Parenting Styles in Different Cultures
Elizabeth L. Walsh
Parenting style is one of many factors that strongly influence child development. One’s choice of parenting style is most often molded by their cultural background. American parents use a myriad of parenting styles, all of which have their roots in various cultural beliefs about which method is best to raise a child. In 1971, clinical and developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, recognized three different categories of parenting styles that she believed described most parents’ methods (Berger, 2011). Parents who fell into the authoritarian style of parenting set high standards and strict rules for their children. Disobedience was not tolerated and was met with harsh consequences, often physical. The authoritarian parent rarely showed affection or concern for their children’s emotional needs. On the other side of the spectrum was a permissive style of parenting that was characterized by no boundaries or discipline, but did include a lot of parental involvement and affection. Authoritative parenting was the third style Baumrind identified. She believed this style produced the most happy, well-adjusted, and successful children and adolescents (Baumrind, 1971). An authoritative parent set high clear standards for their children. They respected their children’s opinions and concerns and offered plenty of support and encouragement. This style is often referred to as the balanced or “democratic” style. Later a fourth category was added by Maccoby and Martin, who recognized a neglectful parenting style (Berger, 2011; Maccoby & Martin, 1983). The neglectful parent provided for the basic needs of their children, but nothing else. This style involved no demands, boundaries, emotional support, guidance or affection. The mother and father that utilized this method basically detached from their children. While these four categories are still widely used today to classify the types of parenting, many recent studies indicate that the results of Baumrind’s research are not culturally universal. “Parenting styles developed on North American samples cannot be simply translated to other cultures, but instead must reflect their sociocultural contexts” (Chao, 1994). This paper will further research the variability of effective parenting styles across cultures and explore some of the reasons for these variations.
Based on the results of initial research and subsequent studies, Baumrind was a firm advocate of the authoritative parenting style claiming that it was the most successful of the parenting types in producing a positive child outcome (Baumrind, 1971). Authoritarian parenting tended to raise children who performed well academically and had a low involvement in problem behavior. However, they also had “poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression” (Darling, 1999). In contrast, while permissive parenting tended to raise children who had higher levels of self-esteem and were better socialized, they didn’t perform well in school and exhibited more problem behavior (Baumrind, 1991). Children raised by neglectful parents had the most negative results, with poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and high involvement in problem behavior (Baumrind, 1991). For years these results were extrapolated and generalized to describe all families and, although her work continues to be influential (Berger, 2011), many recent studies have found Baumrind’s conclusions regarding the success and failure rate of each of the parenting styles to be inaccurate when applied to a broader population. This is primarily due to her ethnocentric research design (Chao, 1994). The demographic for Baumrind’s study sample consisted of 100 preschool children that were mainly of white, European-American, middle-class families in California (Berger, 2011). Influential variables such as culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, family size,...
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