ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Parenting Dimensions and Styles: A Brief History and Recommendations for Future Research

Authors:

Abstract

Over the last decade, researchers have uncovered relationships between general parenting styles and children's obesity. This is an emerging area of research, and there currently is a great deal of interest in the parent's role. This review was written to provide researchers entering this area with a historical introduction to parenting research and to point to some directions for future inquiry. Over the last 75 years, considerable insight has been gained into individual differences in parenting behavior, especially regarding the dimensions underlying individual differences in general parenting approach, and parenting styles resulting from individual differences on these dimensions. The history of empirical attempts to identify parenting dimensions and styles is reviewed briefly, followed by a review of more recent studies of parenting styles. Next is a discussion of data analytic approaches to measuring parenting, with a particular emphasis on variable-centered versus person-centered approaches. Because investigators have often disagreed about which of these approaches is the most appropriate, the advantages and disadvantages of each are considered, along with recommendations for future research.
Parenting Dimensions and Styles:
A Brief History and Recommendations
for Future Research
Thomas G. Power, PhD
Abstract
Over the last decade, researchers have uncovered relationships between general parenting styles and children’s obesity. This is an
emerging area of research, and there currently is a great deal of interest in the parent’s role. This review was written to provide
researchers entering this area with a historical introduction to parenting research and to point to some directions for future inquiry.
Over the last 75 years, considerable insight has been gained into individual differences in parenting behavior, especially regarding
the dimensions underlying individual differences in general parenting approach, and parenting styles resulting from individual
differences on these dimensions. The history of empirical attempts to identify parenting dimensions and styles is reviewed briefly,
followed by a review of more recent studies of parenting styles. Next is a discussion of data analytic approaches to measuring
parenting, with a particular emphasis on variable-centered versus person-centered approaches. Because investigators have often
disagreed about which of these approaches is the most appropriate, the advantages and disadvantages of each are considered, along
with recommendations for future research.
Introduction
For approximately 75 years, researchers have been
investigating how individual differences in general
parenting practices might influence child develop-
ment.
1–7
Rather than focusing on specific parenting prac-
tices (such as breast versus bottle feeding or physical
punishment versus time out), these researchers have tried to
identify the child development correlates of general, cross-
situational variations in general parenting approach, often
referred to as parenting styles or dimensions. These studies
focused less on what parents do and more on how they do it.
One of the main reasons that researchers moved to this
approach in the 1930s and 1940s was the failure of studies
examining specific early caretaking practices in predicting
individual differences in children’s social/emotional
development.
8
The purpose of this article is to review the foundational
research on the measurement and identification of parent-
ing dimensions and styles, assess the consistency in find-
ings, and discuss limitations that future research needs to
address. Following this is a discussion of data analytic
approaches to measuring parenting, with a particular em-
phasis on variable-centered versus person-centered ap-
proaches. Because investigators have often disagreed
about which of these approaches is the most appropriate,
the advantages and disadvantages of each will be consid-
ered, along with recommendations for future research.
Part I: Identifying Parenting
Dimensions
Early Research
Researchers in the 1930s to 1960s, employing a variety
of theoretical perspectives and methodological ap-
proaches, used various factor analytic methods to identify
the major dimensions underlying observer ratings of gen-
eral parenting characteristics.
1,6,7,9,10
In the typical study,
trained observers spent considerable time interviewing or
observing parents (or sometimes read through large files of
material on parents) and rated parents on general trait
terms (e.g., strict, accepting, harsh) using Likert scales.
Factor analyses of the data from these primarily European
American, middle class samples typically identified two
dimensions of parent behavior: One assessing constructs
such as parental acceptance, warmth, or support and the
other assessing constructs related to parental control. In
five classic studies during this time period, the labels for
Department of Human Development, Washington State University, Pullman, WA.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY
August 2013 jVolume 9, Supplement 1
ªMary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089/chi.2013.0034
S-14
the first factor were: Acceptance versus rejection,
7
emo-
tional warmth versus hostility,
1
warmth,
6
love versus
hostility,
10
and warmth versus hostility.
9
Labels for the
second factor in these same five studies were: Dominance
versus submission,
7
detachment versus involvement,
1
permissiveness versus strictness,
6
autonomy versus con-
trol,
10
and permissiveness versus restrictiveness.
