S.T.E.A.M. Day

Cultural differences in parenting styles

What are parenting styles?

In the 1960’s, Diana Baumrind conducted a landmark study on parenting styles which she defined are determined by a parent’s balance of responsiveness and demandingness. She found that both these qualities are crucial for optimal parenting. 

Responsiveness: “the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s special needs and demands” (Baumrind 1991).

Demandingness: “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys” (Baumrind 1991).


Based on how responsive and demanding a parent was, she classified them into 4 categories:

  • Authoritarian; heavy emphasis on demandingness with little to no responsiveness, obedience, discipline, and controlling children using punishments 
  • Authoritative; an idea balance of responsiveness and demandingness; enforces a set of rules and behaviors in a logical way while encouraging child autonomy
  • Permissive; heavy emphasis on responsiveness with little to no demandingness; reluctant to enforce rules but provides children with lots of emotional warmth
  • Uninvolved; no emphasis on responsiveness and demandingness


How does culture play a role?

Baumrind’s study was conducted with a culturally homogeneous group of white, middle class families. Although her theories have been used in Europe, Brazil, China, Turkey, and other countries, many eastern parenting styles from Asian cultures do not fit into any of the categories. 

The parenting styles are a continuum.

In reality, parenting styles are rarely completely reflected by the four categories. Some parenting styles can blur the distinction between authoritative and authoritarian or others, which lean heavily towards one parenting style but does not fit it completely. 

Cultural caveats

Despite being a continuum, Baumrind’s theory cannot account for some styles of asian parenting. Take “Tiger Parenting” for example- it is neither authoritative or authoritarian. Although “Tiger Parents” use strict obedience enforced through punishment, they also enjoy a sense of closeness with their children. 


In a Spanish study on parenting styles, they found that permissive parenting yielded better results than authoritative. Factors such as typical parenting styles (specific to regions) affected how well each parenting style worked. Researchers hypothesized that the effectiveness of parenting styles were also linked to what was perceived to be “normal”. 


The verdict

In a meta-analysis of 480 studies on the impact of parenting styles, despite cultural differences, authoritative parenting still came out on top. This does not imply that other parenting styles are inferior, rather authoritative parenting worked best for most families.