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Research on Parenting Styles Generally Suggests That ____

Research on parenting styles generally suggests that ____..

A) children of authoritarian parents tend to be self-confident and self-reliant B) children of permissive parents tend to be very mature C) children influence the type of parenting style that parents use D) no parenting style is better than another one

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research on parenting styles generally suggests that ____

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Parenting For Brain

4 Types of Parenting Styles and Their Effects On Children

By: Author Pamela Li Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more

Posted on Last updated: Aug 24, 2023 Evidence Based

  • 4 types of parenting styles
  • Diana Baumrind’s parenting style theory
  • Definition & Impact
  • Best parenting style
  • Nature vs. nurture

Other parenting styles

  • Chart & infographic

4 types of Parenting Styles

The four parenting styles used in psychology are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting style. They are based on the work of developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s. Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin at Stanford University expanded the model in the 1980s.

four prototypic dimensions of parenting styles model chart - 4 types of parenting styles psychology are categorized by demandingness and responsiveness

Diana Baumrind’s Parenting Styles Theory

Baumrind noticed that preschoolers exhibited distinctly different types of behavior. Each type of behavior was highly correlated to a specific kind of parenting. Baumrind’s theory suggests a close relationship between the type of parenting style and children’s behavior. Different parenting styles can lead to different child development and outcomes.

Based on extensive observation, interviews, and analyses, she initially identified three parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. ​1​

portrait of Diana Baumrind - Diana Baumrind's theory and baumrinds parenting styles in psychology is the most prevalent among the many different parenting theories.

Although Diana Baumrind is known for her work on categorizing parenting styles, Maccoby and Martin (1983) were the ones who expanded this 3-parenting-styles model using a two-dimensional framework. ​2​

They added a fourth style and expanded Baumrind’s permissive parenting style into two different styles: permissive (also known as indulgent parenting style) and neglectful (also known as uninvolved parenting style).

These four parenting styles are sometimes called the Diana Baumrind parenting styles or Maccoby and Martin parenting styles.

A young man and woman playing Jenga with a young girl.

In the US, roughly 46% of parents use the authoritative parenting style, 26% use the authoritarian parenting style, 18% use the permissive parenting style, and 10% neglectful parenting style. ​3​

The distribution is relatively stable within the population, except that European-American parents are about 2% more likely to have an authoritative style, while Asian-American parents are 2% more likely to be authoritarian.

A woman distracted by her phone tries to move her curious child aside.

Parenting Style Definition & Impact on Child Development

Parenting styles are categorized based on two dimensions of parenting behavior – demanding and responsive.

Demandingness refers to how parents control their child’s behavior or demand maturity.

Responsiveness refers to how much parents are accepting and sensitive to their children’s emotional and developmental needs.

parent holding girl's hands - authoritative parenting is the best parenting definition among the 4 styles of parenting

1. Authoritative Parenting Style (Democratic)

High demandingness. High responsiveness.

Authoritative parenting involves high expectations for achievement and maturity, but authoritative parents are also warm and responsive. ​4​

These parents set rules and enforce boundaries by monitoring, having open discussions, providing guidance, and using inductive discipline.

They provide reasoning and explanation for their actions. Explanations give children a sense of awareness and teach them about values, morals, and goals.

The disciplinary methods are described as confrontative ​5​ – reasoned, negotiable, outcome-oriented, and concerned with regulating behaviors instead of coercive.

Authoritative parents are assertive but not intrusive or restrictive. Their disciplinary styles are supportive rather than punitive. They respect their children’s autonomy , provide them with a lot of freedom and encourage independence.

Allowing bidirectional communication, this parenting style is also known as the  democratic parenting style . ​6​

Children of authoritative parents are cherished .

Based on Baumrind’s research on parenting styles, children of authoritative parents tend to: ​7​

  • Appear happy and content
  • More independent
  • More active
  • Higher academic performance
  • High self-esteem
  • Competent social skills
  • Better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol, and drug use ​8–10​
  • Less violent tendencies
  • Develop secure attachment ​11​
  • Good parent-child relationships

This is regarded as the best parenting style among the four types of parenting.

Child buries his face when authoritarian parent points at him - authoritarian parenting style definition

2. Authoritarian Parenting (Disciplinarian)

High demandingness. Low responsiveness.

High levels of parental control and low levels of parental responsiveness are the two characteristics of the authoritarian parenting style .

Although authoritarian and authoritative have similar names, they differ significantly in parenting beliefs, demands, and approaches.

While both styles demand high standards, the authoritarian style is directive, and obedience- and status-oriented. These strict parents demand blind obedience from their children without explanation. They use reasons such as “because I said so.”

The authoritarian parenting style is also known as the disciplinarian parenting style.

Authoritarian parents view themselves as authority figures. They use stern discipline and harsh punishment, such as corporal punishment, to obtain behavioral and psychological control . Their disciplinary strategies are dictatorial and coercive ​12​ , i.e., arbitrary, peremptory, domineering, and concerned with marking status distinctions.

They only allow one-way communication through strict rules and orders. Any attempts to reason with them are seen as backtalk.

They are unresponsive to their children’s needs and are generally not nurturing. They believe their harsh discipline is justified as it will toughen up their kids or make them more resilient.

Children of authoritarian parents tend to have worse outcomes than those with authoritative parents. They are more likely to have the following characteristics. ​13​

  • Unhappy disposition
  • Less independent
  • Low self-esteem
  • More rebellious behavior
  • More behavioral or conduct issues ​14​
  • Less emotional regulation skills and more temper tantrums
  • Worse academic performance
  • Poorer social competence
  • Prone to internalizing behavior and mental issues
  • Substance abuse ​15​
  • Less coping skills ​16​
  • Prone to depression
  • Linked to avoidant attachment ​17​ and disorganized attachment ​18​

Parents show indulgent behavior while boy is acting like a king - Permissive Parenting

3. Permissive Parenting (Indulgent)

Low demandingness. High responsiveness

Permissive parenting sets very few parental rules and boundaries. If there are rules, these passive parents are reluctant to enforce them.

Indulgent parents are warm and indulgent but do not like to say no or disappoint their children. These lenient parents are generally carefree but less likely to foster the growth of their children’s emotional regulation skills.

Children of permissive parents tend to have worse outcomes than those with authoritative or authoritarian parents. ​19​

  • Cannot follow clear rules
  • Poorer emotional regulation
  • Lack of self-control
  • Problem behavior such as aggression
  • Lower self-confidence
  • Egocentric tendencies
  • Encounter more problems in relationships and social interactions
  • Associated with ambivalent attachment

Father watches TV and ignores son who speaks into a loud speaker - neglectful parenting style, negligent parenting

4. Neglectful Parenting (Uninvolved or disengaged)

Low demandingness. Low responsiveness.

Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards.

They are indifferent to their children’s needs and are uninvolved in their lives.

These uninvolved parents may have unresolved issues themselves, such as depression, abuse, or emotional neglect when they were kids.

Children of neglectful parents have the worst child outcomes among the 4 parenting styles ​20​ .

  • Poor school performance
  • They are more impulsive
  • Cannot self-regulate emotion
  • Encounter more delinquent behavior and addiction problems
  • Have more mental issues — e.g., suicidal behavior in adolescents
  • Prone to drug abuse or alcoholism

A mother playing hand games with her daughter on her lap.

Best Parenting Style

From decades of studies, parenting research shows that authoritative parenting is consistently linked to the best outcomes in kids.

The authoritative parenting style is considered the best parenting style by psychologists and psychiatrists.

This classification of child-rearing styles has been studied for over 25 years in different countries.

Results are generally found to be as expected for each parenting style.

However, inconsistencies and exceptions in some areas remain.

Here are some important factors that may also play a part in determining how a child turns out.

Cultural and Ethnics Differences

Some studies found that the authoritative style isn’t always linked to the best school achievement across families from diverse ethnic (e.g., Asian, Black, Hispanic) and socioeconomic status (e.g., income level, parental education, number of active parents).

For example, in one study, researchers found that African-American students with authoritative parents but without peer support did not perform the best academically.

As for Asian-American students, in some studies, they performed the best in school when they had authoritarian parents and peer support.

In Spain, a study showed that both indulgent and authoritative parenting styles were associated with positive outcomes ​21​ .

Child Temperament

Children’s own behavior can affect the parent’s choices and the outcomes, too.

For example, kids with a more sensitive temperament may be perceived as difficult, causing the parents to change their parenting style toward more authoritarian.

In a study, it was also found that some aspects of child behavior, such as sociable and aggressive behaviors, are better correlated to the child’s temperament than to the parenting style of their parents.

It seems like parenting style is not the only determining factor in the child’s outcomes.

Differences in a social context and child temperaments can make a difference, too.

But it is worth noting that, despite being widely publicized, not all of these study results have been successfully reproduced by other researchers.

In addition, these results are also not consistent across other types of outcomes, such as behavior or mental health issues.

