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Influence of Parenting Styles on Academic Success of Children

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    In order for one to obtain academic success, they must have the intrinsic motivation to perform well over the course of his or her academic career. However, there are several other external factors which contribute to an individual’s academic achievements, one being how they were raised by their parent(s)/guardian(s) growing up. Children are unconsciously being trained to think and act based upon the models parents set for them, and because of this, their personalities, relationships, emotions, etc. are greatly influenced as well. The parenting style construct, which many psychologists use today, was originally created by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind. Baumrind is known for her extensive research regarding parental 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, 1996, p. 410, cited in Grolnick, 2003, p. 6), and parental 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, 1996, p. 411, cited in Grolnick, 2003, p. 6). Based on these two aspects, Baumrind concluded that there are three parenting styles which parents fall under: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive (Baumrind,1967). Years later, however, the permissive parenting style was broken up into two parts: indulgent and neglectful ​(Maccoby and Martin, 1983)​. Personally, I’ve always been fond of the idea of how big parents’ roles are in our lives. For some children, their parents are their entire world and they would do just about anything to please them. On the other side of the spectrum, however, parental absence could be involved, affecting the child in numerous ways.

    The paper explores the three parenting styles which Baumrind concluded that there were: Authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive, and what they mean in terms of the responsiveness/demandingness scale. The paper then explains the effects each of these styles has on the child, both mentally and emotionally. Case studies and experiments are utilized in order to show real-life applications of the styles, including “Tiger Mom”, Genie Wiley, Kathryn DeWitt, etc. Additionally, counter-arguments are used in order to recognize the drawbacks of utilizing each of the parenting styles through an academic framework. It is vital to try and understand whether parental involvement is a prominent factor in a child’s academic destiny.

    Due to the extensive research done on different parenting styles, it leads me to wonder: How do Universal Parenting Styles Influence a Child’s Academic Motivation? ​The following essay will be comparing these styles, while evaluating real-world situations of parents’ effect on the academic success of their children.

    Authoritative Parenting

    Authoritative parents emphasize a high demand on expectations and responsibilities, while also maintaining a high supportiveness for the child. In other words, it is characterized by high demands and high responsiveness. According to Robert E. Lezelare’s novel, ​Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child​, “it encompasses a particular set of parental goals (e.g., socializing a child to be a competent citizen, facilitating development of self-discipline), values (e.g., communication, child autonomy), and skills (e.g., setting boundaries, conveying acceptance) (pg.165).” These parents emphasize understanding the child’s emotional needs, while also setting firm guidelines for them to follow. The child’s personal interests and individuality is encouraged throughout their life, and open communication is used. To many leading psychologists, including Baumrind, this is the ideal parenting style which should be followed because it encompasses the balance of both warmth and demandingness.

    Authoritarian Parenting

    On the contrary, authoritarian parenting is characterized by high demand, but low responsiveness. If a parent is reserved in the amount of warmth and nurturing which they display for their children, this can oftentimes be associated with authoritarian parenting. According to an article written by two Vanderbilt students, Bianca Mgbemere and Rachel Telles, “It i​s important to balance out the provided structure with open communication so the child knows exactly why it is important for them to follow the rules placed in front of them.” ​These parents are almost never willing to negotiate, and never leave room for their children to make mistakes. Punishments are common, and they are aloof to the child’s emotional/mental needs. The child is required to follow a stern set of standards, which ultimately causes the child to become dependent on others and socially distant. Along with becoming dependent, children growing up in authoritative households may grow up to feel insecure, because every task which they had to complete was accompanied with incredibly high expectations. However, despite the absence of warmth and comfort within authoritative parenting, this can oftentimes be an effective style for a child. An example of this will be explored later in the paper.

    Permissive Parenting: Indulgent

    Permissive parents are found to be high in parental responsiveness, but low in parental demandingness. Within a permissive indulgent framework, the child’s behavior is almost always tolerated. Permissive-indulgent parents are still heavily involved in their child’s life, but place little to no demand/restriction on their actions. Indulgent parents are generally nurturing, and because of this, are very accepting towards the child’s impulses. Permissive-indulgent parenting can often be closely related to Western ideals regarding parenting. Permissive-indulgent parenting can be effective in some aspects of a child’s life and detrimental in others. When the demandingness quality is eliminated altogether, children are never taught the concepts of patience, discipline, and perseverance.

    Permissive Parenting: Neglectful

    Permissive neglectful parents, however, are uninvolved in their child’s life, and problems such as substance abuse and mental illness are just a few of the reasons why a neglectful parenting style could occur. Children with neglectful parents have to face the real-world with little to no guidance, affecting their ability to complete cognitive tasks, form emotional relationships, and be social with the community around them. Oftentimes, children with permissive-neglectful parents go their entire life without even knowing who their parent even is.

