Trying to identify direct cause-and-effect relationships between the actions of parents and the effects on children is incredibly difficult to do. Often children raised in the same family can develop incredibly different personalities as they grow, and conversley children raised in entirely different environments can develop remarkably similar personalities. Researchers have, however, proposed some convincing links between the style of parenting that a child encounters, and the effect it has on their personality.
Studies have identified four main sytles of parenting. Diana Baumrind (1967, 1980) looked at the effects of disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurturance, communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control and proposed the following parenting styles:
- Authoritarian – parents have strict ideas about behaviour and discipline which are not open to discussion. According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (1991).
- Authoritative – parents have strong ideas about behaviour and discipline but are more flexible. Baumrind says “their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative” (1991). They will explain rules to children, and in some situations, will adapt the rules.
- Permissive – parents have a very relaxed idea of behaviour and discipline. “They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (Baumrind, 1991).
In 1983, Maccoby & Martin added the fourth category
- Uninvolved – parents who are both undemanding of their children, and unresponsive to their needs. This style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life.
Studies have since looked at how the different parenting styles can predict aspects of children’s personalities as they grow. Dekovic & Jassen’s 1992 study showed that authoritative parents more often raise prosocial children who are popular with their peers, whereas children with authoritarian parent’s tend to suffer more peer rejection.
Further support for authoritarian parenting styles came from Steinberg in 1992, who showed that children with authoritarian parents performed less well academically at school than those with authoritative parents.
All of the studies mentioned above were completed in the USA, so we must guard against the influence of cultural specificity. The results appear more predictive of Euro-American families than of African-American families, but similar studies (eg. Chen, 1997) have shown very similar results for authoritative vs authoritarian parenting in China.