For example, while some studies found the use of authoritarian parenting in the Chinese American population was associated with the best academic outcomes ​22​ , others found authoritative parenting to be the best in predicting school performance.

To this date, no study has conclusively disproved the benefits of authoritative parenting, while many others have consistently shown its advantages.

Parenting Styles vs. Specific Parenting Practices

Another component that can impact the outcome is the distinction between parenting style and parenting practice.

Parenting style is the emotional climate and control in which parents raise their children.

Parenting practices are specific actions that parents employ in their parenting.

Even parents with the same parenting style may choose different ways or different approaches to implementing specific types of child-rearing practices that will affect the degree of outcomes.

Limitations And Criticisms Of Parenting Studies

When interpreting parenting research results, it is important to note that most of these parenting studies only find links between parenting styles and outcomes. ​23​

That is, the results are only correlation and not causation .

For example, parents who are warm and responsive tend to have children who exhibit fewer behavior problems. One is tempted to say that, therefore, warm and responsive parents result in better-behaving kids.

But you can easily turn that around and say that kids who behave cause their parents to be more warm and responsive.

Different children have different temperaments, and they can, in turn, affect parents’ behavior.

This parenting research does not tell us which one is the correct cause-and-effect relationship.

So why do most psychologists and experts still recommend an authoritative parenting style?

One reason is that there are overwhelming volumes of studies showing these connections consistently, including longitudinal studies and those involving intervention.

When choosing a parenting style, parents must consider their parenting goals and the type of parent they want to be.

Most parents’ ultimate parenting goal is to raise a healthy, happy, kind, and responsible person who will love them and their family when they grow up. And they also want to enjoy the experience of parenting.

It is hard to imagine being cold and strict (authoritarian), cold and indifferent (neglectful), or warm and indulgent (permissive) will achieve all of these goals.

Which parenting style is most encouraged in modern America?

Of the four Baumrind parenting styles, the authoritative parenting style is the one that is most encouraged in modern American society.

Also See: Montessori Parenting

child hold a small plant in his palms - 4 parenting styles types of family rearing

Nature Vs. Nurture

Nature vs. nurture is one of the oldest debates in the history of psychology. Which one matters more?

A recent study  by the Queensland Brain Institute and the VU University of Amsterdam has settled the Nature vs. Nurture debate. 14.5 million pairs of twins from almost every twin study ever done in the past 50 years were collected and analyzed ​24​ .

Researchers have found that a person’s behavior and character traits are influenced roughly the same by genetics (nature) and by environment (nurture).

Parenting is one of the most important parts of the environment a child is exposed to since birth. Good parenting’s impact on a child is significant and undeniable.

Also See: What is the worst age to lose a parent , Parenting

A mother, father, and daughter wearing matching beanies and embracing.

Several new forms of parenting have surfaced in recent years, and those ideas describe today’s parenting styles perfectly. These are a few of the most popular general parenting styles in the United States today.

Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting is a style of parenting aimed at meeting the emotional needs of infants responsively through close physical contact and emotional attunement. 

Parents create a positive, warm, and safe environment where their children can develop trust and closeness. They also give their child enough time to feel comfortable and familiar with the world.

In 1993, William Sears’ book about attachment parenting popularized this parenting style. The parenting practices he recommends are based on the Attachment Theory developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby.

In Baumrind’s parenting style paradigm, attachment parenting emphasizes responsiveness. Since it focuses on a baby’s early years, there are no references to parents’ demands.

Children with responsive parents tend to have ​25​  

  • More cognitive competence
  • Better Communication
  • Healthier social-emotional development

Positive Parenting

The positive parenting approac h focuses on children’s positive development. The emphasis is on what a child does right rather than what they do wrong.

Positive discipline does not involve spanking, yelling, or other forms of negative discipline. Instead, positive parents use positive reinforcement and time outs to teach children prosocial behavior.

Gentle Parenting

A gentle parenting style is characterized by kindness , empathy , and respect for children. This style is the opposite of authoritarian parenting, which involves strict rules and punishments. 

Rather than punishing their children, gentle parents discipline them by letting them experience the natural consequences of their actions and helping them find solutions.

This parenting style is also different from permissive parenting, in which parents have few rules or don’t enforce them.

Helicopter parenting

Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe the over-protective attitude and constant involvement of parents with their children. 

A helicopter parent hovers over their child, monitors and controls every aspect of their children’s lives, and steps in whenever a problem arises. They tend to control the environment and activities that the child participates in, forcing them to conform to the parent’s expectations while at the same time depriving them of the chance to learn things on their own.

This parenting style often interferes with a child’s development and leads to negative results.

This parenting style does not fit neatly under any of Baumrind’s categories.

Helicopter parents are typically insensitive to their child’s emotional needs. When the child fails to live up to their high expectations, these parents jump in to help. Therefore, this parenting style is close to authoritarian.

Children raised by overparenting tend to have

  • Lower self-esteem ​26​
  • Fear of failure
  • More likely to develop disorders such as anxiety, depression, and drug abuse ​27​
  • Poor stress coping skills ​28​

Tiger parenting

Tiger parenting is a strict parenting style. It is alleged to be a common parenting style among Chinese American families or in the Chinese culture, but research has proven otherwise ​29​ .

It is characterized by a very strict and harsh set of rules and regulations.

Tiger parents create a very rigid environment where the children have very little freedom or choices. Emotional abuse such as shaming and insulting is often used to force children to comply.

A tiger parenting style exemplifies the authoritarian parenting style.

Children of tiger parenting are more likely to have:

  • Lower academic performance
  • Less sense of family obligation
  • More depressive symptoms

Free-range parenting

Free-range parenting is the practice of allowing children to be more independent than traditional parenting would allow. It is the antithesis of helicopter parenting.

Free-range parents allow children to make decisions and develop a strong sense of responsibility for their own lives. In a free-range household, there is less control, less supervision, and more freedom.

Children can explore their environment and develop into independent adults. They make choices and learn from the consequences of their choices.

This parenting style emphasizes the child’s right to make decisions and has been described as a natural parenting style that emphasizes self-direction and respect for the child’s needs.

These parents are sometimes accused of neglect in the United States, although the definition of child neglect is sufficiently vague.

According to Baumrind’s parenting classification, neglectful parents are cold and unresponsive and have no demands or expectations from their children.

Nonetheless, free-range parents can indeed be warm and responsive to their children, but simply believe that children should be given more freedom and autonomy ​30​ .