9
The
consistency of findings across studies was impressive, and
two influential literature reviews (one in the late 1970s and
one in the early 1980s) concluded that these two major
dimensions of parenting could be labeled as parental sup-
port and parental control
11
or as parental responsiveness
and parental demandingness.
4
As discussed in these re-
views, these two factors were usually found in studies
employing global observer ratings, parent reports, or child
reports of parenting behavior.
Although it is tempting to conclude from the consistency
of these findings across samples, methods, and analytic
approaches that these are the major dimensions of indi-
vidual differences in parenting, these findings may tell us
more about how people think about and make judgments
about the self and others than about actual parent behav-
ior.
12
Two of the major dimensions identified in factor
analytic and multidimensional scaling studies of person
perception, for example, are evaluation and activity/po-
tency
13,14
—dimensions that are close to warmth and con-
trol when applied to parenting. Thus, similar dimensions
emerge for parents and nonparents when raters describe
individuals with general trait terms (e.g., kind, active,
strict).
Reservations about the validity of coders’ global ratings
also came from a number of studies demonstrating that
ethnicity of the coder (whether trained or untrained) ap-
pears to affect global ratings of parent behavior.
15–18
Al-
though the nature of this bias differed across studies, it
does suggest that observers’ global ratings likely reflect, at
least partially, the cognitive schemas of the coder.
Studies Employing Specific Behavioral Coding
Because of concerns about the validity of self-report and
global rating measures of parenting in the early 1960s,
19,20
there was a movement away from self-reports and global
ratings to detailed observational coding later in that de-
cade.
2,21,22
Researchers have since suggested numerous
ways to increase the validity of parent self-reports,
23,24
including avoiding vague questions and quantifiers, pro-
viding appropriate time referents, and clearly specifying
the context in which behaviors occur. However, because
global ratings are by design broad and context free, it is
likely that they will always generate data that are con-
taminated by the observer’s personal cognitive schema.
One way to reduce the impact of such person perception
processes is to examine the results of factor analytic studies
where specific parental behaviors were coded by highly
trained observers. In such studies, observers code the oc-
currence of specific parenting behaviors (e.g., commands,
suggestions, threats) and the frequencies with which spe-
cific parenting behaviors occur. Because such studies in-
volve training coders to simply record the occurrence of
specific parent behaviors as they happen, these studies are
less susceptible to the general person perception processes
involved in making global judgments about the self or
others (although admittedly, such processes still can come
into play). Unfortunately, such studies are hard to find,
mostly because behavioral coding is so labor intensive that
the vast majority of studies employing specific behavioral
coding do not have sample sizes large enough for con-
ducting factor analyses.
Literature Review
To locate such studies, an extensive literature review
was conducted of observational studies found in PsycINFO
from 1900 to 2012. To ensure that relevant studies were not
missed, a wide approach to the search was employed that
identified a large number of abstracts. The keywords were
‘‘mother*, father*, or parent*’’ and ‘‘observ*’’. To reduce
the search results, the abstracts were restricted to quanti-
tative studies of preschool and school age children pub-
lished in English in peer-reviewed journals.
Although the search yielded about 3000 abstracts, only
seven studies reporting factor analyses of observational
data were located. As expected, most observational studies
had sample sizes too small for factor analyses. The seven
studies were observational studies of mother–child or
father–child interaction that involved molecular coding of
specific parental behaviors (i.e., the frequency of specific
parent behaviors were coded during live or videotaped
interactions of parents and their children) and factor ana-
lyses of the observational data were reported. Four of these
articles were evaluations of large-scale, behaviorally
based, parenting interventions,
25–28
and three were smaller-
scale, correlational studies of parent–child interaction.
29–31
The sample sizes ranged from 80 to over 800 (two factor
analytic studies employing smaller samples are not re-
viewed here). The studies were published between 1985
and 2010 and involved children between the ages of 2 and
9 years. Across studies, parents and children were ob-
served in a range of settings including unstructured home
observations, free play, teaching, and cleanup tasks. Al-
though one study employed multidimensional scaling,
29
the rest reported the results of exploratory factor or
principal components analyses, all using varimax rota-
tions (rotations that identified uncorrelated factors). The
number of behavioral codes entered into the factor ana-
lyses ranged from 6 to 28; the data were collected in four
countries (Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the
United States).
