For years, experts had been giving parents a list of dos and don'ts, but developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind approached parenting from a whole new perspective.
Instead of focusing on specific actions that could harm or help children, Baumrind introduced the idea of parenting styles. And her definition of 3 parenting styles was no less than groundbreaking when she coined them back in the 1960s.
Read all about it here and more too.
In this article on Baumrind, you'll get:
much research and observation, Baumrind recognized that it is not
just what you do, but how you do it, that impacts
For example, a child who has a "highly responsive" parent will react differently to discipline or correction than a child who is raised in a "highly demanding" home.
In this case, it is not the discipline itself that is the issue, but the approach, manner - or style - with which it is delivered.
Previously, many parenting experts had been suggesting that children should be given very rigid rules with high levels of expectation for compliance. In other words, children should obey without argument and do whatever they are told.
Those who disagreed with this theory, proposed the opposite - respond immediately to children's needs and give love and approval unconditionally. However, this approach was often misunderstood and criticized for being too permissive or indulgent.
Baumrind suggested that "good" parenting should not be one or
the other, but rather the ideal balance of both "responsiveness" and
"demandingness". It was a compromise of sorts, a "meet in the
middle" concept that attempted to take the best of both worlds and
create the perfect parenting style.
Baumrind's 3 parenting styles inspired a lot of future research that eventually resulted in a fourth style (the uninvolved parent) being added in 1983.
Now, nearly five decades later, she is still considered to be one of the most influential contributors in the field of parenting.
Diana Baumrind was born on August 23, 1927, the oldest of two daughters in a
middle class family living in one of New York's small Jewish
She earned a B.A. of psychology and philosophy from Hunter College in 1948, and went on to complete both a Masters Degree and PhD in clinical and developmental psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
After a postdoctoral residency at Cowell Hospital in Berkeley, Diana took a position as a research psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1966, she published her now
famous article on parenting styles. This was followed by another
article in 1967 that examined the effects of these styles on child
is also well-known for her work in the area of research ethics. She
argues that misrepresentation and deception should be minimized in
research studies and that subjects should be informed about what to
She believes that, for the sake of results, honesty is too often compromised and many people do not really know why they are being observed or what risks may be involved when they agree to be part of a research group.
Although she is in her 80s,
Diana still remains very active in the field of parenting, heading
the Family Socialization Project at IHD, sitting on the editorial
board for the international journal Parenting: Science and Practice, and acting as a consultant for the Task Force on
Corporal Punishment for the American Psychological Association.
Since the 1960s,
Diana Baumrind has been very influential in the field of parenting.
Her theories resulted in many research studies and articles that have changed the way parents view the role they play in their children's lives.
She has consulted on many projects throughout her career, but she is most famous for the following contributions:
Even if you have never heard the name
Diana Baumrind, you might know about the "three parenting styles".
Every parent, at some point, questions whether they are being "too demanding" or "too permissive". They wonder if they are showing enough love and affection while still setting reasonable boundaries and teaching self-regulation.
Well, the idea of being "too strict" or "too lenient" is actually a concept that comes from Baumrind's theories. She proposed that there are three parenting styles, and that each style leads to specific outcomes.
The parenting styles are really based
on various combinations of these factors.
In other words, how responsive or how demanding you are will determine which category applies to your parenting approach - you can take my test here.
Basically, Diana Baumrind is saying that the authoritarian style is "too hard", the permissive style is "too soft", and the authoritative is "just right".
Here is a video that in a few words explains Diana Baumrind's parenting styles:
While there is
a lot of research to support Baumrind's ideas, many parenting experts have questioned her emphasis on the need for firm (not
rigid) rules and controls.
Baumrind argues that the proper use of disapproval, balanced with love and affection, is what is best for children.
However, there are those within the field of parenting (e.g. Alfie Kohn), that believe "disapproval" is a form of "love withdrawal" and can actually have a negative impact on development.
Also, when considering popular theories such as those promoted by Benjamin Spock or Alfie Kohn, one has to ask if "high responsiveness" without "high demandingness" really is synonymous with "permissiveness"?
That is what Baumrind implies.
But, a lot of research has shown that focusing primarily on meeting children's needs produces well-adjusted, self-confident children who don't need external controls.
In 1983, researchers Eleanor Maccoby
and John Martin felt that Diana Baumrind's theory was incomplete and
introduced a fourth parenting style - the uninvolved parent.
These parents are neither demanding nor responsive. Basically, they don't care. And, children of uninvolved parents often "act out" or become involved in deviant behaviors in an effort to get their parents' attention.
Baumrind has been the cause of a lot of controversy because of her stance on physical or corporal punishment.
Diana Baumrind supports the occasional use of
spanking as a form of discipline and states that her research has
shown no negative long-term impact on children if the punishment is
delivered within an authoritative style where the child does not
perceive the action as harsh or cruel.
She also states that abusive parents are typically authoritarian, although not all authoritarian style parents are abusive.
But, this stance continues to be a controversy within the parenting field.
Many researchers disagree vehemently
with Baumrind (and many countries have also banned physical
punishment both in school and at home).
They claim that the more a parent uses physical punishment the greater the likelihood of this punishment escalating to abuse.
