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Parenting Styles

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Throughout the world most parents manage to find acceptable, balanced ways to show their love and wield their authority (R. H. Bradley, Corwyn, McAdoo, & Coll, 2001; Rohner & Rohner, 1981). However, parents vary in how they express affection and implement discipline; that is, they develop characteristic parenting styles. Initial research into parenting styles in U.S. families, conducted by Diana Baumrind (1967, 1971, 1980, 1989, 1991), identified three unique styles—authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. A fourth style—uninvolved—has since been identified by other researchers in the field. The results suggest these patterns:

  • Parents who use an authoritarian style expect complete and immediate compliance. They neither negotiate expectations nor provide reasons for their requests (“Clean your room because I told you to—and I mean now!). Authoritarian parents also tend to be somewhat cool, aloof, and punitive with children, and they expect children to act in a mature fashion at a fairly young age. Children of authoritarian parents tend to be withdrawn, mistrusting, and unhappy. They have low self-esteem, little self-reliance, and poor social skills, and in some cases they are overly aggressive with others (Coopersmith, 1967; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Conger, 1991).
  • Parents who use an authoritative style also seek mature behavior from their children, but they do so in a warmer manner that incorporates give-and-take, explanations for why rules should be followed, and respect for children’s viewpoints (“OK, maybe you don’t need to sort through your backpack every night, but can we both agree you’ll do it every Wednesday and Saturday?”). Children of authoritative parents are generally mature, friendly, energetic, confident in tackling new tasks, and able to resist distractions. They have high self-esteem, are self-reliant, and have good social skills. Furthermore, they achieve at high levels academically, are well-behaved at school, and adjust reasonably well to traumatic events (Coopersmith, 1967; Dekovic & Janssens, 1992; Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Lamborn et al., 1991; R. C. Loeb, Horst, & Horton, 1980; L. Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989).
  • Parents who use a permissive stylecare about their children, but they exercise little control over children’s behaviors. Permissive parents relinquish decisions to children (even fairly young ones) about when to go to bed, what chores (if any) to do around the house, and what curfews to abide by (“Fine. Just ignore what I say!”). Children in such families are typically immature, impulsive, demanding and dependent on parents and, not surprisingly, disobedient when parents ask them to do something they do not want to do. These children tend to have difficulty in school, to be aggressive with peers, and to engage in delinquent acts as adolescents (Lamborn et al., 1991; Pulkkinen, 1982).
  • Some parents are not only permissive but also indifferent to their children. Uninvolved parents make few demands on their children, and they respond to children in an uncaring and rejecting manner. Their children frequently exhibit serious difficulties in many areas, including problems with school achievement, emotional control, tolerance for frustration, and delinquency (Lamborn et al., 1991; Simons, Robertson, & Downs, 1989).
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