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The Baumrind Theory of Parenting Styles

by Beth Greenwood

Diana Baumrind studied social, clinical and developmental psychology in the late 1940s and early '50s. She chose research after she graduated with a PhD because she felt it would give her flexibility in caring for her daughters, according to the American Psychological Association. During the 1970s, she conducted extensive studies of parent-child interactions in the home. Baumrind developed the theory that there were four main types of parenting styles and that differences in parenting styles accounted for the way children functioned socially, emotionally and cognitively.

Four Dimensions, Four Styles

Baumrind felt that there were four dimensions of parent-child interactions: parental control, maturity demands, clarity of communication and nurturance. "Parental control" is related to such issues as enforcing rules. "Maturity demand" is the parental expectation that children perform up to their potential. "Clarity of communication" reflects the parents’ willingness to communicate with their children, solicit their opinions and use reasoning to obtain the desired behavior. "Nurturance" is related to parental expressions of warmth and approval, and protection of children’s physical and emotional well-being. Using these four dimensions, Baumrind identified four parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive-indulgent and permissive-uninvolved.

Authoritative Parenting

The authoritative style is considered the “ideal” parenting style and seems to produce children with high levels of self-reliance and self-esteem, who are socially responsible, independent and achievement-oriented, according to Education.com. Authoritative parents set clear expectations and have high standards. They monitor their children’s behavior, use discipline based on reasoning and encourage their children to make decisions and learn from their mistakes. They are also warm and nurturing, treating their children with kindness, respect and affection.

Authoritarian Parenting

Although the word sounds similar, authoritarian parenting is different in many ways from authoritative parenting. The authoritarian parent tends to set rigid rules, demand obedience and use strategies such as the withdrawal of love or approval to force a child to conform. These parents are more likely to use physical punishment or verbal insults to elicit the desired behavior. They lack the warmth of the authoritative parent and may seem aloof to their children. Children with authoritarian parents may be well-behaved, but they are also likely to be moody and anxious; they tend to be followers rather than leaders, according to Education.com.

Permissive-Indulgent Parenting

The permissive-indulgent parent is overflowing in parental warmth. This parent may be openly affectionate and loving but sets few or no limits, even when the child’s safety may be at risk. Permissive-indulgent parents make few demands for maturity or performance, and there are often no consequences for misbehavior. Children of permissive parents often have problems with controlling their impulses; they may display immaturity and be reluctant to accept responsibility, according to Dr. Anita Gurian, clinical assistant professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine.

Permissive-Uninvolved Parenting

Permissive-uninvolved parenting, also called simply "uninvolved parenting," is characterized by the same lack of limits or demands seen in the permissive-indulgent style. However, the uninvolved parent displays little or no parental warmth. At its extreme, the uninvolved style can be neglectful or involve outright rejection of the child. Children with uninvolved parents are likely to have low levels of functioning in many areas. They tend to do poorly in school and, particularly as they move into high school, are more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior and to be depressed, says Education.com.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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