Most of these factor analyses yielded three factors (one
study reported one factor, five studies reported three, and
one reported four). Examination of the behaviors loading
on the factors showed that three similar factors were
identified across most studies. Two factors concerned two
patterns of parental control—the first (found in all seven
studies) reflected highly directive and often critical parent
CHILDHOOD OBESITY August 2013 Supplement 1 S-15
behavior (e.g., commands, restrictions, negative com-
ments, and threats) and the second (found in four studies)
reflected autonomy promoting forms of control (e.g.,
suggestions, gives choices, cooperation, and encourage-
ment). These are similar to what Baumrind referred to as
authoritarian and authoritative control practices
2
and what
others have referred to as parent-centered and child-
centered control.
32,33
The third commonly occurring factor
(found in five studies) was a factor that reflected positive
parental involvement with the child (e.g., laughs, smiles,
physical affection, praising, attending, and encouraging).
Comparison of these three factors to those derived from
interview or global rating studies reveals similarities and
differences. Although the three factors identified in the
behavioral coding studies are similar to the global rating
factors of warmth and control, control was broken into two
separate factors characterized by high (authoritative) and
low (authoritarian) warmth. The factor most similar to
warmth (positive involvement) had to do with the level of
parental enjoyment or support of the child in these play and
teaching sessions.
Two less commonly occurring factors emerged as well.
These apparently were a consequence of the coding systems
used in some studies. Three studies yielded a factor that
assessed neutral conversation (e.g., providing information
and responding to child verbalizations) and three studies
yielded a factor assessing ineffective discipline (e.g., ex-
cessive control, lack of follow-through on discipline, and
provides child with no opportunity to comply). The neutral
conversation factors likely reflect the fact that some coding
systems used mutually exclusive and exhaustive codes to
cover all verbalizations, so a factor reflecting general con-
versation emerged. The ineffective parenting factors likely
emerged because codes for ineffective parenting were in-
cluded in some of the evaluation studies. The ineffective
parenting factors would likely fall into the ‘‘structure’’ di-
mension described in the next section.
No factors emerged in the molecular coding studies
that were not examples of one of the five dimensions de-
scribed above. This is remarkable given the wide range
of methods, samples, coding systems, and procedures
employed.
Identification of Parenting Dimensions
beyond Warmth and Control
As illustrated by the ‘‘neutral conversation’’ and ‘‘inef-
fective parenting’’ factors described above, what comes
out of a factor analysis is to a large extent a function of
what goes into it. So, besides the person perception pro-
cesses described above, a second reason that the classic
parenting studies of the 1930s to the 1960s identified only
two factors is that these studies focused primarily on the
quality of parent-child interactions (i.e., warmth) and
the nature of parental discipline (control). Starting in the
1960s, parenting researchers began to investigate a wider
range of parenting characteristics, including cognitive
stimulation,
21,34,35
scaffolding (i.e., assistance during
problem solving),
36
monitoring,
37
and family rituals.
38
This led to a greater diversity of items being entered into
factor analyses of parenting practices, which in turn led to
additional dimensions.
As a result of these studies, several researchers have
added a third general dimension to the assessment of par-
enting—a dimension-labeled structure—i.e., the degree to
which parents provide their child with a predictable, orga-
nized, and consistent environment. In three studies using
parenting self-report questionnaires, the parenting charac-
teristics making up the structure dimension included: (1)
Involvement, consistency, and organization
39
; (2) clear and
consistent guidelines, expectations, and rules for child be-
havior
40
; and (3) rules, routines, and organization.
41
In a
large-scale questionnaire study involving over 1200 parents
of 3
rd
to 5
th
graders, Skinner, Johnson, and Snyder identified
six parenting dimensions: Warmth, rejection, autonomy
support, coercion, structure, and chaos.
42
These six dimen-
sions represent both ends of the warmth, control, and
structure dimensions. In their confirmatory factor analyses,
Skinner and colleagues found that the six dimension solu-
tion fit the data better than the three dimension solution.
So are warmth, control, and structure the primary par-
enting dimensions? On the basis of the research to date,
these three factors do appear to reflect the major parenting
dimensions identified thus far by most parenting re-
searchers, especially if one acknowledges that parental
control may be multidimensional (e.g., authoritarian and
authoritative control). More research on the nature of
control needs to be conducted. Moreover, it is very likely
that a fourth factor, cognitive stimulation, would emerge if
standardized parenting assessments included measures of
maternal behaviors such as verbal interactions and com-
plexity of nonverbal stimulation. Such items, for example,
are included on the well-validated HOME assessment.
