In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Parenting Styles

  • Introduction
  • Historical Context of Parenting Styles Research
  • The Introduction of the Parenting Styles Typology
  • The Revised Parenting Styles Typology
  • Parenting Styles and Child Narcissism

Psychology Parenting Styles
Michelle Givertz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0289


Parenting styles reflect variations in the attitudes and practices of parents, and comprise discrete parenting behaviors. “Parenting style” refers to a cluster of parental practices that produce relatively stable and identifiable patterns in child adjustment outcomes. Parental authority is a key concept within parenting styles research, and refers to the type and extent of discipline used by parents in carrying out parental authority (i.e., behavioral control versus psychological control). Research on parenting evolved out of an increased interest in leadership styles, and particularly authoritarian personality, that emerged following World War II. The dimensions underlying leadership styles could be applied to parenting, and several researchers were simultaneously engaged in examining the dimensions underlying parenting behaviors. It was not until Diana Baumrind introduced her parenting styles typology in 1966 that research on parenting styles coalesced. Baumrind’s typology borrowed the terms authoritarian and permissive parenting from the leadership literature, and introduced the concept of authoritative parenting to the parenting research lexicon. Since its introduction, the parenting styles typology has expanded to specify two underlying dimensions of parenting that combine in various ways to result in four rather than three original types, as well as to identify a series of subtypes reflecting moderate levels of the two dimensions. This change in the typology increased its external validity, and led to an interest in examining the applicability of the typology in diverse socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and cultural groups. The typology has also been used to understand a relatively new trend in parenting, commonly referred to as helicopter parenting, and to examine its consequences for children at a variety of developmental stages, particularly during emergent adulthood. One consequence of parenting styles that has received a lot of research attention is narcissism. Baumrind’s typology continues to serve as the classic nomenclature within parenting styles research, and has dominated the parent-child research agenda, appearing in some capacity in most parenting studies to this day.

Historical Context of Parenting Styles Research

The aftermath of World War II brought with it an interest in examining the impact of various leadership styles on group process, resulting in the application of leadership concepts to parenting research (Givertz 2016). Prior to Baumrind’s application of group dynamics theory to parenting, Baldwin 1949 studied the effects on children of democratic, authoritarian, and laissez-faire parenting, concluding that democratic parenting was maximally conducive to child development. Other research focused on the dimensions underlying parents’ socialization of children. Symonds 1939 examines the dimensions of acceptance/rejection and dominance/submission. Baldwin 1955 examines emotional warmth/hostility and detachment/involvement. Schaefer 1959 and Schaefer 1965 consider three parent dimensions: acceptance/rejection, firm/lax behavioral control, and psychological autonomy/psychological control. Becker 1964 examines warmth (acceptance)/hostility (rejection) and restrictiveness/permissiveness. There was remarkable similarity in the important dimensions of parenting identified by these researchers, as well as widespread agreement as to their impact on child outcomes. This body of research laid the groundwork for the development of Baumrind’s parenting styles typology, and made its introduction in 1966 very timely.

  • Baldwin, A. L. 1949. The effect of home environment on nursery school behavior. Child Development 20:49–62.

    DOI: 10.2307/1125606

    Examines effects on children of democratic, authoritarian, and laissez-faire parenting.

  • Baldwin, A. L. 1955. Behavior and development in children. New York: Dryden.

    Examines parental emotional warmth/hostility and detachment/involvement.

  • Becker, W. C. 1964. Consequences of different kinds of parental discipline. In Review of child development research. Vol. 1. Edited by M. L. Hoffman and L. W. Hoffman, 169–208. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Discusses the dimensions of parental warmth/hostility and restrictiveness/permissiveness.

  • Givertz, M. 2016. Parenting styles/discipline. In International encyclopedia of interpersonal communication. Edited by C. R. Berger and M. E. Roloff, 1–9. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic0037

    Provides an overview of the development and evolution of the parenting styles typology.

  • Schaefer, E. S. 1959. A circumplex model for maternal behavior. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59:226–235.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0041114

    Examines dimensions of parenting in maternal behavior.

  • Schaefer, E. S. 1965. A configurational analysis of children’s reports of parent behavior. Journal of Consulting Psychology 29:552–557.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0022702

    Examines dimensions of parenting in maternal and paternal behavior.

  • Symonds, P. M. 1939. The psychology of parent-child relationships. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

    Examines the dimensions of acceptance/rejection and dominance/submission in parenting behavior.

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