The study of parenting patterns and their impact on children has been greatly influenced by research done by psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, and others in her footsteps.
Using many measures of behavior, she found that parents differed on four important dimensions.
- Strategies for discipline (parental explanation; criticism; persuasion; physical punishment);
- Expressions of warmth or nurturing (ranging from very affectionate to quite cold);
- Quality of communication between parents and children (ranging from listening patiently to demanding absolute silence);
- Expectations for maturity and and self-control.
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Based on these dimensions, Baumrind identified three basic styles of parenting. A fourth was added based on further research by Maccoby & Martin in 1983.
The parental rule is law and is not to be questioned. While these parents communicate their rules and standards, parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules (their explanations are usually along the lines of: “Because I said so”). Failure to follow the rules usually results in punishment. Although these parents love their children, they appear aloof, show minimal affection, and are very obedience and status-oriented.
Authoritative parents establish clear rules and guidelines, but are more nurturing, forgiving, and accepting. These parents are more willing to listen to what their children have to say. When children fail to meet the expectations, they are supportive rather than punitive – aiming to impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. Because they view their role as helping their children rather than feeling responsible for shaping how their children turn out, they tend to be less intrusive and less restrictive.
Permissive or indulgent parents make few demands of their children. These parents are nurturing and understanding; because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control, they rarely discipline their children. Such parents hope to be friends with their children, rather than authorities.
Uninvolved parents do not seem to care at all; while they may provide for their children’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their lives. Their style is characterized by low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In more extreme cases, neglectful parents may even reject or neglect the basic needs of their children.
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See also Part II: The impact of these differing parenting styles on children