Parenting Styles, Part I: The Baumrind Model

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Over the next several weeks, we will look at three different models of parenting styles. We begin today with the Baumrind model. Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind characterized three dominant parenting styles, and recorded their outcomes.1


Baumrind’s three parenting styles are authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative. Social development researchers Maccoby and Martin updated the Baumrind model to include an additional style called neglecting.2

Maccoby and Martin also updated the model by defining two dimensions: demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to parental control, supervision, and maturity demands. Being demanding can instill confidence in a child’s ability to grow capabilities; it can make him believe he can make an impact. Responsiveness refers to parental warmth, acceptance, and involvement. Being responsive can instill confidence in a child’s ability to grow relationships; it can make a child believe he matters. Both “matter” and “impact” beliefs were discussed in a recent post.

Table 1. Baumrind Parenting Styles Summary

Table 1. Baumrind Parenting Styles Summary

The authoritarian parenting style is high in demandingness but low in responsiveness. Authoritarian parents expect rules to be obeyed without question, and often under threat of punishment. The needs of the child are not considered in authoritarian homes.

The permissive parenting style is low in demandingness but high in responsiveness. Rules are generally not enforced in permissive homes. Permissive parents indulge the whims of the child.

The neglecting parenting style is low in both demandingness and responsiveness. Rules are not enforced, and no consideration for the needs of the child are given. 

The authoritative parenting style is high in both demandingness and responsiveness. Rules must be followed in authoritative homes, but the reasons for rules are explained and the specific needs of each child are considered. Children are encouraged by authoritative parents to learn and think for themselves and to develop a sense of autonomy.


Let's say a child has strewn toys about the living room and now it is time to clean the room. The authoritarian parent may lay down the law and command the child to do it under threat of punishment. The permissive parent would probably assume the role of toy cleaner, while the neglectful parent would just ignore the mess, as well as the child.

The authoritative parent would instruct the child to clean the room and give the reasons why. Perhaps the family is expecting guests later, or the toys are a trip hazard to someone, or they risk being broken by the vacuum cleaner that is about to pass through. If the child protests, the parent might respond by asking the most important question in family dynamics: Why? The parent may learn that the child doesn't know where to start and needs some instruction which can then be provided. Or the child may complain that cleaning is not fun. In that case the parent may decide to get creative and come up with a cleaning game, or may just decide to impose fair consequences by limiting future toy use until good cleanup habits are established. Or the child may explain that some of the toys are involved in play still in progress, and then the parent can decide whether it is acceptable to have everything cleaned up except for the building blocks, at least until the castle is finished.

For a parent wishing for a clean home relatively free of conflict, the authoritative approach is certainly the more difficult route. More expedience can be found with the authoritarian or permissive parenting styles. And for parents willing to sacrifice a clean home, the neglectful approach may be adopted as the most expedient. The most expedient ways to get what you want in the short term, however, often do not produce the best long-term outcomes.

Parenting Style Outcomes

These four parenting styles have been correlated with countless child and adolescent outcomes over the years. For this discussion, the only outcomes of interest are those that can be mapped to the terms of the well-being cycle.

The well-being cycle is a four-step cycle introduced in the book The Optimal Life Experience, and appearing in a recent post. It describes the path by which people may lead themselves to lives of meaning, fulfillment, and well-being. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Well-Being Cycle

Figure 1. The Well-Being Cycle

In short, people who believe themselves to matter, and to be capable of making an impact on their condition, develop emotional intelligence skills in order to live up to their beliefs. They use those skills to exercise virtuous behaviors, which facilitate relationship growth and the building of capabilities. Those burgeoning relationships and capabilities then reinforce the beliefs of matter and impact.

The outcomes of self-esteem, emotional health, good behavior, school grades, and social skills have been selected to map to the well-being cycle. Self-esteem maps to matter and impact, emotional health maps to emotional intelligence, good behavior maps to virtuous behavior, school grades maps to competence, and social skills maps to relatedness. A summary of the relative rankings for each of these five outcomes against all four parenting styles appears in Table 2.

Table 2. Baumrind Parenting Style Outcomes

Table 2. Baumrind Parenting Style Outcomes

Like any evolving area of study, there are research papers with conflicting conclusions and interpretations. There is debate about whether the correlations shown in Table 2 are sufficiently understood to assign causation. There are unknown effects of having two parents utilize different styles with their child. There are potential differences between the outcomes for boys and girls. There are questions about the effect of changing parenting styles during a child's development. There are disagreements about what constitutes optimal results in different cultures.

Because we are interested in global trends and general insights, the level of granularity needed to explore these issues is not within scope. Table 1 presents a high-level view of the correlations. I did not, however, want to continue without first acknowledging and disclosing that there are a lot of complexities underneath the simple-looking entries in Table 1.

