needs.
Parenting Styles Outcomes
High demandingness. High responsivenss.
Authoritative parents have high expectations for achievement and maturity, but they are also warm and responsive.
These parents set rules and enforce boundaries by having open discussion and using reasoning.
They are affectionate and supportive and encourage independence.
This parenting style is also known as Democratic Parenting Style.
Based on Baumrind’s research, children of authoritative parents are:
- Appear happy and content.
- Are more independent.
- Achieve higher academic success.
- Develop good self-esteem.
- Interact with peers using competent social skills.
- Have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol and drug use.
- Exhibit less violent tendencies.
High demandingness. Low reponsiveness.
While both parental styles demand high standards, authoritarian parents demand blind obedience using reasons such as “because I said so“.
These parents use stern discipline and often employ punishment to control children’s behavior.
Authoritarian parents are unresponsive to their children’s needs and are generally not nurturing.
Children of authoritarian parents:
- Tend to have an unhappy disposition.
- Are less independent.
- Appear insecure.
- Possess lower self-esteem.
- Exhibit more behavioral problems.
- Perform worse academically.
- Have poorer social skills.
- Are more prone to mental issues.
Permissive Parenting (Indulgent)
Low demandingness. High responsiveness
Permissive parents set very few rules and boundaries and they are reluctant to enforce rules.
These parents are warm and indulgent but they do not like to say no or disappoint their children.
Children of permissive parenting:
- Cannot follow rules.
- Have worse self-control.
- Possess egocentric tendencies.
- Encounter more problems in relationships and social interactions.
Neglectful Parenting (Uninvolved)
Low demandingness. Low responsiveness.
Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards.
They are indifferent to their children’s needs and uninvolved in their lives.
These uninvolved parents tend to have mental issues themselves such as maternal depression, physical abuse or child neglect when they were kids.
Children of neglectful parents:
- Are more impulsive.
- Cannot self-regulate emotion.
- Encounter more delinquency and addictions problems.
- Have more mental issues — e.g. suicidal behavior in adolescents.
Which Parenting Style Is The Most Effective?
(Disclosure: I get a small commission for purchases made through the link below.)
From decades of studies, researchers found that authoritative parenting is consistently linked to the best outcomes in kids.
Therefore, authoritative parenting style is considered the best and most effective parenting style by psychologists and psychiatrists.
This classification of parenting styles has been studied for over 25 years in different countries.
Results are generally found to be as expected for each parenting style.
However, inconsistencies and exceptions in some cases remain.
Here are some factors that may also play a part in determining how a child turns out.
Cultural and Ethnics Differences
Some studies found that authoritative parenting isn’t always linked to the best school achievement across families from diverse ethnic (e.g. Asian, Black, Hispanic) and socioeconomic backgrounds (e.g. income level, parental education, number of active parents).
For example, in one study, researchers found that African-American students with authoritative parents but without peer support did not perform the best academically.
As for Asian-American students, they performed the best in school when they had authoritarian parents and peer support.
In Spain, a study showed that both indulgent and authoritative parenting styles were associated with good outcomes.
Children’s own behavior can affect the parent’s choice and the outcomes, too.
For example, kids with a more sensitive temperament may be perceived as difficult causing the parents to change their parenting style towards authoritarian parenting.
In a study, it was also found that some aspect of child behavior such as sociable and aggressive behaviors are better correlated to child temperament than to parenting style.
It seems like parenting style is not the only determining factor in the child’s outcomes.
Differences in social context and in child temperaments can make a difference, too.
But it is worth noting that, despite being widely publicized, not all of these study results have been successfully reproduced by other researchers.
In addition, these results are also not consistent across other types of outcomes, such as behavior or mental health.
When adopting a parenting style, keep in mind that a child’s success in life is not composed of only one or two aspects.
To this date, no study has conclusively disproved the benefits of authoritative parenting, while many others have consistently shown its advantages.
Therefore, authoritative parenting is still the parenting style of choice recommended by experts.
Parenting Styles vs Parenting Practices
Another component that can impact the outcome is the distinction between parenting style and parenting practice.
Parenting style is the emotional climate in which parents raise their children.
Parenting practices are specific actions that parents employ in their parenting.
Even for parents with the same parenting style, they may choose to utilize different parenting practices which may affect the degree of outcomes.
Limitations And Criticisms Of Parenting Studies
When interpreting research results, it is important to note that most of these parenting studies only find links between parenting styles and outcomes.
That is, the results are only correlation and not causation.