35,43
It is also possible, however, that as new parenting theories
identify additional domains of parent behavior, new di-
mensions will be identified as well.
Part II: From Parenting Dimensions
to Parenting Styles
Baumrind’s Pioneering Research
Although most early parenting researchers focused on
identifying general parenting dimensions and their corre-
lates, in the mid-1960s, Diana Baumrind
2
identified three
common styles of parenting behavior. Rather than inde-
pendently examining the correlates of various dimensions,
she instead looked simultaneously at how parents differed
on multiple dimensions to classify parents into various
parenting styles. Because her work has become so central
to studies of socialization in the family context, and
because many researchers are familiar with it only
through secondary sources, her work will be briefly re-
viewed here.
S-16 POWER
In Baumrind’s first study of parenting styles,
2
she
identified three groups of preschool children who showed
very different patterns of behavior: (1) Assertive, self-
reliant, self-controlled, buoyant, and affiliative (n=13); (2)
discontented, withdrawn, and distrustful (n=11); and (3)
little self-control or self-reliance, and retreat from novelty
(n=8). These children were selected out of a pool of 110
children, who had been rated by the preschool teacher and
a psychologist; they were children who scored the highest
or lowest on two of five dimensions and showed similar
behavior in the classroom and in structured experimental
tasks. On the basis of home observations, laboratory ob-
servations, and parent interviews, Baumrind identified
three parenting styles associated with these three patterns
of child behavior. The three parenting styles, as argued
later by Maccoby and Martin,
4
corresponded to high and
low values on the responsiveness (warmth) and demand-
ingness (control) dimensions. The authoritative style
(characterized by high levels of both responsiveness and
demandingness) was associated with assertive, self-reliant
child behavior; the authoritarian style (low responsiveness
and high demandingness) was associated with discon-
tented, withdrawn child behavior; and the permissive style
(characterized by high responsiveness and low demand-
ingness) was associated with child behavior characterized
by low self-control and low self-reliance. Maccoby and
Martin
4
also described a fourth parenting style that was
low on both responsiveness and demandingness that they
labeled the uninvolved style (a style very similar to the
rejecting-neglecting style Baumrind identified in her third
study; see below).
In the second study, Baumrind and Black studied a
second sample of preschool children and examined the
correlation between observer ratings of child behavior in
preschool and parenting practices (based on both parent
interviews and home observations).
44
The correlations
were consistent with the findings of the first study, but only
about 10% of the correlations were significant at the
p<0.05 level. In this study, parents were not classified into
parenting styles; only parenting dimensions were used.
In Baumrind’s third study, observers rated parents from
134 families on 50 ratings scales during home obser-
vations.
45
These ratings were reduced through cluster
analysis to 15 parenting dimensions (data on 16 African-
American families were excluded from this analysis
because these families showed different patterns than the
rest of the sample). On the basis of the prototypes of par-
enting styles identified in the first study, parents in 102 of
these families were grouped into eight parenting styles.
These included two authoritarian styles (not rejecting and
rejecting), two authoritative styles (nonconforming and not
nonconforming), two permissive styles (nonconforming
and not nonconforming), and two additional styles—
nonconforming (not permissive or authoritative) and
rejecting-neglecting (not authoritative). Differences in
child behavior as a function of parenting style were then
examined separately for boys and girls. The findings were
complex; in general, there was support for the conclusions
of the first study, but there were many qualifications (e.g.,
sex differences, interactions with nonconformity). These
families (and some additional families) were followed up
at ages 9 and 15 with similar results.
Since Baumrind conducted her groundbreaking research
in the 1960s and 1970s, a large number of studies have
investigated the relationship between the parenting styles
that she identified and child outcomes.
4,5
In general, au-
thoritative parenting has been associated with positive de-
velopmental outcomes (e.g., emotional stability, adaptive
patterns of coping, life satisfaction); authoritarian parenting
has been associated with poor academic achievement and
depressive symptoms; and permissive parenting has been
associated with poor self-control, low self-esteem, and ag-
gression. It should be noted that in many of these studies, the
investigators did not assess parenting style, but instead
looked at the correlates of parenting dimensions related to
Baumrind’s parenting styles.
