Savvy parents may have heard the terms “authoritarian parenting” and “permissive parenting” before. While these types of parenting are very different, they were both categorized by psychologist Diane Baumrind in the 1960s. The Baumrind parenting styles are a measure of parenting based on parents’ responsiveness to, and expectations of, their children.
Classifying Parenting Styles
In the mid-1960s, Baumrind conducted a series of studies aimed at identifying different methods of parenting. These studies involved observation of children who fit into one of three groups: kids with high self-reliance and self-control; discontented, withdrawn or distrustful children; children with little self-control and self-reliance. Baumrind found these traits corresponded with three distinct parenting styles, which she named authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive.
Later studies would tie these styles to varying levels of responsiveness (warmth) and demandingness (control) in parents. According to researchers Maccoby and Martin, the authoritative style is typified by high warmth and control, the authoritarian by low warmth and high control, and the permissive by high warmth and low control. They also added a fourth style — uninvolved parenting — which is characterized by low levels of both warmth and control.
The Four Styles
Researcher Gwen Dehar, PhD, described the four Baumrind parenting styles on her website, Parenting Science. According to Dehar, authoritative parents “encourage kids to be responsible, to think for themselves, and to consider the reasons for rules.” Conversely, authoritarian parents “expect their orders to be obeyed without question and […] rely on punishment — or the threat of punishment — to control their kids.”
In the more low-control range are permissive parents, “who are responsive and warm (a good thing) but also reluctant to enforce rules (a bad thing),” Dehar said. Meanwhile, uninvolved parents “offer their children little emotional support and fail to enforce standards of conduct.”
Research has suggested authoritative parenting to be associated with the most positive outcomes. Baumrind’s studies found that children of authoritative families exhibit more assertive and self-reliant behavior. Meanwhile, authoritarian parenting was found to yield poor academic achievement and depressive symptoms, while permissive parenting led to poor self-control, low self-esteem, and aggressive behavior.
Operating Within a Continuum
While research has identified these four distinct styles, Dehar said the classification may not be as cut-and-dried as it seems.
Dehar also says that parenting style is subject to a number of influential factors, including a child’s peer group, genetics, prenatal condition and temperament. For example, parents might have a hard time maintaining authoritative practices if a child has an especially difficult temperament. “As he gets older, his parents find it hard going,” Dehar said. “His behavior isn’t fun to deal with. […] They might have intended to practice authoritative parenting, but their child’s temperament nudged them off track.”
Some research has shown cultural and ethnic variables have an effect on test data. For example, further studies have not found authoritarian parenting to have the same negative effects in African-American families as it does in European-American families. Meanwhile, a study of Korean-American families found 75% of participants didn’t fit into any of the four categories.
“The four basic parenting styles represent a continuum,” Dehar said. “Some parents might straddle the line between authoritarianism and authoritativeness. Other parents might find themselves on the border between authoritativeness and permissiveness.”
Baumrind Parenting Styles — Sources:
Contemporary Research on Parenting: Conceptual, Methodological, and Translational Issues
Parenting Dimensions and Styles: A Brief History and Recommendations for Future Research
Parenting syles: An evidence-based guide