Interaction Styles Within Families
The child-rearing practices that parents employ influence children’s behavior as we observe it in schools and communities, and researchers confirm the effect of parent actions on children’s interactions with significant adults. The studies discussed in this section demonstrate connections between parenting and observed child behavior.
In Baumrind’s (1968, 1966) classification, parenting styles were originally placed along a three-part continuum:
- Authoritative (democratic). Controlling, demanding, but warm. Rational and receptive to child’s communication.
- Permissive (child centered). Noncontrolling, nondemanding, and relatively warm.
- Authoritarian (autocratic). Detached, controlling, somewhat less warm.
Later work by Baumrind and others (Sclafani, 2004) resulted in a fourth parenting style being added as a refinement of the permissive style:
Accepting, Responsive Rejecting, Unresponsive Demanding, controlling AUTHORITATIVE AUTHORITARIAN Undemanding, uncontrolling PERMISSIVE-INDULGENT PERMISSIVE-NEGLECTFUL
In her classic study, Baumrind (1968) found that most children of authoritative parents showed independence and were socially responsible. They were also better able to regulate their emotions and behaviors, and they tended to have good tolerance for frustration as well as the ability to delay gratification. These traits translated into competence and resistance to substance abuse during adolescence, according to a later study (Baumrind, 1995). Authoritative parents took into account their child’s needs as well as their own before dealing with situations. The parents respected children’s need to make their own decisions, yet they exerted control. They reasoned with their children and explained things more often than did other parents.
On the other hand, Baumrind found that those children of permissive parents frequently lacked social responsibility and often were not independent. She concluded that parents who looked at all behavior as natural and refreshing had unrealistic beliefs about young children’s growth and socialization.
Baumrind found that children of authoritarian parents also showed little independence and were less socially responsible. Such parents feel that children need restraint and need to develop respect for authority, work, and traditional structure.
The authoritative style requires parents to guide, share activities, and to talk and listen to their children. The following summary illustrates the adult behaviors that produce Baumrind’s authoritative style. To foster socially responsible and independent behavior in children, parents
- Serve as responsible and self-assertive models.
- Set standards where responsible behavior is rewarded and unacceptable behavior is punished.
- Are committed to the child in a way that is neither overprotective nor rejecting.
- Have high demands for achievement and conformity but are receptive to the child’s rational demands.
- Provide secure but challenging and stimulating environments for creative and rational thinking.
Maccoby and Martin (1983) reviewed literature on parenting styles at a later point and in general supported the findings of Baumrind. Clark (1983) also produced similar findings. His “sponsored independence” style is consistent with Baumrind’s authoritative style. Later studies measuring the long-term effects of the authoritative style produced more evidence that it engenders positive adolescent behavior (Holmbeck, Paikoff, & Brooks-Gunn, 1995; Steinberg, 1991). Recent research on adolescent development indicates that feeling loved and cared for by parents continues to be of great importance for young people (Steinberg & Silk, 2002).
One caveat is needed concerning this research. Baumrind used White, middle-class parents in her study, whereas later, in their replication studies, Maccoby and Martin (1983) found that Baumrind’s conclusions did not always translate directly for poor, minority, and single-parent families. Clark (1983), however, found that the authoritative or sponsored independence behaviors in Mexican American and African American homes often made the difference between success and failure for minority children in schools. As far as parenting in a contemporary society is concerned, the authoritative style of parenting seems to be most effective for preparing children for school expectations as well for later positive outcomes (Noddings, 2005).
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