A brief extract on a single idea



25 APRIL 2008

NO 1290


Diana Baumrind's (1967) widely-cited research relies on a two-factor model of discipline to generate a typology, in which three ideal parenting types "authoritative'; "authoritarian" and "permissive" were generated by combining the extreme poles of a two-factor discipline model. The two bi-polar dimensions on the model were termed "control" and "warmth". The three aforementioned ideal parenting types were constructed as follows: authoritative parents were high on both warmth and control, authoritarian parents were high on control but low on warmth, while permissive parents were low on control but high on warmth. A later-identified fourth ideal type of "rejecting-neglecting" parents was constructed by identifying parents who were low on both control and warmth.

Baumrind thus used a quasi-Hegelian dialectic, whereby competent parenting was seen as a combination of discipline traits that were viewed as incompatible in earlier formulations. For example, because psychoanalysts tended to see adult neurosis as caused by excessive parental control, the approach proposed by so-called "vulgar" (i.e. overly simplistic) Freudians was for parents to be permissive. Conversely, because behaviorists tended to see child behavior problems as caused by inadequate parental control, their recommendation was to be authoritarian. Baumrind's solution was to combine the best of permissive parenting (i.e. high warmth) and the best of authoritarian parenting (i.e. high control). This produced the synthesis of authoritative parenting, by combining high control with high warmth. She argued that this pattern would be preferable to the other two ideal types, in that it would give young children the direction favored by behaviorists and the acceptance favored by psychoanalysts. Baumrind also has argued that psychoanalysts put too much emphasis on independence and separation as a criterion for mental health (especially in adolescence) and put too little emphasis on interdependence. The strong, but loving, direction provided by authoritative parents is necessary, in Baumrind's view, if children are to grow up to become adults who have this balanced orientation.

Support for this hypothesis was provided in a study by Baumrind and Black (1967), in which they found that parents using authoritative discipline had preschool-aged children who were significantly more socially competent than the children of parents using either authoritarian or permissive discipline. These findings were generally replicated in a later study involving adolescents, in which Baumrind (1991) found that youths whose parents use an authoritative discipline style were most likely to be socially competent and least likely to use drugs.

A criticism of Baumrind's findings made by Lewis (1981) was that it contradicted a large body of attribution theory and research. She argued that high parental control may bring about external behavioral compliance but is likely to retard the internalization of adult values. Lewis (1981) re-examined Baumrind's data and found that one could eliminate the items measuring "firm enforcement of rules and standards" without substantially altering the findings. In her reply, Baumrind (1983) agreed with Lewis up to a point, but still argued that strong parental control is necessary for the full development of child social competence.

Criticism of Baumrind's emphasis on strong parental control continues to the present time, as in the recent book by Wendy S. Grolnick (2003) entitled The Psychology of Parental Control: How Well-Meant Parenting Backfires. Grolnick focuses mainly on academic outcomes, and argues that Baumrind placed too little emphasis on the context, and specific child needs, when parental control is exercised. As did Lewis, Grolnick took Baumrind to task for ignoring the importance of child independence, and she argued that authoritative parenting can undermine motivation and self-determination, particularly with older children. Grolnick also argued that parental context (skill) is as important as parental technique, and that Baumrind missed the whole issue of the manner in which parenting techniques are implemented. Grolnick also cites the work of Steinberg and colleagues (Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992) as supporting the idea that a critical aspect of
parenting context is respect for the autonomy and self-determination needs of the child.


Greenspan, S. (2006). Rethinking 'harmonious parenting' using a three-factor discipline model. Child Care in Practice, 12, 1. pp.5-7.


Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, pp. 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1983). Rejoinder to Lewis' reinterpretation of parental firm control effects: Are authoritative families really harmonious? Psychological Bulletin, 94, pp. 132-142.

Baumrind, D. (1991). Parenting styles and adolescent development. In R. Lerner, A. C. Peterson, & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), The encyclopedia of adolescent development . New York: Garland. pp. 746-758.

Baumrind, D., & Black, A. E. (1967). Socialization practices associated with dimensions of competence in preschool boys and girls. Child Development, 38, pp. 291-327.

Grolnick, W S. (2003). The psychology of parental control: How well-meant parenting backfires. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lewis, C. C. (1981). The effects of parental firm control: A reinterpretation of findings. Psychological Bulletin, 90, pp. 547-563.

Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S. D., Dornbusch, S. M., & Darling, N. (1992). Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: Authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Development, 63, pp. 1266-1281.



See also the Conclusion to this article



Registered Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation in the Republic of South Africa (031-323-NPO, PBO 930015296)

P.O. Box 23199, Claremont 7735, Cape Town, South Africa  /  207 L'ile de Belair, Rosemere, Quebec, J7A 1A8, Canada

Board of Governors    Constitution    Funding    Site content and usage     Contact us