46,47
These findings appear to hold true across ethnicity and
social class, with one exception—several studies of low-
income African-American parents have not found nega-
tive effects associated with authoritarian parenting.
48,49
Baumrind, as noted above, did not include the 16 African-
American families in her sample when defining her pro-
totypes because they showed different patterns than the
rest of her families. In fact, in her study, authoritarian
African-American parents had girls who were the most
assertive and independent.
50
Whether these findings reflect
differences in the validity of parenting assessments across
ethnic groups or reflect the differential effects of authori-
tarian parenting in low-income environments is an issue
that has yet to be resolved.
51
More Recent Cluster Analytic Studies
Because Baumrind based her parenting styles on the
parenting styles associated with child behavior in only
about a third of her sample of preschool children, it is
possible that other parenting styles may exist. One way to
uncover additional parenting styles is to examine the re-
sults of studies where parents were rated on various di-
mensions and cluster analysis was used to assign parents to
various parenting clusters (or in this case, parenting styles).
In such person-centered studies, cluster analysis identifies
groups of parents who show similar patterns of scores
across multiple parenting dimensions—i.e., their profile
across dimensions appears the same—see Power et al.
51
for
a more detailed description.
Literature Review
To locate such studies, an extensive literature review
was conducted of cluster analytic studies of parenting
found in PsycINFO from 1900 to 2012. To ensure that
relevant studies were not missed, a wide approach to the
search was employed. The keywords were ‘‘mother*,
father*, or parent*’’ and ‘‘cluster’’. To reduce the search
results, the abstracts were restricted to quantitative studies
CHILDHOOD OBESITY August 2013 Supplement 1 S-17
of preschool and school age children published in English
in peer-reviewed journals.
The review yielded about 300 abstracts, but only eight
cluster analytic studies of parenting were found that used at
least one measure of parental warmth and control.
52–59
The
studies were published from 1992 to 2010, used parent
or adolescent reports of parenting, used eight different
parenting questionnaires, and involved parents of children
from 3 to 18 years of age. The sample sizes ranged from
116 to 7866. Investigators clustered parents on 2 to 18
dimensions and used one of two approaches to cluster
analysis (Wards or K-Means). Numerous approaches were
used to determine the number of clusters, and the studies
were conducted in four countries: Finland, Germany,
Scotland, and the United States.
Despite these differences, most studies yielded three or
four parenting clusters (three studies yielded three clusters,
four studies yielded four, and one yielded six). Clusters
similar to the authoritative and authoritarian styles were
identified in all eight studies, an indulgent/permissive
cluster was identified in six, and an uninvolved cluster was
identified in five. Only two studies yielded additional
clusters that were not similar to Baumrind’s styles.
Shucksmith and colleagues, in an adolescent report study
conducted in Scotland, yielded a cluster labeled ‘‘problem
parent–adolescent relationships.’
58
However, the main
variable that defined this cluster was a self-report of family
problem behaviors that was entered into the analysis—not
a clear measure of parenting. The other exception involved
a parent self-report study conducted in Finland.
56
In this
study, six clusters were identified. However, these clusters
were very similar to those found by Baumrind. The main
difference was that the authoritative cluster was broken
down into three clusters: One high, one medium, and one
low on restrictiveness.
Given the similarity of these clusters to the parenting
styles identified by Baumrind (and elaborated on by
Maccoby and Martin), are these the four ‘‘true’’ parenting
styles? As with a factor analysis, one problem with cluster
analysis is that what comes out of the analysis is largely a
function of what goes into it. Because most of these studies
used only measures of warmth and control, it is not sur-
prising that these four parenting clusters emerged (i.e.,
high warmth–high control, high warmth–low control, low
warmth–high control, and low warmth–low control). Two
of the eight studies, however, clustered on a much wider
range of parenting dimensions, providing a stronger test of
the four parenting styles.
Mandara and Murray clustered on 18 variables in their
study of the adolescent reports of 116 15-year-old African-
American adolescents.
54
These variables included mea-
sures of warmth and control, but also measures of family
achievement orientation, family recreation, family reli-
gious emphasis, family organization, family conflict, and
ethnic socialization. Their results still yielded three clus-
ters similar to the authoritative, authoritarian, and unin-
volved styles (no permissive cluster was identified).