Also See: What To Do When Parents Don’t Agree on Parenting

Chart & Infographic

summary of the 4 parenting styles in this article

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  • 2. Maccoby EE, Martin JA. Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-Child Interaction. In: Handbook of Child Psychology . Socialization, Personality, and Social Development. ; 1983:.
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  • 5. Baumrind D. Differentiating between Confrontive and Coercive Kinds of Parental Power-Assertive Disciplinary Practices. Human Development . Published online 2012:35-51. doi: 10.1159/000337962
  • 6. Miklikowska M, Hurme H. Democracy begins at home: Democratic parenting and adolescents’ support for democratic values. European Journal of Developmental Psychology . Published online June 28, 2011:541-557. doi: 10.1080/17405629.2011.576856
  • 7. Hoskins D. Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes. Societies . Published online September 18, 2014:506-531. doi: 10.3390/soc4030506
  • 8. Rothrauff TC, Cooney TM, An JS. Remembered Parenting Styles and Adjustment in Middle and Late Adulthood. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences . Published online January 1, 2009:137-146. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbn008
  • 9. Newman K, Harrison L, Dashiff C, Davies S. Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem . Published online February 2008:142-150. doi: 10.1590/s0104-11692008000100022
  • 10. Zeinali A, Sharifi H, Enayati M, Asgari P, Pasha G. The mediational pathway among parenting styles, attachment styles and self-regulation with addiction susceptibility of adolescents. J Res Med Sci . 2011;16(9):1105-1121.
  • 11. Doinita NE, Maria ND. Attachment and Parenting Styles. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences . Published online August 2015:199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.08.282
  • 12. Baumrind D. Differentiating between Confrontive and Coercive Kinds of Parental Power-Assertive Disciplinary Practices. Human Development . Published online 2012:35-51. doi: 10.1159/000337962
  • 13. Chan TW, Koo A. Parenting Style and Youth Outcomes in the UK. European Sociological Review . Published online March 7, 2010:385-399. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcq013
  • 14. Smith JD, Dishion TJ, Shaw DS, Wilson MN, Winter CC, Patterson GR. Coercive family process and early-onset conduct problems from age 2 to school entry. Dev Psychopathol . Published online April 2, 2014:917-932. doi: 10.1017/s0954579414000169
  • 15. Baumrind D. The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence . Published online February 1991:56-95. doi: 10.1177/0272431691111004
  • 16. Wolfradt U, Hempel S, Miles JNV. Perceived parenting styles, depersonalisation, anxiety and coping behaviour in adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences . Published online February 2003:521-532. doi: 10.1016/s0191-8869(02)00092-2
  • 17. Ebrahimi L, Amiri M, Mohamadlou M, Rezapur R. Attachment Styles, Parenting Styles, and Depression. Int J Ment Health Addiction . Published online June 9, 2017:1064-1068. doi: 10.1007/s11469-017-9770-y
  • 18. Swanson K, Beckwith L, Howard J. Intrusive caregiving and quality of attachment in prenatally drug- exposed toddlers and their primary caregivers. Attachment & Human Development . Published online September 2000:130-148. doi: 10.1080/14616730050085527
  • 19. Jabagchourian JJ, Sorkhabi N, Quach W, Strage A. Parenting Styles and Practices of Latino Parents and Latino Fifth Graders’ Academic, Cognitive, Social, and Behavioral Outcomes. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences . Published online March 20, 2014:175-194. doi: 10.1177/0739986314523289
  • 20. Garcia O, Serra E. Raising Children with Poor School Performance: Parenting Styles and Short- and Long-Term Consequences for Adolescent and Adult Development. IJERPH . Published online March 27, 2019:1089. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16071089
  • 21. Garcia F, Gracia E. Is always authoritative the optimum parenting style? Evidence from Spanish families. Adolescence . 2009;44(132):101.
  • 22. Chao RK. The Parenting of Immigrant Chinese and European American Mothers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology . Published online March 2000:233-248. doi: 10.1016/s0193-3973(99)00037-4
  • 23. Smetana JG. Current research on parenting styles, dimensions, and beliefs. Current Opinion in Psychology . Published online June 2017:19-25. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.02.012
  • 24. Polderman TJC, Benyamin B, de Leeuw CA, et al. Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies. Nat Genet . Published online May 18, 2015:702-709. doi: 10.1038/ng.3285
  • 25. Landry SH, Smith KE, Swank PR. Responsive parenting: Establishing early foundations for social, communication, and independent problem-solving skills. Developmental Psychology . Published online July 2006:627-642. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.42.4.627
  • 26. Locke JY, Campbell MA, Kavanagh D. Can a Parent Do Too Much for Their Child? An Examination By Parenting Professionals of the Concept of Overparenting. Aust j guid couns . Published online December 2012:249-265. doi: 10.1017/jgc.2012.29
  • 27. LeMoyne T, Buchanan T. DOES “HOVERING” MATTER? HELICOPTER PARENTING AND ITS EFFECT ON WELL-BEING. Sociological Spectrum . Published online July 2011:399-418. doi: 10.1080/02732173.2011.574038
  • 28. Odenweller KG, Booth-Butterfield M, Weber K. Investigating Helicopter Parenting, Family Environments, and Relational Outcomes for Millennials. Communication Studies . Published online July 28, 2014:407-425. doi: 10.1080/10510974.2013.811434
  • 29. Kim SY, Wang Y, Orozco-Lapray D, Shen Y, Murtuza M. Does “tiger parenting” exist? Parenting profiles of Chinese Americans and adolescent developmental outcomes. Asian American Journal of Psychology . Published online 2013:7-18. doi: 10.1037/a0030612
  • 30. Pimentel D. Criminal Child Neglect and the Free Range Kid: Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care. Utah Law Review . 2012;2012(947).

* All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *

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Baumrind’s Parenting Styles

Joel A Muraco; Wendy Ruiz; Rebecca Laff; Ross Thompson; and Diana Lang

Diana Baumrind’s Parenting Styles

The parenting style used to rear a child will likely impact that child’s future success in romantic, peer and parenting relationships.  Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist, coined the following parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive/indulgent, Later, Maccoby and Martin added the uninvolved/neglectful style. [1]

research on parenting styles generally suggests that ____

It is beneficial to evaluate the support and demandingness of a caregiver in order to determine which style is being used and how to effectively use it.  Support refers to the amount of affection, acceptance, and warmth a parent provides to a child.  Demandingness refers to the degree a parent controls a child’s behavior.

Authoritative Parenting

In general, children tend to develop greater competence and self-confidence when parents have high-but reasonable and consistent- expectations for children’s behavior, communicate well with them, are warm and responsive, and use reasoning rather than coercion to guide children’s behaviors.  This kind of parenting style has been described as authoritative . [2]   Parents who use this style are supportive and show interest in their kids’ activities but are not overbearing and allow children to make constructive mistakes.  This “tender teacher” approach deemed the most optimal parenting style to use in western cultures.  Children whose parents use the authoritative style are generally happy, capable, and successful. [3]

Authoritarian Parenting

research on parenting styles generally suggests that ____

Parents using the authoritarian (“rigid ruler”) approach are low in support and high in demandingness.  These parents expect and demand obedience because they are “in charge” and they do not provide any explanations for their orders. [4]   Parents also provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules.

Many would conclude that this is the parenting style used by Harry Potter’s harsh aunt and uncle, and Cinderella’s vindictive stepmother.  Children reared in environments using the authoritarian approach are more likely to be obedient and proficient, but score lower in happiness, social competence, and self-esteem.

Permissive Parenting

Parents who are high in support and low in demandingness are likely using the permissive- also called the indulgent-style.  Their children tend to rank low in happiness and self-regulation, and are more likely to have problems with authority.  Parents using this approach are lenient, do not expect their children to adhere to boundaries or rules, and avoid confrontation. [5]

Uninvolved Parenting

Children reared by parents who are low in both support and demandingness tend to rank lowest across all life domains, lack self-control, have low self-esteem, and are less competent than their peers.  Parents using the uninvolved (or sometimes referred to as indifferent or neglectful) approach are neglectful or rejecting of their children and do not provide most, if any, necessary parenting responsibilities.

Video Example

Watch this video about Baumrind’s parenting styles.

Parenting Styles and Outcomes for Children

Parenting style has been found to predict child well-being in the domains of social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, and problem behavior.  Research in the United States, based on parent interviews, child reports, and parent observations consistently finds:

  • Children and adolescents whose parents use the authoritative style typically rate themselves and are rated by objective measures as more socially and instrumentally competent than those whose parents do not use the authoritative style. [6] [7] [8]
  • Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved typically perform most poorly in all domains.

In general, parental responsiveness tends to predict social competence and psychosocial functioning, while parental demandingness is typically associated with instrumental competence and behavioral control (e.g., academic performance and deviance). These findings indicate:

  • Children and adolescents reared in households using the authoritarian style (high in demandingness, but low in responsiveness) tend to perform moderately well in school and be uninvolved in problem behavior, but tend to have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression when compared to their peers who are reared in households using the authoritative approach.
  • Children and adolescents reared in homes using the indulgent style (high in responsiveness, low in demandingness) tend to be more involved in problem behavior and perform less well in school, but they have been shown to have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression when compared to their peers who are not reared using the indulgent style. [9]

In reviewing the literature on parenting styles, it is apparent that using the authoritative parenting style is associated with both instrumental and social competence and lower levels of problem behavior at all developmental stages for youth in the United States.  The benefits of using the authoritative parenting style and the detrimental effects of the uninvolved parenting style are evident as early as the preschool years and continue throughout adolescence and into early adulthood.

Support for Baumrind’s Authoritative Parenting

Support for the benefits of authoritative parenting has been found in countries as diverse as the Czech Republic, [10] India, [11] China, [12] Israel, [13] and Palestine. [14] In fact, authoritative parenting appears to be superior in Western, individualistic societies—so much so that some people have argued that there is no longer a need to study it. [15]

Other researchers are less certain about authoritative parenting and point to differences in cultural values and beliefs.  For example, while many children reared in European-American cultures fare poorly with too much strictness (authoritarian parenting), children reared in Chinese cultures often perform well, especially academically.  The reason for this likely stems from Chinese culture viewing strictness in parenting as related to training, which is not central to American parenting beliefs. [16]

As children mature, parent-child relationships should naturally adapt to accommodate developmental changes.  Parent-child relationships that do not adapt to a child’s abilities can lead to high parent-child conflict and ultimately a reduced parent-child relationship quality. [17]

Key Takeaways

  • The authoritative (the “tender teacher”) approach is the most optimal style for use in the U.S.
  • The ways in which parents rear children can have lifelong impacts on children’s development.
  • Baumrind's Parenting Styles is an adaptation of Child, Family, and Community ( Chapter 6: A Closer Look at Parenting ) by Laff & Ruiz (2019), licensed CC BY 4.0 and Social and Personality Development in Childhood by Ross Thompson, licensed CC BY NC SA . ↵
  • Baumrind, D. (2013). Authoritative parenting revisited: History and current status. In R. E. Larzelere, A. Sheffield, & A. W. Harrist (Eds.), Authoritative parenting: Synthesizing nurturance and discipline for optimal child development . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ↵
  • Maccoby, E. E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28 (6), 1006–1017. ↵
  • Baumrind, D. (1991). Parenting styles and adolescent development. In J. Brooks-Gunn, R. M. Lerner, & A. C. Petersen (Eds.), The encyclopedia on adolescence (pp. 746-758). New York: Garland Publishing. ↵
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  • Support for Baumrind's Authoritative Parenting is taken from The Family by Joel A Muraco, licensed CC BY NC SA . ↵

Baumrind's Parenting Styles Copyright © 2020 by Joel A Muraco; Wendy Ruiz; Rebecca Laff; Ross Thompson; and Diana Lang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept

Sofie kuppens.