Some experts also believe that punishing a child using physical aggression will encourage them to become more physically aggressive themselves.
And the bottom line is - does it make sense?
Isn't spanking a child for something such as throwing a toy at a friend, biting, or hitting another child an oxymoron? ... I'm going to hit you to teach you that hitting is wrong? Even as an adult, that makes no sense, so how can we expect our children to understand?
Baumrind has had great influence in the area of
research ethics, which began with her strong response to
Stanley Milgrim's 1963 Study of Obedience.
Milgrim told his study subjects that he was conducting research on the relationship between punishment and learning when, in fact, he was actually testing people's compliance to authority to determine how far someone would be willing to go for the sake of obedience.
Baumrind disagreed with the deception, claiming that Milgrim created high levels of stress in the subjects, and failed to show respect or concern for participant's welfare.
She believed that once the truth was revealed, many subjects would feel used, embarrassed, and distrustful of authority in the future.
Basically, she felt that the relationship between the researcher and the subjects had been violated.
In response to her criticism, many researchers claimed that a certain amount of deception is necessary to get accurate results.
For example, parents are going to be on their "best behavior" if they know that they are being observed. Or, an adolescent is not likely to engage in deviant behavior if a police officer is within sight.
Despite a continuing argument, Baumrind has been influential in changing the way much research is done and in making sure that subjects are treated less like lab rats and more like human beings.
As a researcher, Baumrind has written many
journal articles and book chapters on parenting styles, family
socialization, moral development, adolescence, and research ethics.
Much of her work is very "clinical", meaning that it is written for other experts and researchers within the field of psychology.
However, some of her writings have become quite famous and can be very informative, even for parents who don't necessarily agree with her viewpoints.
These two articles earned Baumrind recognition within the field
They introduced the three parenting styles and examined the effects that these child-rearing practices have on behavior.
These articles outline a very detailed study contrasting self-reliant, mature, trusting, and content children with those who were distrustful, unhappy, immature, and dependent.
By observing the various parenting styles, Baumrind looked at the relationship between development and parental control. Factors discussed included punishment, authority, freedom and autonomy, self-regulation, and fear.
The article concludes with the observation that the authoritative parenting style is the perfect balance and the best approach for both the parents and children.
This article summarizes a study that looked
at the relationship between income level and child abuse or
Baumrind observed several families, taking into account finances, maternal youth, marital status, foster care, and personality.
The article also covers the psychological characteristics of abusive parents, although much of her research concludes that poverty is the strongest determining factor for maltreatment.
This is a book about raising "good kids", with the
definition of "good" being empathetic, altruistic, moral, competent,
and having strong consciences.
Five parenting experts have taken all their years of research and knowledge and put it together to make a manual that parents can use to help "maximize their children's potential" for becoming self-confident, fair, and giving individuals.
Diana Baumrind has contributed a chapter on authoritative parenting and how this method can lead to character and competence in children.
This article is
the summary of a study involving 139 children who were observed at
ages 4, 10, and 15 to determine the effects of parenting styles on
their development, particularly the likelihood of substance use.
Various family types were included - authoritative, democratic, directive, non-directive, unengaged - and it was found that children from authoritative and democratic homes were more mature, optimistic, and had more positive attitudes about their parents.
These children were also less likely to become involved in deviant behavior such as alcohol or drug use.
In this article, Baumrind readdresses
her earlier views on physical discipline. Again, she states that one
extreme or the other is not beneficial.
A parenting approach that uses strict corporal punishment can lead to as many problems as one that includes indulgent permissiveness.
Balance is the best!:
Baumrind takes into account historical and cultural factors, as well as family situations and stages of development.
Your Positive Parenting Ally,
Want to stay in touch and get the latest news?
Sign up for my free newsletter
Famous Parenting Experts and Their Parenting Styles Theories:
Humanism vs. Behaviorism.
Sigmund Freud the Controversial Pioneer of Psychology:
The Famous Psychosexual Stages of Child Development.
Jean Piaget Biography, Theories and Books:
The Earliest Torch Bearer of Humanism.
Erik Erikson Biography and Theories:
The 8 Developmental Stages, Identity Crisis and Ego Identity.
Abraham Maslow Biography:
The Father of Humanistic Psychology and Self Actualization Theory.
Dr. Benjamin Spock Biography, Theories and Books:
The Controversial Forefather of Intuitive Parenting.
A Biography of John Bowlby:
The Father of Attachment Theory.
An Intriguing Mary Ainsworth Biography:
The Refiner of Attachment Theory.
The Critic of Traditional Psychology and Father of Positive Psychology.
Carl Rogers Biography, Theories and Books:
The Founder of Humanistic Psychology.
Alfie Kohn Biography, Theories and Books:
The Father of Unconditional Parenting.
Deep Insights into the Essence of Dr Sears' Attachment Parenting
- Along with a Fascinating Historical View on the Slow Rising Consciousness of Attachment Parenting.
John B Watson Biography, Theories and Books:
The Father of Behaviorism.
B. F. Skinner Biography, Theories and Books:
Father of Radical Behavorism.
Amy Chua Biography and Theories:
Tiger Mother's 9 Parenting Principles.
Go to the Positive Parenting Ally Homepage