Parenting Styles 101 – Diana Baumrind


What do parent’s want for themselves? Since people do what works for them, we can assume that their parenting style indicates what they want for themselves.

Today’s theories of parenting styles began with the work of Diana Baumrind in the late 1960‘s. She proposed that parents fall into one of three categories:

  • authoritarian (telling their children exactly what to do),
  • indulgent (allowing their children to do whatever they wish), or
  • authoritative (providing rules and guidance without being overbearing).

The theory was later extended to include negligent parents (disregarding the children, and focusing on other interests).

Baumrind found what she considered to be the four basic elements that could help shape successful parenting:

  • responsiveness or accepting the child’s input vs. unresponsiveness, and
  • demanding or controlling the child’s behaviour vs. undemanding.

These four elements made it easy for Baumrind to distinguish or categorize styles using a two-by-two matrix











These terms can be adapted by using synonyms. For example:

“Authoritative” can also be referred to as “Propagative” (fostering growing knowledge), “Authoritarian” as “Totalitarian“, and “Indulgent” as “Freeranger


Barbara Coloroso, in Kids are worth it!, Penguin Canada, Toronto, Ontario, 2001, introduces different imagery when she refers to “Authoritarian” as “Brick-wall”, “Indulgent” or “Permissive” as “Jellyfish” and “Authoritative as “Backbone”.


Michael J. Weiss & Shelton Wagner in Drawing the Line, Warner Books, New York, N.Y., 2006, reduce parenting styles to a comparison of the extent that parents display warmth and control


Low Warmth


High Warmth

Low Control



High Control





I like the number 4; it simplifies by polarizing based on fewer factors. However, there is great danger in over-simplification, or “labelling”. Our parenting style is formed by combining elements from all of the different styles. A certain style’s elements may dominate, but, to a lesser degree, some factors from the other styles may also be evident, especially under different circumstances.

I find it more useful to identify how behaviour varies between the “labelled” styles.

Child’s qualities, interests, impulses, desires, actions, special ways, autonomy affirms, encourages, values restricted since standards are absolute accepts, affirms; child regulates own activities
Role in shaping and altering behaviour; controlling and evaluating conduct directs in a rational, issue-oriented manner; uses reason, power, modelling, reinforcement set standard which must be obeyed; parents’ word must be accepted resource to be used as child wishes
Standards, rules Explains, based on reason not group consensus or individual child’s desires absolute, from higher authority consults, explains
Expectations for household responsibilities   assigned to inculcate respect for work few demands, avoids control
Expectations for orderly behaviour, exercise of control firm at points of parent-child divergence obedience expected few demands, avoids control, allows disobedience of external standards
Efforts to accomplish ends rational, issue-oriented values obedience as a virtue; favours punitive, forceful measures reason, manipulation, but NOT overt power
Refusal to conform give and take, solicits objections obedience expected, favours punitive, forceful methods child, mostly, regulates own activities
Consequences disciplined conformity punitive, forceful non-punitive
Other values autonomous self-will, disciplined conformity order, tradition No controls, few demands, self-regulation




Parenting habits may evolve over time as we understand more and make changes. As our children develop their own personalities and move through their life’s stages, parenting style may change. Parenting style is affected by both the parents’ and children’s temperaments, and is largely based on the influence of one’s own parents and culture.

This entry was posted in parenting and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Parenting Styles 101 – Diana Baumrind

  1. Thanks for this, I have read many articles about parenting but what I like about this one is the way you have used the tables to show exactly what the various parenting styles entail in different situations and values. Katie

  2. Apeksha says:

    We are doing our college project on this. this was exceedingly helpful! 🙂 Please can you suggest any more books that we may refer to? Preferably any place we can access her original work?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s