1 Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Eva Ceulemans

3 Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Although parenting styles constitute a well-known concept in parenting research, two issues have largely been overlooked in existing studies. In particular, the psychological control dimension has rarely been explicitly modelled and there is limited insight into joint parenting styles that simultaneously characterize maternal and paternal practices and their impact on child development. Using data from a sample of 600 Flemish families raising an 8-to-10 year old child, we identified naturally occurring joint parenting styles. A cluster analysis based on two parenting dimensions (parental support and behavioral control) revealed four congruent parenting styles: an authoritative, positive authoritative, authoritarian and uninvolved parenting style. A subsequent cluster analysis comprising three parenting dimensions (parental support, behavioral and psychological control) yielded similar cluster profiles for the congruent (positive) authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles, while the fourth parenting style was relabeled as a congruent intrusive parenting style. ANOVAs demonstrated that having (positive) authoritative parents associated with the most favorable outcomes, while having authoritarian parents coincided with the least favorable outcomes. Although less pronounced than for the authoritarian style, having intrusive parents also associated with poorer child outcomes. Results demonstrated that accounting for parental psychological control did not yield additional parenting styles, but enhanced our understanding of the pattern among the three parenting dimensions within each parenting style and their association with child outcomes. More similarities than dissimilarities in the parenting of both parents emerged, although adding psychological control slightly enlarged the differences between the scores of mothers and fathers.

Parenting has gained ample research attention from various scientific disciplines. Many theoretical frameworks emphasize that parenting plays a vital role in child development, which has fueled research investigating the impact of parenting on child development for over 75 years. When studying parenting, researchers can take various strategies by considering parenting practices, parenting dimensions or parenting styles. Parenting practices can be defined as directly observable specific behaviors that parents use to socialize their children (Darling and Steinberg 1993 ). For example, parenting practices intended to promote academic achievement are showing involvement by attending parent–teacher meetings or regular supervision of children’s homework. Other parenting practices pertain to positive reinforcement, discipline, or problem solving.

Rather than focusing on specific parenting practices, other researchers have identified overarching parenting dimensions that reflect similar parenting practices, mostly by modeling the relationships among these parenting practices using factor analytic techniques. There is consensus among scientists about the existence of at least two broad dimensions of parenting, labeled parental support and parental control. Parental support pertains to the affective nature of the parent-child relationship, indicated by showing involvement, acceptance, emotional availability, warmth, and responsivity (Cummings et al. 2000 ). Support has been related to positive development outcomes in children, such as the prevention of alcohol abuse and deviance (Barnes and Farrell 1992 ), depression and delinquency (Bean et al. 2006 ) and externalizing problem behavior (Shaw et al. 1994 ).

The control dimension has been subdivided into psychological and behavioral control (Barber 1996 ; Schaefer 1965 ; Steinberg 1990 ). Parental behavioral control consists of parenting behavior that attempts to control, manage or regulate child behavior, either through enforcing demands and rules, disciplinary strategies, control of rewards and punishment, or through supervisory functions (Barber 2002 ; Maccoby 1990 ; Steinberg 1990 ). An appropriate amount of behavioral control has been considered to positively affect child development, whereas insufficient (e.g., poor parental monitoring) or excessive behavioral control (e.g., parental physical punishment) has been commonly associated with negative child developmental outcomes, such as deviant behavior, misconduct, depression and anxious affect (e.g., Barnes and Farrell 1992 ; Coie and Dodge 1998 ; Galambos et al. 2003 ; Patterson et al. 1984 ). While parental behavioral control refers to control over the child’s behavior, parental psychological control pertains to an intrusive type of control in which parents attempt to manipulate children’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings (Barber 1996 ; Barber et al. 2005 ). Due to its manipulative and intrusive nature, psychological control has almost exclusively been associated with negative developmental outcomes in children and adolescents, such as depression, antisocial behaviour and relational regression (e.g., Barber and Harmon 2002 ; Barber et al. 2005 ; Kuppens et al. 2013 ). The three parenting dimensions (support, psychological control, and behavioral control) have been labelled conceptually distinct, although they are related to some extent (Barber et al. 2005 ; Soenens et al. 2012 ).

Other authors have taken yet a different approach to studying parenting by emphasizing that specific combinations of parenting practices within a parent particularly impact child development rather than separate parenting practices or dimensions (e.g., Baumrind 1991 ; Maccoby and Martin 1983 ). Within such a configurational approach, one examines which patterns of parenting practices occur within the same parent and how these patterns—commonly labelled as parenting styles— are related to children’s development. Such parenting styles have the clear advantage of accounting for different parenting practices at the same time within the same person. As such, it comprises a person–centered approach that focuses on configurations within individuals rather than a variable–centered approach that focuses on relationships among variables across individuals as has been used to identify parenting dimensions (Magnusson 1998 ).

Baumrind ( 1966 , 1967 , 1971 ) is commonly considered a pioneer of research into parenting styles. She introduced a typology with three parenting styles to describe differences in normal parenting behaviors: the authoritarian, authoritative and permissive parenting style. Baumrind ( 1971 ) suggested that authoritarian parents try to shape, control, and evaluate their children’s behavior based on the absolute set of standards; whereas permissive parents are warmer and more autonomy granting than controlling. She considered an authoritative parenting style to fall between those two extremes. Later on in the 1980s, Maccoby and Martin ( 1983 ) attempted to bridge Baumrind’s typology and parenting dimensions. Based on the combination of two dimensions – demandingness and responsiveness – they defined four parenting styles: authoritative (i.e., high demandingness and high responsiveness); authoritarian (i.e., high demandingness and low responsiveness); indulgent (i.e., low demandingness and high responsiveness); and neglectful (i.e., low demandingness and low responsiveness). These two parenting dimensions are similar, yet not identical to the dimensions ‘parental support’ and ‘parental behavioral control’. Based on Maccoby and Martin’s work, Baumrind ( 1989 , 1991 ) expanded her typology with a fourth parenting style, namely the ‘neglectful’ parenting style.

Maccoby and Martin ( 1983 ) research efforts primarily focused on the configuration of the parenting styles and to a lesser extent on their association with children’s development. Baumrind, in contrast, has also extensively studied the association between parenting styles and child development (1967, 1971, 1989, 1991). This work consistently demonstrated that youth of authoritative parents had the most favorable development outcomes; authoritarian and permissive parenting were associated with negative developmental outcomes; while outcomes for children of neglectful parents were poorest. These aforementioned associations have also been replicated by other researchers. An authoritative parenting style has consistently been associated with positive developmental outcomes in youth, such as psychosocial competence (e.g., maturation, resilience, optimism, self-reliance, social competence, self-esteem) and academic achievement (e.g., Baumrind 1991 ; Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ). Findings regarding permissive/indulgent parenting have been inconsistent yielding associations with internalizing (i.e., anxiety, depression, withdrawn behavior, somatic complaints) and externalizing problem behavior (i.e., school misconduct, delinquency), but also with social skills, self–confidence, self–understanding and active problem coping (e.g., Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ; Williams et al. 2009 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ). An authoritarian parenting style has consistently been associated with negative developmental outcomes, such as aggression, delinquent behaviors, somatic complaints, depersonalisation and anxiety (e.g., Hoeve et al. 2008 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ; Williams et al. 2009 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ). Children of neglectful parents have shown the least favorable outcomes on multiple domains, such as lacking self-regulation and social responsibility, poor self-reliance and social competence, poor school competence, antisocial behavior and delinquency, anxiety, depression and somatic complaints (e.g., Baumrind 1991 ; Hoeve et al. 2008 ; Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ).