    Authoritarian Parenting: Amy Chua

    Amy Chua, also referred to as the “Tiger mom”, demonstrates extreme, authoritarian parenting qualities. In her 2011 novel, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”, she argues that Western society has wrongfully conditioned parents to nurture and respect children’s individuality and character. However, she believes that inner confidence, punishment, reinforcement, and strong work habits will best prepare children for the future ahead of them. Chua’s two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, ​had childhoods which consisted of a complete ban on TV-watching, playdates and sleepovers. In fact, Chua wrote of how when Lulu was 4, she rejected her daughter’s homemade birthday card for looking unpolished. These are just a few of the many concrete prohibitions which Chua placed upon her children, and although many would argue that this particular parenting is cruel, demoralizing, and even unmotherly, Chua doesn’t let critics change her morals about how kids should be brought up.​ In a 2011 interview, ​Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, Chua’s eldest daughter, spoke in defense of her mother’s actions. “I’m currently a senior in high school, and now I understand that her approach was truly about giving me the confidence and the work habits at an early age to be able to do what I want to do in the fu​ture.” ​(Wall Street Journal, 2011).​ Fast Forward to today, and both children are Harvard graduates. ​“People assume that tiger parenting would beget low self-esteem because there isn’t that constant praise, but I think I’m exiting with a lot more confidence than some others, because my confidence is earned,” Lulu says. “My mom gave me the tools to drive my own confidence​(New York Post, 2011).​ Lulu al​so adds that as a child, had she had the option to spend everyday with her friends watching TV rather than doing heavy bookwork, she would have most certainly chosen to do so. Perhaps this entails that the force which Chua exerted on Lulu was the true engine to her academic motivation. Lulu also addressed how her mother isn’t nearly as involved in her personal life as she used to be, for Chua believes she has already instilled her beliefs into her children, and doesn’t need to constantly discipline them any longer.

    Analysis of Tiger Mom Experience

    For Sophia and Lulu, they were able to take their mother’s intensive parenting and turn it into a form of academic motivation. They knew that they didn’t have time to make careless mistakes, so they pushed to complete every task which they came across to the absolute best of their ability. Attending one of the most prestigious colleges in the world is no simple task, but Chua trained her kids to believe that it could be done with the extra push. This situation proves that although the warmth component of the family dynamic is missing, academically excelling is possible, and sometimes even effective with authoritarian parenting. But how can one make the assumption that Chua’s authoritarian experience with her children will be everyone’s experience? There could be one child who takes the intensive demandingness very well, while another child might coll​apse under the pressure and fall short of that academic achievement standard. How can we ensure that authoritarian parenting will guarantee stronger work ethic and overall confidence?

    Dangers of an Authoritarian Household

    Kathryn DeWitt, student at University of Pennsylvania, is a prime example of the consequences of placing numerous, high expectations on a child. DeWitt excelled in all aspects of her high school career, including track, taking eight AP exams, being apart of many clubs, etc.

    Additionally, her mother made it her job to make sure that her daughter was being challenged every second of each day. “​Every day at 5 p.m. test scores and updated​ grades were posted online. Her mother would be the first to comment should her grade go down”(The New York Times, 2015). DeWitt claims that the second she came to college is when she had the first feeling of self-doubt. Being surrounded by other scholarly individuals who also had similar ambitio​ns as her seemed to threatened her. From that point forward, her confidence continued to alter drastically. She saw students around her discussing possible job offers and internships, while she was doing her best to maintain her assignments and GPA. Weeks passed by, until DeWitt found herself at a point where she felt as though suicide was the only escape. She had already bought razor blades and wrote her letters of goodbye to her loved ones as well. So, what lead Kathryn to having the urge to put an end to her life? Well, due to the fact that she was raised in an extremely authoritarian-based household, this idea of absolute perfection was implemented into her head at an incredibly young age. This is essentially the central danger of authoritarian parenting, specifically when talking about academics. It’s one thing to want to grow and improve upon your cognitive understanding, but once that transforms into a competition amongst your colleagues, your mental health is at risk. According to Birgitte Coste, owner of famous parenting blog “Positive-Parenting-Ally”, authoritarian parenting is oftentimes accompanied with several mental, social, emotional, and even existential effects and drawbacks (Coste, 2010). For instance, because a student of authoritarian parents is trying to perfect upon his/her craft, they may find themselves at a point where they don’t know how to deal with difficult emotions and frustrations.

    This goes along with the idea of the child developing self-worth issues and inferiority complexes, similar to Kathryn when she attended University of Pennsylvania. To say that the parenting style which she was raised upon was the reason for Kathryn’s downward spiral of thoughts wouldn’t be accurate, for many factors influenced her wanting to make the decision she did. However, we can make the claim that her environment growing up set her to perceive education and the need for achievement as a high moral standard.

