Primary Author: Natalie Raketich

Diana Baumrind is a clinical and developmental psychologist who observed three parenting styles: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative (Baumrind, 1967). The permissive parent confers with the child about decision making and explains why the rules are in place. The permissive parent does not make many demands and lets the child make many of his own decisions instead of exercising control (Baumrind, 1967). As a permissive parent, one is either permissive-indifferent or permissive-indulgent. The permissive-indifferent parent makes few rules, does not observe the child, and is fairly uninvolved whereas the permissive-indulgent parent is both loving and available to the child but sets very few rules and does not exert much control (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). The authoritarian parent places an emphasis on obedience and may use forceful means to keep the child in place. The authoritarian parent gives the child responsibilities, values order, and thinks the child should accept that her word is always right (Baumrind, 1967). The authoritative parent promotes conversations about decision making and gives the child a reason for why rules are in place but also expresses her overall control at times. The authoritative parent uses reason as well as power to direct the child (Baumrind, 1967).

Using the authoritative parenting style is known as the middle-range parenting style (Pellerin, 2005). Research has suggested that adolescents fare better to authoritative parenting relative to authoritarian or permissive parenting styles (Baumrind, 1971, 1989, 1991). This has proved true not only in the United States but around the world. It has been shown that the beneficial effects of authoritative parenting is regardless of race or social background and has been confirmed in countries such as China, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Scotland, Australia, and Argentina (Steinberg, 2001). Authoritative parents place a high standard on behavior while also being responsive with open communication and mutual respect. This balance has been shown to help children develop higher social and cognitive competence, higher aspirations, better grades, and better behavior compared to others (Slicker, 1998). Authoritarian parents are very demanding but this has been shown to result in low responsiveness (Baumrind, 1978). Since authoritarian parents attempt to mold their children to be obedient to them, these children in turn rely on external controls instead of self-regulation (Hoffman, 1976). These children have an increased likelihood of rebellion, but overall have low rates of problem behaviors and drug use. They do however have higher rates of low social competence and self-esteem (Baumrind, 1991). Permissive parents place minimal demands on their children. These children have been show to have fairly high social competence and self-esteem paired with low achievement and high rates of problem behaviors and drug use (Baumrind, 1991; Slicker, 1998).

Baumrind’s parenting styles shape the development of children and can have negative or positive effects on their health. Researchers have observed a relationship between the authoritarian parenting style and an increase in children with Obsessive Compulsive symptoms and beliefs (Timpano, Keough, Mahaffey, Schmidt, & Abramowitz 2010). The cognitive behavioral models of anxiety disorders suggest that social learning plays an important role in the development of these conditions (Manassis, Bradley, Goldberg, Hood, & Swinson, 1994). Researchers have also found a connection between variations in the familial environment and the appearance of mental illness (Stark, Humphrey, Crook, & Lewis, 1990). Therefore, the parenting style a child is raised under can have an effect on their mental health.

Using Baumrind’s theories of parenting styles can help public health professionals develop and evaluate intervention methods for adolescents. Researchers have suggested that health professionals with an understanding of parenting styles and the mechanisms parents use to control and form behaviors can help to prevent and treat health issues such as obesity (Luther, 2007). Using Baumrind’s parenting styles in intervention strategies can be implemented at many levels. The clinical setting is one area where Baumrind’s theories can be implemented (Luther, 2007). At the clinical interaction level, health professionals can help guide parents in the development of health promotion skills for their children and parents look for education from their health professionals to improve and expand on their parenting abilities (Borra, Kelly, Shirreffs, Neville, & Geiger, 2003). Using the knowledge of Baumrind’s parenting styles, healthcare providers can develop interventions to assist parents in using Baumrind’s theories to alter the development and health outcomes in their children (Lederman et al., 2004). Interventions might also include educating parents on the skills necessary for the different parenting styles.


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