Baumrind’s typology (1966) was initially determined on theoretical grounds, although with time she did conduct empirical validation research (1967, 1971, 1989, 1991). Nonetheless, the empirical studies always started with parenting styles that were predefined in a prototypical score profile in terms of minimum or maximum limit scores (e.g., scores above or below the median) on the different parenting practices; thus parents were first classified using cut–off scores for these predefined parenting styles and afterwards associations with child developmental outcomes were examined. However, such a confirmatory approach is not preferred to investigate parenting styles types (Mandara 2003 ) as it does not allow the identification of the naturally occurring typology, because people are actually forced into some predefined category defined on theoretical grounds. To empirically identify typologies in a certain population an exploratory clustering approach is needed (Everitt et al. 2001 ; Mandara 2003 ). Such clustering methods entail that persons are assessed on different variables (e.g., parenting practices) and patterns that naturally occur in the data are identified. Persons with a similar score profile are classified in the same cluster and those with distinctly different profile scores are classified into other clusters; with the number of clusters and associated score profiles being unknown a priori. The literature shows that researchers started to adopt such clustering methods in research into parenting styles about 15 to 20 years ago (Aunola et al. 2000 ; Beato et al. 2016 ; Brenner andand Fox 1999 ; Carlson and Tanner 2006 ; Chaudhuri et al. 2009 ; Dwairy et al. 2006 ; Gorman-Smith et al. 2000 ; Heberle et al. 2015 ; Hoeve et al. 2008 ; Lee et al. 2006 ; Mandara and Murray 2002 ; Martin et al. 2007 ; McGroder 2000 ; McKinney and Renk 2008 ; Meteyer and Perry-Jenkins 2009 ; Metsäpelto and Pulkkinen 2003 ; Pereira et al. 2008 ; Russell et al. 1998 ; Shucksmith et al. 1995 ; Tam and Lam 2004 ; van der Horst and Sleddens 2017 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ). These studies have generally identified three or four parenting styles that resemble the initial theoretical parenting styles.

Although Baumrind’s typology has greatly influenced parenting research, two issues have largely been overlooked in the existing knowledge. A first issue relates to the psychological control dimension which is currently considered the third parenting dimension. Initially, Baumrind paid little attention to the role of psychological control because her control dimension solely referred to parental socializing practices aimed at integrating the child in the family and society (Darling and Steinberg 1993 ). In her later work (1971, 1989, 1991), Baumrind did incorporate aspects of psychological control but the confirmatory nature of that research (cf. using predefined clusters) makes it impossible to determine which parenting styles would naturally evolve when psychological control would be taken into account. Empirical studies have also rarely explicitly included parental psychological control when modeling parenting styles. So far, the limited research including psychological control indices (e.g., Pereira et al. 2008 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ) has mostly identified four parenting styles that match the theoretically distinct styles. Within these parenting styles psychological control coincided with behavioral control levels in the authoritarian parenting style, yet cumulative knowledge remains too limited to draw firm conclusions.

A second issue is that existing research provides little insight into the coexistence of maternal and paternal parenting styles and their joint impact on child development. Although Baumrind included both parents in her studies, she assigned a (pre-defined) parenting style to each one separately. In some studies (1991), data was limited to mothers if both parents were assigned a different parenting style; in others (1971) families were entirely excluded in such instances. Not only Baumrind, but research on parenting styles in general has paid less attention to the impact of joint parenting styles on child development (Martin et al. 2007 ; McKinney and Renk 2008 ; Simons and Conger 2007 ), but has mainly focused on the unique, differential or interaction effects of maternal and paternal parenting styles adopting a variable-oriented perspective (e.g., Beato et al. 2016 ; Miranda et al. 2016 ). Children in two-parent households are influenced by the combined practices of both parents (Martin et al. 2007 ); and some studies have clearly shown that mothers and fathers can differ in their parenting style (Conrade and Ho 2001 ; McKinney and Renk 2008 ; Russell et al. 1998 ). Considering how the parenting styles of both parents cluster together, therefore, aligns more closely with the real experiences of children growing up in two-parent households. Only such an approach can shed light onto possible additive and compensatory effects (Martin et al. 2007 ). For example, Simons and Conger ( 2007 ) found evidence for an additive effect as having two authoritative parents was associated with the most favorable outcomes in adolescents, as well as a compensatory effect where one parent’s authoritative parenting style generally buffered the less effective parenting style of the other parent. Similarly, McKinney and Renk ( 2008 ) suggested that in late adolescence perceiving one parent as authoritative while the other parent has a different parenting style, partly buffered for emotional adjustment problems.

Only two studies have simultaneously clustered maternal and paternal practices into joint parenting styles and examined how they are associated with child development (for other approaches, see Martin et al. 2007 ; Simons and Conger 2007 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ). Meteyer and Perry-Jenkins ( 2009 ) modeled the warmth and dysfunctional discipline practices of both parents resulting in three parenting styles that aligned with Baumrind’s typology, namely supportive parents (i.e., similar to Baumrind’s authoritative style), mixed–supportive parents (i.e., mother’s parenting style is similar to Baumrind’s ‘good enough parenting’–style and father’s to Baumrind’s authoritarian style) and non–supportive parents (i.e., similar to Baumrinds’ authoritarian style). Although insightful, this study did not incorporate aspects of psychological control; was limited to early elementary school children (6– to 7– year olds); and was based on a rather small sample size (85 families). McKinney and Renk ( 2008 ) identified four joint parenting styles in their cluster analyses using late adolescents’ (18–22 years) reports of authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting: congruent authoritative (i.e., an authoritative parenting style by both parents), congruent authoritarian (i.e., an authoritarian parenting style by both parents), an authoritarian father–authoritative mother combination, and a permissive father–authoritarian mother combination. This study used ratings of parenting styles as input for cluster analysis leaving the role of separate parenting dimensions unclear.

We aimed to extend the existing research on the well-known parenting styles concept by identifying joint parenting styles in an exploratory manner using data on three major parenting dimensions (i.e., support, behavioral control and psychological control) and their associations with child behavioral outcomes in a large sample of mothers and fathers raising elementary school children. In particular, we first examined whether the configuration of exploratory identified parenting styles differed when the – often neglected – psychological control dimension was considered in addition to the support and behavioral control dimensions. Secondly, we identified how parenting practices of mothers and fathers clustered together into joint parenting styles. We were particularly interested in exploring whether similarity or dissimilarity would depict the joint parenting styles. Incongruence could be expected from attachment or gender theories that particularly stress differences between parents’ roles, while assortative or socialization processes could result in highly congruent parenting styles. Thirdly, we associated these joint parenting styles to child behavioral outcomes. For incongruent parenting styles, we particularly examined whether the different parenting styles may buffer each other’s impact on child outcomes. For congruent parenting styles, we looked at additive effects in which parents’ (very) similar styles may reinforce each other’s impact on child outcomes.


Participants were 600 Flemish families with an elementary-school child (301 boys; 299 girls). The children’s age ranged from 8 to 10 years ( M =  9.27, SD  = 0.83). For 556 children both parents participated, while for the remaining children only the mother ( n  = 40) or father ( n  = 4) took part in the study. The participating mothers and fathers were on average 38.09 ( SD  = 4.00) and 40.39 years old ( SD  = 4.85), respectively. Most parents received 12 to 15 years of education. The vast majority of children (92%) were of Belgian origin (i.e., children and both parents born in Belgium). The remaining children mostly originated from another European country ( n =  28); a limited number had an African ( n  = 7), US ( n  = 4), Middle East ( n =  1), Asian ( n =  1) or unknown origin ( n  = 7). Most children (84%) lived in traditional two-parent families with married biological parents; others belonged to a blended family (5%), a household with shared custody (2%), or a single-parent household (9%). In this study, we focused on the subsample of families for which both parents consented to participate. Of the initial 556 families, data were available for a final sample of 527 families due to some non-response.

We used data on parenting collected in a Flemish large-scale study on social determinants of child psychosocial functioning including three cohorts: 8–, 9– and 10– year olds. To safeguard representativeness, a two-stage proportional stratified random sample of elementary school children enrolled in mainstream Flemish schools was drawn. In a first stage, 195 Flemish schools were randomly selected taking into account the distribution of schools across the five Flemish provinces and the Brussels region of which 55 schools agreed to participate. In a second stage, 913 children (2nd to 4th grade) were randomly selected within the participating schools. Parents received an introductory letter and consent form via the teachers. Informed consent to participate in the study was obtained for 600 families with both parents participating for 556 children. We used information on parenting practices collected from both parents. The parents received their questionnaires via the teacher during the second trimester and were asked to complete them individually and independently of each other. Given that 583 mothers (98%), and 538 fathers (96%) actually completed the questionnaire, non-response was fairly low.

