Before one even decides to become a parent, the question of “Will I be a good parent?” sinks in. There is no concrete definition of “good” parenting, as this is entirely subjective and depends on the religious, ethnic, cultural, and societal values to which the parent adheres. What is clear is that some children develop with an inclination towards positivity, while others do not, and there is a clear connection between these behaviors and the style with which these children were raised (Santrock, 2011). This discussion will evaluate Baumrind's four distinct parenting styles, noting the impact each may have on child development, followed by an analysis of the role culture plays in effective parenting.
The authoritarian parent values obedience above all else. Strict limits are often placed on what children are and are not allowed to do, and these children are not allowed the time or space to express their feelings about the given limits (Santrock, 2011). These parents are high in their demandingness, but low in their responsiveness to children (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). Growing up, I can remember a friend's parents who, when she asked why they insisted on a certain rule responded, “Because we're the parents. That's why!”
Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to be unhappy, and often experience higher rates of depression in adolescence (Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007). As these parents invoke fear in their children as a means to obedience, these children are often preemptively fearful and anxious in social situations. The expectation that another person will direct them as to what they are supposed to do often results in a failure to take initiative (Santrock, 2011). Cognitively, these children may not be as academically successful as their peers when placed in a child-centered learning environment. Socially, they have a difficult time communicating with peers, as a model of appropriate verbal exchange is not present in their households (Gfroerer, Kern, Curlette, White, & Jonyniene, 2011; Santrock, 2011). Boys raised in this environment may become aggressive, possibly modeling the authoritarian control of their parents (Santrock, 2011).
Authoritative parents balance demandingness with responsiveness, setting limits, but also allowing their children's voice to be heard (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). These parents model appropriate communication, expect their children to behave according to the standards they have set, but provide constructive feedback for both negative and positive behaviors. These parents are warm, nurturing, and appreciative of their children's viewpoints and ideas (Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007; Santrock, 2011).
Children raised by authoritative parents tend to be cheerful, with low incidence of teenage depression. They are much more likely to be able to self-regulate, are independent, and have little problem separating from parents (Gfroerer, Kern, Curlette, White, & Jonyniene, 2011; Santrock, 2011). These children are often achievement-oriented, as they are introduced to a model of constructive feedback and positive support early on. Cognitively, these traits lead to higher academic achievement. Emotionally, self-regulation and a cheerful disposition aid these children in the development of coping skills (Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007). Socially, these children are found to be extremely cooperative, having little difficulty making or sustaining friendships (Santrock, 2011). Neglectful
Neglectful parents are wholly uninvolved in their children's lives. The opposite of authoritarian, these parents have little communication with their children, thus failing to model any appropriate social behavior (Santrock, 2011). Parents who raise their children in this style lead their children to believe that their lives are much more valuable and important than their children's (Darling & Steinberg, 1993).
Children raised in this fashion often have extreme social difficulties, as they are not given the opportunity to practice verbal exchange or social behaviors in the home (Santrock, 2011). Without rules in the home, these children fail to develop self-control or the ability to be independent. These children may have boundary issues, and often suffer from low self-esteem, a leading cause of depression (Gfroerer, Kern, Curlette, White, & Jonyniene, 2011). Cognitively, these children tend to be immature and behind their peers. Depending on the level of neglect, these children may also be smaller physically if parents do not provide adequate nourishment (Santrock, 2011). As these children move into adolescence, they are more likely to exhibit truant and/or delinquent behaviors (Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007).
Indulgent, or permissive, parenting walks the line between authoritarian and neglectful (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). These parents are highly involved in every aspect of their children's lives, yet they fail to set appropriate rules, standards, and boundaries. These parents often believe that the child knows best, and therefore allow their children to do what they want (Santrock, 2011). One of the children in my preschool program has parents that are a shining example of this style. They spend a gratuitous amount of time with their daughter, and agree with her on every statement that she makes. On one particular occasion, she announced that she would like to walk home (through the streets of Brooklyn) without any shoes. Her parents happily complied.
With no boundaries or model of social appropriateness provided, these children have a difficult time socially, as they often have failed to learn respect for others (Santrock, 2011). They may also have difficulty with self-control, which could impede their ability to learn in a school setting. Having been the center of attention, these children can grow to be domineering, egocentric and/or non-compliant (Darling & Steinberg, 1993).
Culture is a primary factor in how one chooses to raise his or her children. Culture is tied to spiritual beliefs, religious traditions, and moral values (Santrock, 2011). In cultures where collectivism is valued over individuality, parents are more likely to take an authoritarian role. This is often the case in Asia, where parents and elders are given the utmost respect, and their authority is not questioned. However, as this is a societal norm, it is seen as the most effective parenting style, teaching children how to appropriately navigate the outside world (Darling & Steinberg, 1993; Sue & Sue, 2008). The authoritative parenting style has been proven to be the most effective in raising positive, well-adjusted, high achieving children in Euro-America, but the authoritarian style is much more effective when raising African-American females (Darling & Steinberg, 1993; Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007). In many of the studies linking parenting style to child development, little diversity is seen in the norming group. Further research that is inclusive of a variety of ethnic, racial, and culture backgrounds is necessary to determine a true correlation (Gfroerer, Kern, Curlette, White, & Jonyniene, 2011; Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007). Conclusion
While there are four distinct parenting styles presented in this post, most parents do not fall into one specific category, but tend to blur the lines between two or more. A parent will choose the method or style that is most effective given the situation at hand (Darling & Steinberg, 1993). While it appears that the authoritative style is the best choice for parenting, further research is needed, with a diverse demographic represented, to determine accurate correlations between style and outcome (Gfroerer, Kern, Curlette, White, & Jonyniene, 2011; Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007).
Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487–496. Retrieved December 8, 2006, from the PsycARTICLES database. (AN-bul-113-3-487)
Gfroerer, K. P., Kern. R. M. Curlette. W. L., White, J. & Jonyniene, J. (2011). Parenting styles and personality: Perceptions of mothers, fathers, and adolescents. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 67(1), 57–73.
Milevsky, A., Schlechter, M., & Netter, S. (2007). Maternal and paternal parenting styles in adolescents: Associations with self-esteem, depression and lifesatisfaction. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16(1), 39–47.
Santrock, J.W. (2011). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.) New York. McGraw-Hill.