For example, parents who are warm and responsive tend to have children who exhibit less behavior problems.
One is tempted to say that therefore warm and responsive parents result in better behaving kids.
But you can easily turn that around and say that kids who behave cause their parents to be warm and responsive because children do have different temperaments.
These parenting research do not tell us which one is the correct cause-and-effect relationship.
So why do most psychologists and experts still recommend authoritative parenting style?
One reason is that there are overwhelming volumes of studies showing these connections consistently.
Another reason is that there is no research that shows authoritative parenting style causes harm to children.
As a parent, if I have to choose one parenting style over the others, I would take into account not only the research results, but also my goals in parenting.
I want to raise a healthy, happy, kind and responsible person who will love me and our family when she grows up.
It is hard to imagine being cold and strict (authoritarian), cold and indifferent (neglectful) or warm and indulgent (permissive) will achieve all of my goals.
Nature Vs Nurture
Nature vs nurture is one of the oldest debates in the history of psychology. Which one matters more?
A recent study by Queensland Brain Institute and the VU University of Amsterdam has pretty much settled the Nature vs Nurture debate. 14.5 million pairs of twins from almost every twin study ever done in the past 50 years were collected and analyzed.
Researchers have found that a person’s behavior and character traits are influenced roughly the same by genetics (nature) and by environment (nurture).
Parenting is one of the most important part of the environment a child is exposed to since birth. Its impact on a child is significant.
Parenting Style Quiz
To find out your parenting style, try this test at PsychCentral.
- Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. By Baumrind, D., 1967
- Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. By Maccoby, EE and Martin, JA., 1983
- Parenting styles and adolescent development. By Baumrind (1991)
- Parenting style as context: An integrative model. By Darling, Nancy; Steinberg, Laurence
- Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. By Steinberg L, Lamborn SD, Dornbusch SM, Darling N.
- The influence of authoritative parenting style on adolescents’ academica chievement. By Kingsley Nyarko
- Authoritative parenting and college students’ academic adjustment and success. By Strage, Amy; Brandt, Tamara Swanson
- Correlating Parenting Styles with Child Behavior and Caries. By Dr. Jeff Howenstein, DMD, MS, Dr. Ashok Kumar, DDS, MS, Dr. Paul S. Casamassimo, DDS, MS, Dr. Dennis McTigue, DDS, MS, Dr. Daniel Coury, MD, and Dr. Han Yin, PhD
- Remembered Parenting Styles and Adjustment in Middle and Late Adulthood. By Tanja C. Rothrauff, Teresa M. Cooney, and Jeong Shin An
- Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. By Newman K, Harrison L, Dashiff C, Davies S.
- The Authoritative Parenting Index: predicting health risk behaviors among children and adolescents. By Jackson C, Henriksen L, Foshee VA.
- Relationship of perceived parenting styles, locus of control orientation, and self-concept among junior high age students. By Lisa A. McClun and Kenneth W. Merrell
- Impact of Behavioral Inhibition and Parenting Style on Internalizing and Externalizing Problems from Early Childhood through Adolescence. By Lela Rankin Williams, Kathryn A. Degnan, […], and Nathan A. Fox
- Coercive Family Process and Early-Onset Conduct Problems From Age 2 to School Entry. By Justin D. Smith, Thomas J. Dishion, Daniel S. Shaw, Melvin N. Wilson, Charlotte C. Winter, and Gerald R. Patterson
- The mediational pathway among parenting styles, attachment styles and self-regulation with addiction susceptibility of adolescents. By Zeinali A, Sharifi H, Enayati M, Asgari P, Pasha G.
- Is parenting style a predictor of suicide attempts in a representative sample of adolescents? By Carolin Donath, Elmar Graessel, […], and Thomas Hillemacher
- A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. By Christopher Spera
- IS ALWAYS AUTHORITATIVE THE OPTIMUM PARENTING STYLE? EVIDENCE FROM SPANISH FAMILIES. By García, Fernando, Gracia, Enrique
- Ethnic differences in adolescent achievement: An ecological perspective. By Steinberg, Laurence; Dornbusch, Sanford M.; Brown, B. Bradford, 1992
- Beyond Parental Control and Authoritarian Parenting Style: Understanding Chinese Parenting through the Cultural Notion of Training. By Ruth K. Chao
- Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies. By Tinca J C Polderman, Beben Benyamin, Christiaan A de Leeuw, Patrick F Sullivan, Arjen van Bochoven, Peter M Visscher & Danielle Posthuma