Parental behavioral control

Parental behavioral control was operationalized via 19 items of the subscales Rules (8 items; α mother  = 0.79; α father  = 0.82)), Discipline (6 items; α mother  = 0.78; α father  = 0.80) and Harsh Punishment (5 items; α mother  = 0.76; α father  = 0.80) of the Ghent Parental Behavior Scale (Van Leeuwen and Vermulst 2004 ). Each item was scored on a 5–point Likert scale from 1 = never true to 5 = always true. The subscale Rules reflects the extent to which parents provide rules for their children’s behavior (e.g., “I teach my child that it is important to behave properly”; “I teach my child to obey rules”). The subscale Discipline pertains to effective punishments after unwanted behavior (e.g., ‘…taking away something nice’; ‘… give him/her a chore for punishment); whereas the subscale Harsh Punishment points towards parental physical punishment when children misbehave (e.g., “I slap my child in the face when he/she misbehaves”; “I spank my child when he/she doesn’t obey rules”; “I shake my child when we have a fight”). We included multiple subscales to represent the multidimensional nature of the behavioral control dimension, as demonstrated by others (Van Leeuwen and Vermulst 2004 ). In addition, we consider aspects of adequate (i.e., subscales Rules and Discipline) and inadequate behavioral control (i.e., subscale Harsh Punishment) in this study, given the differential association with child outcomes. While the first has been linked to positive child development, the latter has commonly been associated with negative child outcomes. Correlations between maternal and paternal reports were moderate for the subscales Rules ( r  = .31; p <  .001) and Discipline ( r  = 0.47; p <  0.001), but strong for the subscale Harsh Punishment ( r  = 0.52; p <  0.001). Within each parent, weak-to-moderate positive correlations were found between the subscales Rules and Discipline ( r mother  = 0.32; r father  = 0.26; p <  0.001); weak positive correlations between the subscales Discipline and Harsh Punishment ( r mother  = 0.22; r father  = 0.22; p <  0.001); and small negative correlations between the subscales Rules and Harsh Punishment ( r mother  = −0.14, p  = 0.009; r father  = −0.11; p =  0.001).

Parental support

Parental support was operationalized by 11 items (1 = never true to 5 = always true) of the subscale Positive Parenting of the Ghent Parental Behavior Scale (Van Leeuwen and Vermulst 2004 ). This subscale (α mother  = 0.85; α father  = 0.88) pertains to parental involvement, positive reinforcement and problem solving (e.g., “I make time to listen to my child, when he/she wants to tell me something”; “I give my child a compliment, hug, or a tap on the shoulder as a reward for good behavior”). Maternal and paternal reports were moderately correlated ( r  = 0.35, p <  0.001).

Parental psychological control

Parents assessed their own psychologically controlling behavior by means of a Dutch version of the Psychological Control Scale (Barber 1996 ; Kuppens et al. 2009a ) via a 5–point Likert scale from 1 = never true to 5 = always true. This scale (α mother  = 0.70; α father =  0.71) included 8 items pertaining to invalidating feelings, constraining verbal expressions, personal attack, and love withdrawal (e.g., “I am less friendly with my child when (s)he doesn’t see things my way”; “If my child has hurt my feelings, I don’t speak to him/her until (s)he pleases me again”; “I change the subject when my child has something to say”). Correlations between maternal and paternal reports were moderate ( r  = 0.32, p <  0.001).

Child behavioral outcomes

Both parents completed the 20-item Dutch Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; van Widenfelt et al. 2003 ) using a 3–point scale in order to assess child psychosocial behavior (0 = not true to 2 = certainly true). Externalizing problems were operationalized via the subscales Conduct Problems (5 items; α mother  = .60; α father  = 0.61) and Hyperactivity (5 items; α mother =  0.80; α father  = 0.76), while internalizing problems were reflected by the subscale Emotional Symptoms (5 items; α mother =  0.73; α father  = 0.72). We also included the subscale on Prosocial Behavior (5 items; α mother =  0.67; α father  = 0.64). Because high correlations ( r =  0.54–0.71; p <  0.001) between mother and father reports was obtained, an average parental score was created for each subscale.

Data Analyses

To identify joint parenting styles, we conducted cluster analysis in MATLAB. Cluster analysis is an overarching term for procedures used to identify groups or clusters of individuals based on their scores on a number of variables (Everitt et al. 2001 ). Greater similarity emerges between individuals of the same cluster (or who lie geometrically closer according to some distance measure) than between individuals from different clusters (Steinly and Brusco 2011 ). We first ran a cluster analysis based on the four parenting subscales of mothers and fathers (i.e., eight variables as input) that reflect parental support and parental behavioral control to identify joint parenting styles based on these two parenting dimensions (i.e., without considering parental psychological control). To gain insight into the role of parental psychological control in identifying joint parenting styles, we subsequently conducted a cluster analysis on all five parenting subscales of mothers and fathers (i.e., ten variables as input) representing the three parenting dimensions.

We used the conceptual framework of Milligan for a stepwise implementation of cluster analysis (Steinly & Brusco 2011 ) by (1) determining the observations to be clustered; (2) selecting the variables to be included in the clustering procedure; (3) determining whether and how the selected variables should be standardized; (4) selecting a cluster algorithm and association measure (e.g., a distance measure); (5) determining the number of clusters; and (6) validating clustering (i.e., interpretation, testing, and replication). During steps 1 through 3, we performed analyses on the sum scores of the different parenting subscales which were standardized to give each variable equal weight in the analysis. In step 4, we chose Mac Queens K–means cluster algorithm which aims to identify K –clusters with the largest possible between–cluster differences and the smallest possible within–cluster differences (Everitt et al. 2001 ), while the value of K is specified by the user. K-means consists of a reallocation procedure by which persons, starting from an initial random or rational clustering, are reallocated in clusters as long as this yields a decrease in the loss function (i.e., sum of squared Euclidean distance from the corresponding cluster mean). Because the resulting clustering strongly depends on the initial clustering (Steinley 2003 ), we used 1000 random starts and retained the clustering with the lowest loss function value. To determine the optimal number of clusters in step 5, or in other words to define the value of K , we used the CHull procedure (Ceulemans and Kiers 2006 ; Wilderjans et al. 2013 ). CHull is an automated model selection procedure that scans a complexity versus fit plot to find the model with the best complexity versus fit balance. Applied to K-means clustering, this means that we look for the model after which allowing for additional clusters does not substantially decrease the loss function. To interpret the resulting clusters (step 6), we visually inspected the pattern emerging in the cluster profile plots. When comparing the cluster-specific profile scores between parents, we focused on the position of the corresponding profile scores compared to zero (i.e., the standardized mean of the sample) and differences in its substantial interpretation. For example, the terms above and below average mean that a parent scores higher or lower than the standardized mean of the sample.

To assess the validity of the empirically identified joint parenting styles representing all parenting dimensions, we examined their association with child behavioral outcomes via four analyses of variance (ANOVA) using SPSS Version 23 with the SDQ-subscales as dependent variables and the identified joint parenting styles based on the three parenting dimensions as the independent variable. Analyses of residuals did not reveal meaningful violations of model assumptions.

In the following sections, the empirically identified joint parenting styles based on the four subscales reflecting the two parenting dimensions ‘support’ and ‘behavioral control’ are first presented; followed by the results of analyses also considering ‘parental psychological control’ as input behavior. We end with linking the identified joint parenting styles based on three parenting dimensions to child behavioral outcomes.

Clusters with Two Parenting Dimensions

In a first step, we conducted a K –means cluster analysis on the maternal and paternal ratings only using the four parental support and behavioral support subscales for each parent (i.e., eight variables) as input, representing the two parenting dimensions. The analysis was conducted for 1 to 8 clusters each with a 1000 random starts. The corresponding number of clusters versus loss function plot is shown in Fig. ​ Fig.1. 1 . Applying the CHull procedure to this plot pointed towards a solution with four clusters.

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Number of clusters vs. loss function plots for the cluster analyses based on the two parenting dimensions (left) and on the three parenting dimensions (right)

Parents belonging to the first cluster (Fig. ​ (Fig.2) 2 ) scored above average on positive parenting, rules and discipline; and scored below average on harsh punishment. A visual inspection of the cluster plot did not reveal notable differences between mothers and fathers. These parents show warmth and involvement in their interaction with their child, but at the same time set clear rules and expectations for children’s behavior. They also discipline the child’s undesirable behavior, but rarely use strict physical punishment when doing so. Because these parents demonstrate elevated support and (adequate) behavioral control levels, we labeled this parenting style as the congruent authoritative parenting style.

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Cluster profiles of the analysis based on two parenting dimensions

Parents belonging to the second cluster (Fig. ​ (Fig.2) 2 ) also scored above average on positive parenting and rules, but clearly below average on effective (subscale Discipline) and harsh disciplining (subscale Harsh Punishment). Based on a visual inspection, levels of positive parenting and providing rules of mothers seemed somewhat higher, while effective discipline was somewhat lower compared to fathers, but the substantive interpretation was similar across parents. These parents show warmth and involvement in their parenting while also setting clear rules for children’s behavior, yet they hardly discipline their child in any manner after showing unwanted behavior. Because these parents showed elevated support levels combined with aspects of behavioral control that focus on promoting desired behavior (instead of discouraging unwanted behavior), we labeled this cluster as the congruent positive authoritative parenting style.

The third cluster (Fig. ​ (Fig.2) 2 ) included parents who scored clearly above average on harsh punishment, above average on discipline, and below average on positive parenting and rules; without any notable visual differences between mothers and fathers. These parents are therefore less warm and involved in the relationship with their child. Their parenting is particularly characterized by strict physical punishment following unwanted behavior, without setting clear rules for their children’s behavior. This cluster reflected the congruent authoritarian parenting style .

