What’s Parenting Style Got to Do With It?

I wanted to share this article with you all today. I am curious about your thoughts. I happen to think that it’s a bit too simplified, in that rather than four categories that all parents fall into, it is more likely that we all are on a continuum between these points (or somewhere on a sphere containing all four). Nevertheless, I found it interesting and thought you might as well. Enjoy!

Parenting Styles

The Four Styles of Parenting

By , About.com Guide

parenting stylesParenting styles play an important role in child development.

Developmental psychologists have long been interested in how parents impact child development. However, finding actual cause-and-effect links between specific actions of parents and later behavior of children is very difficult. Some children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have remarkably similar personalities. Conversely, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have astonishingly different personalities than one another.Despite these challenges, researchers have uncovered convincing links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children. During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children (Baumrind, 1967). Using naturalistic observation1, parental interviews and other research methods2, she identified four important dimensions of parenting:

  • Disciplinary strategies
  • Warmth and nurturance
  • Communication styles
  • Expectations of maturity and control

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Further research by also suggested the addition of a fourth parenting style (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

The Four Parenting Styles

  • Authoritarian Parenting3      In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (1991).
  • Authoritative Parenting4    Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents “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” (1991).
  • Permissive Parenting5       Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind, permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (1991). Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.
  • Uninvolved Parenting6         An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.

The Impact of Parenting Styles

What effect do these parenting styles have on child development outcomes? In addition to Baumrind’s initial study of 100 preschool children, researchers have conducted numerous other studies than have led to a number of conclusions about the impact of parenting styles on children.

  • Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.
  • Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, 1992).
  • Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.
  • Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Why Do Parenting Styles Differ?

After learning about the impact of parenting styles on child development, you may wonder why all parents simply don’t utilize an authoritative parenting style. After all, this parenting style is the most likely to produce happy, confident and capable children. What are some reasons why parenting styles might vary? Some potential causes of these differences include culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level and religion.Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each and every family. For example, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favors a more permissive approach. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent–child interaction. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington, Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.

Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

This About.com page has been optimized for print. To view this page in its original form, please visit: http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/parenting-style.htm©2011 About.com, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

Hope you enjoyed this article from Kendra Cherry at About.com. It was shared with me by The Tiny Toes blog ladies. Thanks Ladies!


Be well


About Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE, CMNEC

I'm a cofounder of the Center for Emotional Education, and I've spent the last 16 years working with the world's most powerful women, femme, and nonbinary leaders who have been incredibly successful, but who still struggle with debilitating emotional overwhelm that gets in the way of their relationships, their health, and their work. I help them learn how to operate their emotional system, heal from longstanding emotional wounds, and rewire their brains to be better at feelings, so they can finally have the relationships, the health, and the next level business success that they deserve. I lead courses and trainings, and offer 1:1 healing and growth support for my clients all over the world — so that they can move from emotional overwhelm to Emotional Sovereignty, and fully own their lives.
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8 Responses to What’s Parenting Style Got to Do With It?

  1. Karyn @ kloppenmum says:

    No, not enough parenting styles to cover everyone. IMHO 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    I agree that the model presented is simplified, and the truth does lie on a continuum.

    I also find it interesting that conclusions garnered from a study done on only around 100 children in 1967 are still being presented to a contemporary audience as if nothing has changed since then. I would have hoped that the later studies would have expanded the themes, or uncovered new ground as our collective social and neurological knowledge has grown. I feel this is out of date.

    I also recognized the name Diana Baumrind. In his book Unconditional Parenting(2005) Alfie Kohn has this to say about her and this study(1967) in particular:
    “One example in the discipline field is Diana Baumrind’s schema, which has been adopted by lots of researchers as well as practitioners. She describes parenting as being ‘authoritarian’ one one side, ‘permissive’ on the other, or ‘authoritative’ (read: just right) in the middle. In reality, her favored approach, supposedly a blend of firmness and caring, is actually quite traditional and control-oriented – even if less so than option 1. In fact, a close reading of Baumrind’s research raises questions about the recommendations she offers, particularly her endorsement of ‘firm control.’
    The larger point is that we may be tempted to accept a certain approach just because of how the discussion about parenting has been set up, and specifically because we believe that rejecting one or two other approaches requires us to embrace a given alternative. To recognize that there are many possible ways of raising children, and to question the validity of various other ideologies, is to free us to explore new directions that may end up making a lot more sense than the conventional wisdom.” (p. 104-105)

    That pretty much sums it up for me. Thanks Nathan for all your work in recognizing the possible and questioning the validity of the conventional. 🙂

    • Yes, Melissa! Wew!

