Catherine, a 41-year-old woman, was interviewed on November 3, 2016 with regards to her childhood in order to determine which one of Baumrind’s parenting styles her parents used when raising her. Catherine is blind, and felt many of the decisions her parents made and attitudes they showed toward her were related to that, and therefore elements of their parenting style was noticeably different with her than it was with her brother, who was sighted and two years older. While they were authoritative in their discipline and communication style, they were permissive in how they showed warmth, and their expectations of maturity were far lower for her than her brother.
Question one of the interview asked: Can you tell me about an incident from your childhood that shows the way in which you and your parents communicated with each other and the kinds of things you felt able to discuss with them?” Catherine said that she felt comfortable talking to her parents, her mother, about most things. She related that at several points, she could consult her mother on topics that most of her friends could not discuss with theirs. These included reporting to her mother an incident where she had been offered drugs and refused, and advice on dating when she was a teenager. Her parents talked to her and her brother openly, too. Topics that were discussed included the need to spend cash sparingly when they were having financial issues, and frequent family meetings to discuss topics that effected the entire household, such as decisions related to job changes and holiday planning. Catherine said that she felt included in family communications. This fits with both the authoritative and the permissive styles of parenting, since both include strong parent-child communication.
Part of Catherine’s feeling like an included member of the family came from the willingness of her parents to communicate with her, but also from their openness and willingness to show warmth and affection. Question two of the interview asked: “What were the ways in which your parents showed warmth and affection for you?” Catherine related that no one in her household had a problem saying “I love you” to anyone else. As a side note she says that her brother still says “I love you” when he ends a conversation with her, even though they only talk a few times a year. Expressions of affection were frequent as she grew up, and discipline was always followed by a talk which restored good feelings between both parent and child. She says that her parents live by the rule that said family members should not go to bed angry with each other. This style shows that while her parents were authoritative in most ways, they were permissive in the level of affection they shared with their children and encouraged between the children themselves.
While her parents had some characteristics of a permissive parenting style, the way in which they set rules and expected compliance was authoritative. Question three of the interview asked: “Did you feel like your parents were too strict or too permissive, compared with your friends and acquaintances? Why?” Catherine said that she had some friends who could get away with anything, and some whose parents punished every transgression extremely. She says her parents were somewhere in the middle. She said that her parents set rules, and expected them to be followed.
However, they were open to discussion on those rules if one child or another felt them unfair. These rules might be discussed in family meetings, where a child could bring up a rule and try to give good reasons why that rule should be altered. If the reasons were fair, her parents would often agree to change the rule. Having been discussed with and agreed upon by the entire family, however, it was expected that the rule would be followed, and an agreed-upon discipline would take place if the rule was broken. Because some rules were able to be discussed, Catherine thought of her parents as fair, not overly strict disciplinarians. This setting of rules with an expectation of compliance is part of an authoritative style of parenting.
In terms of discipline, show of affection and communication, Catherine and her brother were treated equally. The one area where they were treated differently was in terms of the expectation of maturity. This can be made evident in her answer to question four, which was: “Do you think your parents saw you as more mature than your true age or less? Can you tell me about a time or incident from your childhood that shows this attitude?” She relates that her brother was basically assumed to be more mature than his age. Her parents had the faith that he could deal with anything that came his way, and allowed him to do things not typically allowed to children of his age, such as the fact that He was allowed a later curfew than many his age, and he could play games aimed at older children.
Catherine, however, was more sheltered and protected. She was not able to travel on her own until much later than her brother or other of her friends, and there was an assumption that she could not do many things others of her age were expected to be able to handle easily. Catherine says that at times her blindness would interfere with her ability to do some things, but it didn’t have an impact on as many things as her parents felt it did, leading her to feel restricted and treated more like a child than her brother was. One experience that she relates involves a high school dance that her brother was allowed to attend but that she was kept from. In this sense, her parents showed a permissive style toward her, with a low expectation of maturity, but an authoritative style toward her brother, who got a reasonable expectation of maturity.
According to the answers to the four questions, Catharine’s parents showed characteristics of both an authoritative and a permissive parenting style. Their ability to express warmth and affection was permissive, while their rules and their communication style were authoritative. Because of her blindness, their expectation of maturity was lower for her than it was for her brother. If she had not been blind, this expectation would be authoritative they became permissive because they did not expect her to be as mature as she was. This shows that parenting styles can differ, not only from parent to parent, but also from child to child.