    The Relation of Parenting Style to Adolescent School Performance

    Sanford M. Dornbusch, Philip L. Ritter, P. Herbert Leiderman, Donald F. Roberts and Michael J. Fraleigh conducted a study in order to test the validity of Baumrind’s typology of authoritative, permissive, and authoritarian parenting in the context of academic performance amongst children. Sampling a diverse set of high school students within the San Francisco bay area, they found that both authoritarian and permissive parenting were negatively associated with grades, and authoritative parenting was positively associated with grades. Authoritarian and permissive parenting styles indicated a negative correlation, while authoritative parenting indicated a positive correlation. The correlation between authoritarian parenting to grades, however, ended up resulting in the strongest correlation overall compared to the other styles. An additional finding which arose from the study was how parental inconsistency resulted in the lowest mean grades for students. In other words, parents who utilized drastically different styles situationally corresponded with children not obtaining high grades. Meanwhile, pure authoritative families had the highest mean grades. The following study also decided to examine other factors which may affect student grades such as the education of the parent, and whether or not that child lived in a single-parent household. The results, as expected, showed that parents who obtained a higher degree expect more from their child’s academic work, and single-parent homes are negatively associated with grades.

    The results which unfolded during this experiment not only confirmed Baumrind’s claim regarding authoritativeness being the “ideal” parenting style, but they also confirm how different children benefit from different styles. Likewise, the study makes it explicitly clear that the eminent danger comes when parental inconsistency is present. This inconsistency is then mirrored within the work of the child.

    Genie Wiley: Growing up in a Permissive-neglectful Household

    Genie Wiley, commonly known as the feral child, is a prime example of the effects of being raised by extremely neglectful parents. The neglect and social isolation which Genie faced goes to show the effects of one’s cognitive processes due to lack of exposure. Her experience not only showed that neglectful parents can have an emotional/mental toll on your life, but can also restrain you from learning basic cognitive skills in order to academically succeed. When Genie was roughly 20 months old, her Dad made the decision to permanently keep her in seclusion. Up until 13 years of age, she was locked in a dark room everyday. Due to her lack of exposure to the outside world for several years, Genie never truly developed the adequate skills to engage socially with other individuals. Additionally, she never fully developed language acquisition, ​the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, until scientists began researching her story through various case studies. Because Genie was unable to acquire her language development at a younger age, it became more difficult for her to obtain her progress she had made with the scientists at the Los Angeles hospital. This experience not only negatively affected Genie mentally, but it even affected her physically as well. After being isolated from the world for 13 years, her limbs didn’t function properly​, and her gross motor skills were weak. Along with being sheltered from society, she was physically assaulted on a weekly basis. She was physically struck whether she spoke out of line or not, and her father would force her to wear a makeshift straitjacket while strapped to a child’s toilet for roughly 13 hours a day. Today, Genie is 61 years old, and in psychological confinement. Till this day, she is still unable to develop structural sentences, let alone carry a conversation. Because of the environment Genie grew up in as a child, she was predetermined to not have the slightest bit of academic success, nor have any academic knowledge. Had she have been raised in a completely different environment, perhaps, she would be destined for greatness .

    Genie’s life experience demonstrates the importance of nature vs. nurture and observational learning. Because she was in a secluded area for years on end, she was never exposed to society, limiting her ability to differentiate right from wrong. Despite Genie’s devastating experience, however, is it possible that another child could thrive off of this form of parenting? Could neglectfulness possibly be what can add fuel to the fire of academic growth? The succeeding section will be exploring Kesha, someone who obtained academic success throughout her high school career despite the environment she was surrounded by.

    Success in a Permissive-Neglectful household

    Although the concept of living under a permissive-neglectful household can be viewed in a negative and disbelieving way, there are indeed few exceptions to the effects of it. Perhaps, not all children living under a permissive-neglectful household are predetermined to be academically inferior to other students. Well-known singer, Kesha, for instance, has been very vocal about her difficult childhood. In her most recent music video, “Learn to let go”, she describes how “the past cannot haunt her if she doesn’t let it”, and how she must “live and learn, but never forget it.”

    Within the music video, she recreates scenes taken from real-life home videos. Growing up, Kesha never knew who her father was, and her mother, relying on welfare payments and food stamps to get by, struggled financially day to day in order to support her, Kesha, and Kesha’s older brother, Lagen. However, despite what appears to be an incredibly dysfunctional household, this didn’t stop Kesha from performing academically superb throughout high school. According to Prepscholar, Kesha received a 1500 on her SAT. Ho​wever, in a 2013 TIME magazine interview, Kesha explained her decision to risk it all and continue onto the path of music. ‘Yeah, I was all set out for, like, a life of academia,’ she explains. “I chose instead to dropout of high school like a month away from graduation and do this. I’ve never looked b​ack, though.”

