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Chapter: Psychology: Development

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The Role of Parenting Styles - Socioemotional Development in Infancy and Childhood

Other kinds of differences between parents also powerfully shape the developing child.

THE ROLE OF PARENTING STYLES

 

Other kinds of differences between parents also powerfully shape the developing child. Some parents are strict, others less so; some are anxious and others not; some explain their instructions (“Go to bed so that you will feel better tomorrow”) and others just assert their authority (“Go to bed!”). Across this diversity, though, researchers propose that parenting styles can be largely described in terms of just two dimensions (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). First, parents differ in how accepting they are of their children, and, with that, how respon-sive they are to the child’s actions or needs. Second, parents differ in how demanding or controlling they are of their children’s behavior. Putting these two dimensions together, we can think about parenting styles as being divided into four broad types.

 

Diana Baumrind (1967, 1971) described these four styles in detail. Authoritarianparents (high on demandingness but low on responsiveness) adhere to strict standardsabout how children should and should not speak and act, and attempt to mold their chil-dren’s behavior accordingly. Such parents set down firm rules and meet any infractions with stern and sometimes severe punishment. Authoritarian parents do not believe it is necessary to explain the rules to their children, but expect their children to submit to them by virtue of parental authority: “It’s because I say so; that’s why.”

 

At the opposite extreme, permissive parents (low on demandingness but high on responsiveness) set few explicit rules. These parents try not to assert their authority, impose few restrictions and controls, tend not to have set schedules (for, say, bedtime or watching TV), and rarely use punishment. They also make few demands on their children—such as putting toys away, doing schoolwork, or helping with chores.

 

Authoritarian parents brandish parental power; permissive parents abdicate it. A third approach lies between these extremes: Authoritative parents (high on both responsiveness and demandingness) exercise their power but also accept the reciprocal obligation to respond to their children’s opinions and reasonable requests. These parents set down rules of conduct and enforce them, assign chores, and expect mature behavior. But they also spend time teaching their children how to act appropriately, encourage independence, and allow a good deal of verbal give and take.

 

Finally, a fourth pattern is that of disengaged parents (low on both responsiveness and demandingness). These parents exhibit a lax and undemanding approach, possibly because they are so overwhelmed by their own concerns that they have little time for child rearing. They provide few rules and demands and are relatively insensitive to their children’s needs.

 

Why do parents adopt one parenting style over another? One factor is socioeconomic— poverty is associated with lower levels of involvement (Costello, Compton, Keeler, & Angold, 2003). A second factor is the characteristics of the child. Children who are dis-obedient and aggressive, for example, make it difficult for parents to use an authorita-tive style (Brody & Ge, 2001). Likewise, stubborn or impulsive children tend to elicit more demanding forms of parenting (Stoolmiller, 2001). In addition, children mature at different speeds, and a child who learns to crawl, walk, speak, or read precociously will be treated differently from a child who does not. Likewise, a child who understands and respects a logical reason (“Don’t touch that because you’ll get burned”) will be more likely to elicit responsive parenting than a child who does not.

 

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