A fourth cluster (Fig. ​ (Fig.2) 2 ) was identified that yielded below average scores for both parents on all subscales; without salient visual differences between mothers and fathers. These parents do not show marked warmth and involvement with their child, and also do not prominently provide rules or discipline unwanted behavior. Because these parents demonstrated below average scores on both dimensions, we labeled this cluster as a congruent uninvolved parenting style.

Clusters with Three Parenting Dimensions

In a second step, we performed the same K –means cluster analysis, but now psychological control was included as a third parenting dimension. The analysis was again conducted for 1 to 8 clusters each time using 1000 random starts. Applying the CHull procedure to the number of clusters versus loss function plot (Fig. ​ (Fig.1) 1 ) pointed toward a solution with 2 or 3 clusters. However, to enable comparisons between the cluster solution based on the two parenting dimensions, we again selected the solution with four clusters of which the cluster profiles are visualized in Fig. ​ Fig.3 3 .

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Cluster profiles of the analysis based on three parenting dimensions

When comparing both cluster solutions, a remarkable similarity in the cluster profiles was observed with the cluster scores on parental psychological control for the congruent authoritative, congruent positive authoritative and congruent authoritarian parenting styles covarying with scores on harsh punishment. These three clusters could thus be interpreted and labeled in a similar manner as earlier. For the congruent uninvolved parenting styles, the pattern for parental support and behavioral control remained fairly unchanged, but both showed slightly above-average psychological control scores. It seems that these parents are thus less supportive and behavioral controlling, yet showing somewhat elevated levels of psychologically intrusive practices. As such, we relabeled the congruent uninvolved cluster as a congruent intrusive parenting style. Adding the psychological control dimension slightly enlarged the differences between the scores of mothers and fathers within each parenting style, but the substantive interpretation remained similar across parents

Given the substantial similarity in emerging parenting styles after including two or three parenting dimensions, we computed the agreement in classification of the corresponding parents. Analyses revealed that parents were generally assigned to the same parenting style if psychological control was taken into account, (Cramer’s V  = .87). Note that the agreement was substantial regardless of the retained number of clusters (2 clusters: V =  .77; 3 clusters: V =  .86; 5 clusters: V =  .83; 6 clusters: V =  .69; 7 clusters: V =  .68; 8 clusters: V =  .65).

Parenting Styles and Child Behavioral Outcomes

The four joint parenting styles were associated to significantly different behavioral outcomes: Prosocial Behavior [ F (3, 520) = 20.15, p <  0.001, R 2 = 0.10]; Hyperactivity [ F (3, 520) = 12.98, p <  0.001, R 2 =  0.07]; Emotional Symptoms [ F (3, 520) = 3.77, p =  .011, R 2 = 0.02]; and Conduct Problems [ F (3, 520) = 20.15, p <  0.001, R 2 = 0.10]. The mean subscale score per joint parenting style are presented in Fig. ​ Fig.4. 4 . To gain more insight into the nature of the differences, pairwise contrasts (Tukey–Kramer) were computed for each ANOVA.

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Mean subscale scores on child behavioral outcomes per parenting style

For each child behavioral outcome, a significant difference ( p  < 0.05) was established between the congruent authoritarian parenting style and at least one other parenting style. Children of authoritarian parents demonstrated more negative (i.e., hyperactivity, conduct problems, emotional symptoms) and less positive (i.e., prosocial behavior) child outcomes compared to children whose parents belonged to another parenting style. For conduct problems, the associated standardized mean difference involving authoritarian parents was most pronounced compared to positive authoritative parents ( d =  1.06, p <  0.001), whereas a medium difference (range d =  0.67 – 0.73, p <  .001) with the authoritative and intrusive parenting styles was found. Similarly, for hyperactivity standardized mean differences involving authoritarian parents were large ( d =  0.85, p <  0.001) compared to positive authoritative parents; and medium (range d =  0.60 – 0.63, p <  0.001) compared to authoritative and intrusive parents. Standardized mean differences involving authoritarian parents were large (range d =  0.83–0.93, p <  0.001) for prosocial behavior, but only a small difference ( d =  0.37, p =  0.031) with the intrusive parenting style emerged. Standardized mean differences for emotional symptoms between the authoritarian parenting style were small in magnitude (range d =  0.40 – 0.43, p <  0.05), except for a non-significant ( d =  0.28, p =  0.159) difference with the intrusive parenting style.

In addition, the congruent positive authoritative parenting style yielded significantly lower conduct problem levels in children (range d =  0.33 – 0.39, p <  0.05) compared to authoritative and intrusive parents. In contrast, significantly less prosocial child behavior (range d =  0.46–0.56, p ≤  0.001) was found for the congruent intrusive parenting style compared to (positive) authoritative parents.

With this study, we aimed to add to the parenting styles literature by identifying empirically derived joint parenting styles based on data regarding the three major parenting dimensions as perceived by both mothers and fathers raising elementary school children. These resulting joint parenting styles were subsequently associated with child behavioral outcomes. As highlighted in the introduction, the commonly used parenting typologies have a theoretical underpinning, although empirical studies have generally identified three or four similar parenting styles. Our empirically derived parenting styles based on the two parenting dimensions Support and Behavioral Control bear resemblance to the initial authoritative, authoritarian, and neglectful parenting styles, yet some differences also emerged.

The authoritative parenting style was further broken down into a disciplinary and non-disciplinary subtype. Similarly, although differences between parents within each parenting style were minor, they were more pronounced for the non-disciplinary than for the disciplinary control strategies. These findings highlight that all parenting practices aimed at controlling, managing or regulating child behavior are not necessarily simultaneously used by the same parent, suggesting that considering a variety of parenting practices is crucial to identifying naturally occurring parenting substyles. Some parents seem to provide clear rules, guidelines and expectations for child behavior, but hardly have deviant child behavior followed by an effective disciplinary strategy. One subgroup appears to reflect parents that mostly adopt positive parenting practices (i.e., high support, high rule setting), whereas another subgroup uses a combination of positive (i.e., high support, high rule setting) and negative (i.e., high effective discipline) parenting practices. The latter closely resembles the authoritative parenting style as originally defined (Baumrind 1966 , 1967 , 1971 ), while the former clustering aligns more with a second–order positive dimension obtained in research adopting a variable–oriented approach (Van Leeuwen et al. 2004 ).

In this study, the positive dimension tapped into parenting practices such as parental involvement, positive reinforcement, rule setting, and autonomy–stimulating behavior, while the negative dimensions pertained to negatively controlling efforts such as effective discipline, ignoring or harsh punishment following children’s unwanted behavior. In the uninvolved parenting style, parenting practices bear a resemblance to the neglectful parenting style given the below average scores on all subscales suggesting that parents show less warmth, place fewer restraints on and display little monitoring of children’s behavior. However, we did not identify extreme low scores on parenting dimensions that would suggest a truly neglectful parenting style as originally defined; thus an uninvolved parenting style seems a more appropriate label. Although parent self-reports could overestimate scores of positive parenting and underestimate scores of negative parenting due to social desirability bias, it should be noted that a previous study using adolescent reports also did not find extreme scores for the parenting style clusters (McKinney and Renk 2008 ).

We were not able to empirically identify the originally proposed permissive parenting style reflecting parents that are very loving, warm and involved (high support), yet have relatively few rules for children’s behavior and hardly discipline (low behavioral control). This finding diverges from some previous empirical studies in which the latter parenting style did emerge using an a theoretical (Aunola et al. 2000 ; Carlson and Tanner 2006 ; Shucksmith et al. 1995 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ) or empirical clustering approach (McKinney and Renk 2008 ). Our operationalization of the support dimension via the positive parenting subscale of the Ghent Parental Behavior Scale could underlie this divergent finding, because the subscale does not only pertain to warm and responsive parenting practices, but also includes items on problem solving. In contrast to other studies tapping only into warmth and responsiveness, lower scores on solving problems together with the child can attenuate overall scores on parental support. As a result, the pronounced scores on parental support which typify a permissive parenting style may have been somewhat masked in the present study. Alternatively, the parent self-reports may not accurately reflect their actual parenting practices due to a social desirability bias, hampering the identification of the permissive parenting style.

Regarding the role of psychological control in empirically deriving parenting styles, cluster analyses revealed a very similar configuration with four parenting styles when parental psychological control was taken into account. Thus, its addition did not lead to the identification of additional parenting styles, but the third parenting dimension did enhance our understanding. Results clearly pointed toward a substantial overlap between parental psychological control and parental harsh punishment for the congruent authoritarian, authoritative and positive authoritative parenting styles. This finding coincides with research suggesting that inadequate behavior control (e.g., physical punishment) and psychological control by parents are correlated, whereas parental psychological control and adequate behavioral control are considered orthogonal dimensions (Barber 1996 ; Gray andand Steinberg 1999 ; Steinberg 1990 ). For example, Pettit et al. ( 2001 ) found that parental psychological control was preceded in adolescence by harsh, restrictive disciplinary parenting during childhood. Barber and Harmon ( 2002 ) have further argued that parental psychological control may be a marker of a hostile and dysfunctional parent – child relationship, including the use of harsh disciplinary parenting practices.