    What does Kesha’s experience tell us? Well, other than the fact that she’s incredibly intelligent, we can make the argument that not all children are necessarily restricted or predetermined to not obtain the same amount of knowledge as others. In fact, perhaps the environment which she grew up in motivated her to perform to the best of her ability. Again, this connects back to the idea that even though authoritative parenting is classified as the “ideal” style, ideal is not objective to all children across the world. Many factors, including environment, family, schooling, friends, etc. play a role in the parenting style that the child is most adaptive to.

    Relationship Between the Parenting Styles and Students’ Educational Performance

    A cross sectional study was conducted upon several Iranian high school girls in order to evaluate the relationship between parenting styles and students educational performance. Data was collected through the use of Baumrind’s parenting style questionnaire. This famous questionnaire contains 30 questions and placed parenting styles in 3 sub-groups including; authoritarian parenting styles (questions: 1,6,10,13,14,17,19,21,24,28), authoritative parenting styles (questions: 2,3,7,9,12,16,18,25,26,29) and permissive parenting styles (questions: 4,5,8,11,15,20,22,23,27,30). 450 female students in all stages of high school were selected randomly as the sample group of the research. Variables such as age, education level, and students’ average score for studying were assessed. Overall, there was a statistical relationship between mother’s occupation, parents’ education and parenting styles. What exactly does this prove? This experiment, once again, confirms the idea that children need that support system in order for them to build off of their academic motivation. Additionally, it also confirms the idea that parents who have had academic success in their past want the same, and oftentimes even demand the same for their children. Children who witnessed a parent who was heavily ingrained in their education might be influenced do the same, whereas children who witnessed their parents putting off education to the side could possibly do the same as well.


    To conclude, universal parenting styles (authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative), greatly influence the outcome of a student’s academic achievements. In a majority of cases, the child’s willingness to learn and become academically successful is greatly dependent on the parents’ perception on education and the importance of achievement. Based on real-world examples and scientific findings, it’s evident that parents, do in fact, play an essential role in the growth and development of a child’s cognitive processes, and their willingness to academically challenge themselves. If the parents had an incredible school experience and performed outstandingly, chances are they will engrain that into their expectations for their children. The same could also apply for parents who didn’t have a good experience/weren’t concerned with their academic performance. Although every child is different, and although some may thrive off of certain parenting styles more than others, it is clear that if the supportiveness/warmth component is gone, it then becomes difficult for the child to find purpose to prosper academically. It is for this same reason that children raised under authoritarian households find themselves to be more susceptible to stress than others. As for me, growing up, I was raised in a relatively strict, yet comforting household. Education and being able to succeed in an academic setting was a top priority for both my parents, for they are both college graduates and have obtained higher education as well. Despite the relative stress levels I may experience from time to time, never do I believe that the style my parents’ utilize is hindering me from excelling even more. Their demandingness is an incentive for what I do educationally, and witnessing them give their all to ensure I have the success I can has helped me grow even more. Overall, for future generations to come, we must bring more awareness to the idea that no two children are going to react the same way to a certain form of parenting.

    Works Cited

    1. Coste, Brigitte. “Strict Authoritarian Parenting: Long Term Psychological Effects.” ​Positive Parenting Ally​, 2010,
    2. Dornbusch, Sanford M., et al. “The Relation of Parenting Style to Adolescent School Performance.” Child Development, vol. 58, no. 5, 1987, pp. 1244–1257. JSTOR, JSTOR,
    3. Journal, Wall Street, director. Child of Tiger Mom Speaks Out. YouTube, YouTube, 27 Dec. 2011,
    4. Larzelere, Robert E., et al. Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child Development. American Psychological Association, 2013.
    5. Lewak, Doree. “I Was Raised by Tiger Mom — and It Worked.” 28 Mar. 2018,
    6. Macsai, Dan. “The 25-Year-Old Singer-Songwriter Lets Loose with TIME.” TIME Magazine, 20 Nov. 2012.
    7. Mgbemere, Bianca, and Rachel Telles. “Types of Parenting Styles and How to Identify Yours.” Developmental Psychology at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University, identify-yours/.
    8. Nilsen, Kathlyn, director. Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children. YouTube, YouTube, 22 Dec. 2017,
    9. Parivash Rahimpour, Ashraf Direkvand-Moghadam, Azadeh Direkvand-Moghadam, and Ataollah Hashemian. Relationship Between the Parenting Styles and Students’ Educational Performance Among Iranian Girl High School Students, A Cross-Sectional Study Rosenthal, Maryann. “The 4 Parenting Styles: What Works and What Doesn’t.” The Attached Family, 2009,
    10. Scelfo, Julie. “Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 July 2015,
    11. Thiagarajan, Maya. Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age. Tuttle Publishing, 2016.
    12. “4 Parenting Styles – Characteristics And Effects [Infographic].” Parenting For Brain, Parenting For Brain, 28 Jan. 2018,

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