The literature suggests that optimal parenting in any culture will have certain features that characterize authoritative parents: deep and abiding commitment to the parenting role, intimate knowledge of their child and her or his developmental needs, respect for the child’s individuality and desires, provision of structure and regimen appropriate to the child’s developmental level, readiness to establish and enforce behavioral guidelines, cognitive stimulation, and effective communication and use of reasoning to ensure children’s understanding of parents’ goals and disciplinary strategies.
Just what combination of behavioral control, warmth, and psychological autonomy is optimal in advancing children’s competence and character, and how each of these outcomes should be operationally defined, may (as Steinberg suggests) transcend differences of ethnicity, family structure, and socioeconomic status or (as we suspect) are moderated by social context. Socialization practices that are normative for a culture are generally well accepted by children and effective in accomplishing the childrearing goals of that culture.
The customs and laws of a society should be given due respect and consideration before banning or stigmatizing a practice, such as physical punishment, that most members practice and consider useful in accomplishing their goals, provided that there is no ethical objection to these goals. Preferable styles in various situations According to Baumrind’s analysis (1991c) of styles of parenting, authoritarian parents are rigid, value obedience, restrict the child’s autonomy, and discourage expression of emotion.
They endorse statements such as “The earlier a child is weaned from its emotional ties to its parents the better it will handle its own problems. Authoritative parents set standards for conduct, value compliance with reasonable rules but respect the child’s autonomy and individuality, and are sensitively responsive to the child’s needs and desires. They endorse statements such as “Children should be encouraged to tell their parents about it whenever they feel family rules are unreasonable. ” Permissive parents do not impose restraints and are accepting of the child’s actions and benign in their treatment.
It is authoritative parents who are most successful in socialization because, Baumrind argues, firm but not restrictive control helps children balance the tendency to comply with rules and consideration for others with autonomy and independent thinking. In studies of parenting style, two dimensions have frequently emerged, one having to do with whether parents are high or low in control or demanding ness and the other with whether they are high or low in responsiveness or warmth to the child.
Baumrind’s tri-partite classification includes high control, high-responsive (authoritative) parents, high-control, low-responsive (authoritarian) parents, and low-control, high-responsive (permissive) parents. Not included is the final combination of low control, low-responsive parents, designated as neglecting or indifferent. Maccoby and Martin (1983) noted that parents in this final combination produce significant deficits in psychological functioning Parenting Style and Mental Health
As with parental discipline, the findings for the impact of parenting style on child outcomes have not always been consistent. Even Baumrind’s (1991c) original findings were not entirely consistent. In research on parenting styles conducted with lower socioeconomic and with Asian American and African American families, the effects of authoritative parenting have not always been positive. These inconsistencies led to a reanalysis of parenting styles by Darling and Steinberg (1993).
In that reanalysis, they distinguished between content and context, that is, between parenting practices and parenting style. Practices refer to specific content and goals for socialization and include such behaviors as spanking, showing an interest in children’s activities, and requiring children to do their homework. Style refers to actions that are independent of socialization content, namely, the emotional climate in which parenting takes place, including body language, bursts of temper, tone of voice, inattention to the child, and so on.
These latter features of parenting behavior convey how parents feel about the child her- or himself rather than about the child’s behavior. An authoritative parent in a Western European context, then, is one who expresses comfort with the child’s autonomy and respects the child’s wishes and individuality. In summary, parenting practices affect internalization directly, whereas parenting style affects internalization indirectly both by making children more open to socialization attempts and by providing a model of competent social interaction.
Relationship theories, which emphasize the central role of the quality of the emotional link between parent and child as the foundation of socialization success or failure, come in several different forms. Historically, the first focus on quality of relationships and socialization was in the emphasis of social learning theorists on maternal warmth, nurturance, or noncontingent social and physical reinforcement. Children act in the same way as warm parents because the reproduction of their behavior is secondarily reinforcing.
As well, children want to please people who are pleasant to them. In addition to its role in social learning approaches to the socialization process, warmth (or lack of it) is also a major component in parenting styles. Interest in parental warmth as a feature of relationships has been replaced by one having to do with protection. Thus attachment theory emphasizes the importance of parental sensitivity and responsiveness to children’s emotional and physical distress as a central feature of socialization.
Children are biologically predisposed to be compliant (Stayton et al. 1971), and it is only in the case of parental insensitivity and nonresponsiveness that this natural tendency to compliance is thwarted. Parents who are insensitive and nonresponsive produce children who are insecurely attached, that is, who do not trust their parents to satisfy their need for protection or to make demands that are in their best interests. A manifestation of this insecurity or lack of trust is noncompliance or superficial compliance that is not willingly given and has an underlay of anger.
A number of studies have demonstrated how children’slevel of cognitive development has an impact on their understanding of and reactions to different forms of discipline. Abstract reasoning has less effect on behavior suppression in younger than older children, and young children, who have a limited ability to decenter, find it difficult to deal with messages delivered in a sarcastic way. It was found that the association between parenting behavior and externalizing behavior was greater for older children and adolescents than for toddlers and preschoolers.
One explanation for this relation comes from findings that older children evaluate physical punishment from mothers less positively than do younger children, and that they regard increasing numbers of issues as personal ones over which parents do not have a right to exercise control. The increase in aggression and noncompliance, then, could be a reflection of an increased unwillingness to see parental power assertion as fair or acceptable.