Similarly, Power and colleagues, in a parent-report study
of mothers of 3- to 6-year-olds in Japan and the United
States, clustered on seven dimensions including measures
of warmth, control, and structure.
57
Mothers from both
cultures were included in the same analysis and five clus-
ters were identified: Two were made up almost exclusively
of mothers from the United States (authoritarian and au-
thoritative clusters), one cluster had about two-thirds of the
mothers from the United States (permissive), and two were
made up almost exclusively of mothers from Japan (clus-
ters very unlike Baumrind’s styles—a highly permissive
and a stricter, yet still inductive, parenting style). Together
the results of these studies lead to two conclusions. First, in
Western cultures, despite the wide range of dimensions
used to classify parents, there is very little evidence to date
to suggest that more parenting styles exist than those
identified by Baumrind and elaborated on by Maccoby and
Martin. Second, given the results of Power et al.,
57
the four
parenting styles usually identified may be specific to
Western cultures and more research needs to be conducted
on parenting styles in non-Western cultures.
Discussion
Given the considerable research on parenting discussed
above, both from the dimensional (variable-centered) and
the parenting styles (person-centered) perspective, a rea-
sonable question is ‘‘Which approach is best?’’ Like ev-
erything in psychology, ‘‘it depends.’
Advantages of Variable-Centered Approaches
In the variable-centered approach, researchers examine
the relations between scores on various parenting dimen-
sions and measures of child outcomes. One can do this by
examining one pair of variables at a time (bivariate cor-
relations) or examining multiple parenting dimensions as
simultaneous predictors of child outcomes (multiple re-
gression). Such continuous parenting variables can be used
as predictors in structural equations models (including
those with latent variables) and in various approaches to
longitudinal data analysis (including growth curve mod-
els). The advantages of the variable-centered approach are
that this approach uses all of the existing data and it can
examine the independent effects of each of the parenting
dimensions.
Mandara points out several limitations of the variable-
centered approach to studying parenting.
5
These are: (1)
The predictions made by most parenting theories are per-
son- not variable-centered; (2) the variable-centered ap-
proach ‘‘assumes that the covariation of variables of
interest is the same for every person or family’’ (p. 131);
and (3) ‘‘the system parts (i.e., dimensions) cannot be
understood in isolation from the rest of the parts or the
whole.’’ (p. 131) In making a case for the person-centered
approach to data analysis, he concludes that ‘‘by isolating
each element and then by looking at the linear relation-
ships, the variable-centered approach does not sufficiently
S-18 POWER
account for the multidimensional and interactional nature
of human behavior.’’ (p. 131)
If the number of parenting dimensions is small, one can
use variable-centered methods to address some of these
concerns. For example, by examining statistical interac-
tions, one can examine whether the effects of control are
different at different levels of warmth. This addresses one
of the main predictions derived from Baumrind’s parenting
style research—i.e., that high control paired with high
warmth predicts better child development outcomes than
high control paired with low warmth. The problem with
examining statistical interactions, however, is that as the
number of parenting dimensions increases, the power to
detect significant effects decreases (because one has to
examine higher order interactions such as three and four
way interactions).
Advantages of Person-Centered Approaches
If multiple parenting dimensions are being examined,
the person-centered approach is usually superior because it
makes it possible to examine how unique combinations of
parenting dimensions act together in predicting child out-
comes. As Mandara argues, the ‘‘case-centered approach
focuses on the whole functioning of the system, not just
the major dimensions or subsystems.’’
5
(p. 131) One can
conduct person-centered analyses using traditional ap-
proaches to cluster analysis or more complex procedures
such as latent class analysis. If the investigator has specific
predictions based on known parenting styles, the person-
centered approach allows for theoretically guided tests of
hypotheses about the correlates of parenting style, even
with small samples. The use of person-centered styles also
allows one to test with very large samples the seldom
tested hypothesis of Darling and Steinberg that the effects
of different parenting practices can vary as a function of
the larger parenting style.
60
Physical punishment, for ex-
ample, might have very different effects when used by
authoritarian versus authoritative parents.
