154: Authoritative isn’t the best Parenting “Style”

“On average, authoritative parents spanked just as much as the average of all other parents.  Undoubtedly, some parents can be authoritative without using spanking but we have no evidence that all or even most parents can achieve authoritative parenting without an occasional spank.” 


I was fascinated by this statement, since authoritative parenting is the best style.  


We know it’s the best, right?


I mean, everyone says it is.  Including me.


And who was the co-author on this paper this statement comes from?  


None other than Dr. Diana Baumrind, creator of the Parenting Styles (although they weren’t called that then; they were originally called the Models of Parental Control.  


Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, I’m going to say that again: Dr. Diana Baumrind, who created the parenting styles/model of parental control, says you can’t achieve the parenting style that has the ‘best’ outcomes for children without an occasional spank.


So in this episode we dig pretty deeply into what makes up the parenting styles, and what Dr. Baumrind and others found about the effectiveness of these styles, and what impacts they had on children.  (And I have to warn you now, the samples sizes we’re looking at to ‘prove’ that authoritative is the best parenting style are going to make your stomach churn.)


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Jump to Highlights

01:33 Introduction to today’s topic

04:05 Influential figures like Dr. Larzelere and Dr. Baumrind supported spanking within authoritative parenting.

16:19 Traditional parenting expects child compliance, emphasizing authority over autonomy, and conformity over individuality.

28:30 Dr. Baumrind’s parenting styles theory categorizes parenting into two extremes, neglecting the middle ground of “harmonious parenting.” 

38:30 Harmonious parenting emphasizes reasoning and mutual understanding while behavioral compliance can create mixed messages about control and values, reflecting broader societal power dynamics.

46:19 Parenting styles must adapt to cultural diversity and consider alternative parenting goals, emphasizing mutual understanding and meeting children’s needs.

49:46 Understanding and meeting the needs of children and parents can eliminate the need for punishment. 





Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development 887-907.

Baumrind, D. (1996). A blanket injunction against disciplinary use of spanking is not warranted by the data. Pediatrics 98(4) 828-831.

Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monograph 4(1, Part 2), 1-103.

Baumrind, D. (1971). Note: Harmonious parents and their preschool children. Developmental Psychology 4(1), 99-102.

Baumrind, D. (1983). Rejoinder to Lewis’s reinterpretation of parental firm control effects: Are authoritative families really harmonious? Psychological Bulletin 94(1), 132-142.

Baumrind, D. (1996). The discipline controversy revisited. Family Relations 45(4), 405-414.

Baumrind, D. (2013). Is a pejorative view of power assertion in the socialization process justified? Review of General Psychology 17(4), 420-427.

Baumrind, D., Larzelere, R.E., Owens, E.B. (2010). Effects of preschool parents’ power assertive patterns and practices on adolescent development. Parenting Science and Practice 10, 157-201.

Cowan, P.A., Cowan, C.P., Weinstein, R., Owens, E. (2020). In Memoriam: Diana B Baumrind. University of California. Retrieved from https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/in-memoriam/files/diana-baumrind.html

Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin 113(3), 487-496.

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

Garcia, O.F., Lopez-Fernandez, O., & Serra, E. (2021). Raising Spanish children with an antisocial tendency: Do we know what the optimal parenting style is? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 36 (13-14), 6117-6144.

Gross, A.K. (2021, October 18). How White supremacy culture shows up in our families +practices for how we can dismantle it. Mistress Syndrome. Retrieved from https://mistresssyndrome.com/2021/10/18/how-white-supremacy-culture-shows-up-in-our-families-practices-for-how-we-can-dismantle-it/

Larzelere, R.E., & Baumrind, D. (2010). Are spanking injunctions scientifically supported? Law & Contemporary Problems 73, 57.

Lewis, C.C. (1981). The effects of parental firm control: A reinterpretation of findings.

Psychological Bulletin 90(3), 547-563.


About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

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