For the congruent uninvolved parenting style, including parental psychological control actually led to an improved understanding of the previously considered uninvolved parents. As it turned out these parents did use psychologically controlling strategies to some extent, regardless of their lower levels on the other parenting dimension. This pattern could mean that in the parents–child relationship these parents are not so much concerned with the child and their behavior, but with manipulating children’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings to fit their own. It is commonly recognized that by using psychologically controlling strategies, parents intrude into children’s ‘psychological world’, exert parental authority over the children’s own life, and intervene in the individuation process (Barber and Xia 2013 ; Steinberg 2005 ). A recent study by Zhang et al. ( 2015 ) also demonstrated that parental psychological control indeed positively correlated with parent–centered intentions, implying that parents intend to satisfy their own needs by applying controlling behaviors with their children.

Several theories point towards differences in parenting between mother and father (McKinney and Renk 2008 ). For example, psychoanalytic theory argues that mothers are children’s primary attachment figure whereas a greater distance between fathers and their children occurs; the gender and role theory link differences in child rearing to male and female characteristics (e.g., expressiveness and instrumentality) with the traditional mother role as caring figures and fathers taking on the role of authority figure and family provider. The literature also indicates that differences in parenting between mothers and fathers may arise if one parent wants to compensate for the other parent (Meteyer and Perry-Jenkins 2009 ; Simons and Conger 2007 ). Nonetheless, our results revealed more similarities than dissimilarities in the parenting styles of both parents, despite small-to-moderate correlations between mother and father reports. These similarities may reflect an assortative process when choosing a partner, meaning that people tend to look for a partner with similar characteristics (Botwin et al. 1997 ; Buss 1984 , 1985 ; Larsen and Buss 2010 ). Similarity in parenting could also result from socialization processes (Simons and Conger 2007 ); through a process of mutual influence or reciprocity partners gradually form similar views and beliefs on parenting. The slight differences that emerged pertained particularly to a dissimilar position on positive parenting and rule setting. Although less pronounced, this finding aligns with the study by Meteyer and Perry-Jenkins ( 2009 ) that yielded congruent parenting styles for mothers and fathers of 7-year old children, except for a dissimilar position on self-reported parental warmth. Another study using adolescent reports of parenting (McKinney and Renk 2008 ) found more pronounced sex differences. Perhaps sex differences in parenting styles become more apparent as children grow older or when children’s perspectives are considered.

Results on associations between the joint parenting styles and child behavioral outcomes indicated that children of two authoritarian parents showed the poorest behavioral outcomes. These children were perceived as showing significantly more internalizing and externalizing problem behavior and less prosocial behavior compared to children of parents adopting other parenting styles. In contrast, children of two positive authoritative parents demonstrated the lowest levels of conduct problems. These findings could suggest an additive effect in which the impact of similar parenting styles is reinforced as having two authoritarian and two positive authoritative parents was associated with the least and most favorable child behavioral outcomes, respectively.

The obtained associations between parenting styles and child behavioral outcomes partially align with previous research. Firstly, it has repeatedly been demonstrated that an authoritative parenting style coincides most with positive developmental outcomes in children (e.g., Aunola et al. 2000 ; Baumrind 1967 , 1971 , 1989 , 1991 , Darling and Steinberg 1993 ; Dornbusch et al. 1987 ; Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Querido et al. 2002 ; Shucksmith et al. 1995 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ; Steinberg et al. 1992 ). Our findings confirm this pattern for the children having parents who employ an authoritative parenting style, but children with parents both using a positive authoritative parenting style even showed less conduct problems. This finding could point towards the value of rule setting – in contrast to disciplinary strategies – in preventing behavioral problems. However, as parenting is a reciprocal process with children and parents mutually influencing each other, it is equally likely that parents show less disciplinary strategies simply because their children pose fewer behavior problems as demonstrated by others (Kerr et al. 2012 ; Kuppens et al. 2009b ; Laird et al. 2003 ).

Secondly, previous research has repeatedly linked an authoritarian parenting style with externalizing and internalizing behavior problems in children (e.g., Hoeve et al. 2008 ; Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ; Williams et al. 2009 ; Wolfradt et al. 2003 ). The present findings extend this body of research, although the association was most pronounced for externalizing behavior problems which may be due to children’s age (8 to 10 year olds). In younger children, having authoritarian parents may be more strongly associated with externalizing problem behavior, whereas the association with internalizing problems only emerges as children grow older. The shift in the nature of behavior problems as children age has been linked to the physical, cognitive and social maturation of children and the associated changes in social demands and expectations.

Thirdly, the neglectful parenting style has been associated with the poorest developmental outcomes in children (Baumrind 1991 ; Lamborn et al. 1991 ; Mandara and Murray 2002 ; Shucksmith et al. 1995 ; Steinberg et al. 1994 ). As this parenting style did not emerge in the present study, we were not able to model its association with child outcomes. Even children having parents who were less involved, but intrusive, were doing better than children having authoritarian parents. Findings did reveal that prosocial behavior and conduct problems were significantly lower for children having parents who adopted an intrusive parenting style compared to children of (positive) authoritarian parents. This findings coincides with a growing body of evidence on the deleterious of impact of psychologically controlling parenting in children and adolescents adopting a variable approach (Barber et al. 2005 ; Kuppens et al. 2013 ; Soenens et al. 2012 ), but likewise extends this evidence-base with person-oriented findings on the impact of an intrusive parenting style on child development.

Limitations and Future Research

Although the present study has several merits, it falls short in that only parent self-reports were used to assess parenting and child behavioral outcomes; children’s perspective on their parenting practices may be quite different. For example, Smetana ( 1995 ) found that adolescents perceived their parents as being more permissive and authoritarian compared to parents’ own view on the matter, whereas parents perceived themselves as being more authoritative than their adolescent children. Although a significant convergence between child and parent reports on parenting dimensions has been established in elementary school (Kuppens et al. 2009a ), future research should explicitly take a multiple informant approach when identifying parenting styles as informant perspectives on parenting styles in this age period may differ. In a related vein, multiple informant assessments of child behavioral problems have been shown to be context–specific with differences occurring according to the context (e.g., home, school) that forms the basis for informant’s assessment (Achenbach et al. 1987 ). Involving informants other than parents in the assessment of child behavioral outcomes therefore seems particularly interesting in future research on parenting styles.

Furthermore, inspecting a normally developing sample generally results into a low occurrence of inadequate parenting practices and child behavioral problems. Studying parenting styles in a clinical sample could certainly supplement this view because more variation in parenting practices may yield more or different parenting styles. Hoeve et al. ( 2008 ) have conducted one of the few studies using a sample of children with a high or low risk of antisocial and behavioral problems; and they were able to identify a neglectful parenting style. In addition, the role of parental psychological control in identifying parenting styles may be more pronounced in a clinical sample; an issue that to date remains unresolved.

The present sample closely resembled the population distribution with regard to family composition and paternal educational level, but it was rather homogeneous for ethnicity and mothers were more highly educated. As such, the present findings may not generalize to minority groups or families with less educated mothers; an issue that should be resolved by future studies. For example, previous research has demonstrated that harsh punishment and psychological control are more common among lower SES parents (e.g., Eamon 2001 ; El‐Sheikh et al. 2010 ) and that Caucasian caregivers were more prevalent in an authoritative parenting style cluster (van der Horst and Sleddens 2017 ). The present study clearly complements the scarce body of research on naturally occurring joint parenting styles conducted in US samples, but additional research is needed to replicate these findings. Moreover, as parenting occurs within a cultural belief system that influences attitudes towards particular parenting practices (Durrant et al. 2003 ), cross-cultural research could further clarify the role of culture in identifying naturally occurring (joint) parenting styles incorporating three parenting dimensions. Finally, the cross-sectional associations among joint parenting styles and child outcomes should be complemented by longitudinal research to gain more insight into the directionality of these associations. Longitudinal research covering the entire childhood and adolescence period could also increase our understanding of age-of-child and sex-of parent differences in naturally occurring parenting styles.

Despite these limitations, this study adds to the literature by further empirically validating well-known parenting styles and by increasing our understanding of the role of parental psychological control and joint parenting. The overlap between harsh punishment and parental psychological control in congruent parenting styles and its unique role in the uninvolved parenting style suggests that this intrusive parenting dimension should be routinely considered in practice settings. We also found that adequate behavior controlling practices may be particularly interesting in preventing behavioral problems; and that not only an authoritarian but also a (psychologically) intrusive parenting style can impede upon child development.

Author Contributions

SK: designed and executed the study, conducted part of the data-analysis, and wrote the paper. EC: conducted the cluster analyses, and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the KU Leuven (University of Leuven) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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