The major disadvantages of the person-centered ap-
proach involve trying to draw boundaries between groups
(i.e., deciding how many clusters best describes the sample
and determining who is assigned to which cluster, espe-
cially for individuals near cluster boundaries) and the lack
of statistical power when the number of groups is large and
the number of subjects in each group is small. Un-
fortunately, none of the cluster analytic studies located in
this review compared the relative effectiveness of variable-
centered and person-centered approaches in predicting
child outcomes, so it is an open question about whether one
approach or the other is superior for the study of parental
influences on child development. It would be useful for
future researchers to conduct studies where they compared
the effectiveness of the two approaches and also deter-
mined how useful each was when using different sample
sizes. This could be done in Monte Carlo studies as
well. Undoubtedly, however, the effectiveness of variable-
centered versus person-centered approaches likely depends
upon the research question, the number of parenting di-
mensions assessed, and the sample size.
Conclusions
Despite over 40 years of research, the parenting styles
identified by Baumrind
2
and elaborated on by Maccoby
and Martin
4
still are the only parenting styles with a strong
empirical basis—at least in Western cultures. Moreover,
these parenting styles are based upon two parenting di-
mensions first identified over 70 years ago. Empirical
work on these styles, however, is based entirely on self- or
adolescent-reports of parenting; it is not clear how they
will hold up to observational measures. Although we have
made substantial progress in understanding the nature of
parenting, a number of questions should be addressed in
future research.
First, will the development of new theoretical ap-
proaches to parenting yield dimensions of parenting over
and above those identified here—warmth, control, and
structure—or are these the three primary dimensions of
parenting? Considerable work has been done on this issue
over a very long time, but the limited number of dimen-
sions may be a function of the reliance on self-report
measures. Clearly more studies with diverse methods need
to be conducted.
Second, will the parenting styles identified by Baum-
rind
2
and elaborated on by Maccoby and Martin
4
be rep-
licated in studies employing observational methods or will
new parenting styles be found? Given the complexity and
cross-cultural variation of parent behavior, it is likely that
additional parenting styles will be found. However, the
question is will these simply be variations on the three
existing styles, or markedly different styles? This is an area
where cross-cultural work would be particularly important.
Do parenting dimensions and parenting styles vary across
different socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups and
are there ‘‘universal’’ parenting dimensions that allow for
easy cross-group comparisons?
A number of questions concern the interaction between
many of the factors discussed above. For example, what
are the effects of specific parenting practices on child de-
velopment and how are the effects of individual practices
moderated by general parenting styles?
60
Do these effects
vary with the developmental level or temperament of the
child? It seems likely that the effects of parenting practices
would vary significantly at different age periods, but this is
clearly an understudied issue.
Another important question concerns the directions of
effects. Although parents clearly influence their children,
children influence their parents as well.
61
What is the
complex nature of influences between parents and chil-
dren—i.e., how do children and parents influence each
other throughout the socialization process? Without a
clearer understanding of the nature of complex transactions
between parents and their children,
62,63
our understanding
of the socialization process is still very limited.
CHILDHOOD OBESITY August 2013 Supplement 1 S-19
Finally, what are the implications of these findings for
understanding the impact of parenting on children’s obe-
sity? Is it more useful to focus on parenting dimensions or
on parenting styles? Do different parenting practices con-
tribute to childhood obesity at different ages and how does
the child’s eating style impact this process? Are different
parenting styles or practices more influential for picky
eaters or for children who show little self-regulation of
intake? How do the parenting styles of mothers and fathers
interact in influencing risk, and are their particular par-
enting styles that increase or decrease obesity risk for
children in different cultural settings? Researchers have
just begun to explore the important questions in this area
and much more work needs to be done.
Acknowledgments
This article was supported by the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development grant R01 HD062567
to Sheryl Hughes and by the National Institute of Food and
Agriculture grant USDA 2011-68001-30009 to Sheryl
Hughes. The preconference to the 2012 International Society
for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA)
annual meeting, ‘‘Parenting Measurement: Current Status
and Consensus Reports’’ and resulting manuscripts were
made possible due to funding from the United States De-
partment of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service grant
USDA/ARS 2012-68001-19285 and the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health
grant R13HL114262 to Thomas Baranowski.
Author Disclosure Statement
No competing financial interests exist.
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Address correspondence to:
Thomas G. Power, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Human Development
Washington State University
PO Box 644852
Pullman, WA 99164-4852
E-mail: tompower@wsu.edu
CHILDHOOD OBESITY August 2013 Supplement 1 S-21
... . , (Darling & Steinberg, 1993;Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019;Power, 2013). ...
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