Mapping Parenting Style Outcomes to Matter and Impact

Self-esteem is the attitude toward whether one believes in his competence to have positive interactions with others, to form healthy relationships, to manage negative interactions, to develop the capabilities to meet challenges, and to deal with adversity. Self-esteem encompasses the beliefs that one matters and can make an impact. The self-esteem outcomes in Table 2 therefore map to the matter and impact term of the well-being cycle.

Children raised by authoritative and permissive parents are likely to have higher self-esteem. Children raised by authoritarian and neglecting parents are likely to have lower self-esteem.

Mapping Parenting Style Outcomes to Emotional Intelligence

Emotional health is being used to map to the emotional intelligence term in the well-being progression. Again, some presumptions are in order because the current literature landscape lacks comprehensive studies linking emotional intelligence to Baumrind parenting styles. In the research cited, it wasn't emotional health that was actually measured, but lack of emotional health. Specifically, signs of anxiety, tension, and depression were measured. These are exactly the type of outcomes that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are inoculated against. So the people with higher incidences of these maladies can be presumed to possess less emotional intelligence, and those with lower incidences of these maladies can be presumed to possess more emotional intelligence. Using these presumptions as a guide, children raised by neglectful parents are less likely to have emotional intelligence than children raised by authoritarian, permissive, or authoritative parents.

Mapping Parenting Style Outcomes to Virtuous Behavior

Good behavior is being used to map to the virtuous behavior term in the well-being progression. Good behavior is an indirect measure of virtuous behavior. An indirect measure is necessary because there are not yet reliable methods of measuring virtue, let alone studies linking any such measurements to parenting styles. In fact, it was bad behavior such as cheating, tardiness, theft, weapons possession, drug use, and trouble with the law that was actually measured. Presumably, those with higher rates of bad behavior did not achieve those scores by exhibiting virtue. Conversely, those with lower rates of bad behavior were presumably more likely to have cultivated and exhibited virtuous behavior. Using these presumptions as a guide, children raised by authoritarian or authoritative parents are more likely to exhibit virtuous behavior than children raised by permissive or neglectful parents.

Mapping Parenting Style Outcomes to Relationships and Capabilities

Social skills include measures of popularity, number of friends, and the ability to make friends. This column quite plainly maps to the relationships element of the ‘relationships and capabilities’ term in the well-being cycle. Having better social skills, children raised by permissive or authoritative parents are likely to be better equipped to build relationships throughout life than their peers raised by authoritarian or neglectful parents.

School grades are being used to map to the capabilities element of the ‘relationships and capabilities’ term in the well-being cycle. School grades were selected because the modern scholastic environment provides a wide range of opportunities for children to express capacities and experience continual growth. And school consumes more of many children’s time and attention than any other single endeavor. It makes sense that those who excel in this environment are more likely to build capabilities throughout life. In fact, that is one of the things the education system is designed to do: expose children to the range of things most likely to serve as the foundation for how they will express capacities as adults. Be that as it may, academic success is still a relatively narrow measure when compared to the available domains in which competence may be exercised. For this reason, I believe academic success to be a suboptimal measure to link to the capabilities element in the well-being cycle, but the best one available. Using academic success as a guide, children raised by authoritarian or authoritative parents can be presumed to be more likely to build capabilities than children raised by permissive or neglectful parents.

Overview of Parenting Style Outcomes

We have now examined every parenting style outcome appearing in Table 2. Taking all five outcomes into view, the overall assessment of parenting styles favors a combination of high responsiveness and high demandingness. The neglecting parenting style, with low responsiveness and low demandingness, correlates with poorer outcomes across all the areas linked to the well-being cycle. The authoritarian and permissive parenting styles, each a mixed bag of responsiveness and demandingness, results in a mixed bag of outcomes. The authoritative parenting style, with high responsiveness and high demandingness, is the only one that correlates with the better outcomes in all five areas. High responsiveness and high demandingness appear to be the key parental characteristics that enable a child to traverse the well-being cycle and create an optimal life experience.


But there is a problem. While the authoritative category includes parenting practices that foster good outcomes, it also includes parenting practices that do not. In other words, the Baumrind typology gives us a gross indication of where to find favorable parenting practices, but it is not precise enough. We need to carve out the parenting sweet spot from the authoritative quadrant.

For that, we turn to self-determination theory and its model of parenting styles. That is where we will pick up in the next post.

1 Diana Baumrind, “Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior,” Genetic Psychology Monographs 75, no. 1 (1967): 43-88.

2 E.E Maccoby and J.A. Martin, “Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent–Child Interaction.” in Handbook of Child Psychology, Volume 4: Socialization, Personality, and Social Development, 4th ed., eds. P.H. Mussen and E.M Hetherington (New York: Wiley, 1983), 1-101.

3 Lucy C. Driscoll, "Parenting Styles and Self-Esteem" (senior thesis, Scripps College, 2013).

4 Susie D. Lamborn et al., “Patterns of Competence and Adjustment among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families,” Child Development 62, no. 5 (1991): 1049-65.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

How to Properly Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “Parenting Styles, Part I: The Baumrind Model”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date],