ERIC Identifier: ED427896 Publication Date: 1999-03-00
Author: Darling, Nancy Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL.
Parenting Style and Its Correlates. ERIC Digest.
Developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the
development of children's 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
Parenting 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 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). 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.
Parenting 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 children's 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
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.
* 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 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.
* 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. 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 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
Parenting 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:
* 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 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 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), and (2) authoritative parenting
predicts 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 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).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental
psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct. CHILD DEVELOPMENT,
67(6), 3296-3319. EJ 545 015.
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. EJ 491 656.
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. EJ 461 700.
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. EJ 315 787.
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
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. EJ 539 840.
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