      I love that you remembered Diana from Alfie Kohn’s take on her. I’d totally forgotten about that.

      I started to reply to you here, but I got going on such a tangent that I am turning it into another post.

      Thanks for your thorough comment. Good to hear from you!

      Be well.

  3. Example of all 4: Family dinner is steak, and 1 child doesn’t want it.
    Authoritarian: Eat the steak or I’ll spank you.
    Authoritative: Eat the steak or go hungry.
    Permissive: Cook two dinners to avoid whining. (The kid is in charge and spoiled)
    Uninvolved: What’s a family dinner? There is food in the fridge, they can fen for themselves.

    • That’s hilarious Rich!

      Though I think the more common read of “Authoritative” might leave a little more room to negotiate…

      Also, even though it’s a joke, and I laughed — I can’t identify with the common notion of kids being “spoiled”. They are always a reflection of what has been given them to understand about how the world works and their place in it. If by “spoiled” you mean exhibiting behavior(s) we adults don’t like, that again is likely just what they were taught or figured out to do in order to attempt to get their needs met and reflect the input they’ve been given… We get taught to toss around words like “spoiled” (and they were surely wielded against us as well, right?) without thinking much about it, but I am certain that they color our perception(s) and cloud a keen sense of the real person of the upset, perhaps out of balance, kid in front of us. And that’s to say nothing of the negative effects of our kids overhearing such a label being applied to them…

      Aaannd, not to butcher the experience of the joke, which again, I loved.

      Thanks, Rich!

  4. “Though I think the more common read of “Authoritative” might leave a little more room to negotiate”
    — As you said, there is a lot of inbetween. Every relationship is unique and special.

    Negotiation Examples:
    1. If you don’t Eat any of your meat… You get no dessert. This is withholding a reward. It is a string. Loving relationships do carry strings (ie. When your child gets upset, you get upset). This option is giving the child a choice. There is no yelling. You can even negotiate how much steak to eat for the dessert. 3 pieces, 5 pieces, etc… This is what we do.
    2. You could be a jerk about what to withhold… ie. No TV for a week. No christmas present this year(santa clause model). No toys for a week. We’re throwing away your toys if you choose not to eat. (between authoritarian and authoritative).
    3. If you don’t eat the meat… you still have to sit at the table.
    4. If you want to eat yogurt at the table, that’s fine, but you have to eat at the table. (between authoritative and permissive).
    5. You can eat the veggies and salad and skip the steak. (between authoritative and permissive)
    6. If they are old enough, I cook a meal, you cook your meal, and we both eat together. (between authoritative and permissive)

    There is no manual for good parenting. What works for one, may not be best for another. Our two children(1 girl, 1 boy) are very different. Relationships evolve and change and grow over time. Eventually most of the strings go away, and you hope you raised your kids right. People make mistakes. Your kids will too. You can try to help them avoid mistakes, but sometimes they have to make them. Sometimes words on a piece of paper don’t mean much until you experience it. Until you feel it. Until you talk about it.

    ps. Thanks for the outstanding blog. I look forward to reading more from another thoughtful and caring dad. 🙂

    • “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!” eh, Rich? 😉

      I lean more and more toward the “permissive” end of the pool, as time goes on. If I had to name it, which I would normally be loathe to do, in terms like the article, I would call it something like “Leadery” (though it’s not even a word…). We are the ones in charge, but we don’t feel the need to control every thing that happens. In fact, we are always looking for ways to let go of more control. So our questions are not like, “How do I get the kid to eat the meat?” Instead we’re asking, how can we accommodate everyone’s needs (for health, for food, for ease of preparing food, etc.), and empower them (and us) to be more and more able (to do what feels good, to have what we want, to live fulfilling lives, etc.). Maybe they don’t even like steak. Maybe they never will. Maybe they just need some different sauce. Maybe they just need to feel that they are getting to choose. Etc. etc… In then end, I care little about particular steaks, and much more about the relationship my kids and I share, and the blossoming individuals involved.

      I totally agree that there are nearly infinite ways to parent. It’s our job to do what feels “good” and “right” to us, and to our kids (individually and as a group), and to keep considering our actions, choices, and intentions.

      Thanks for writing in, Rich.

      Be well.


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