Dimensions of Parenting

Parents play a vital role in the development and functioning of their children. The behaviors of a parent can influence the behaviors of that parent’s child.

Research has found that there are two broad dimensions of parenting. A dimension of parenting is basically an overall way of behaving and responding toward one’s child.

The dimension of parenting known as “parental support” is related to the affective or emotional connection between parent and child.

This aspect of parenting is expressed through the way in which parents are involved with their child, how the parent shows acceptance of their child, the emotional availability of the parent toward the child, and the warmth and responsiveness of the parent. (Cummings et al., 2000 as cited in Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).

Greater parental support is found to be correlated with greater outcomes on development in children. So, when parental support is present and sufficient, a child is more likely to develop better skills and have less behavior problems.

For instance, when children are provided with appropriate parental support they are less likely to use alcohol (Barnes andFarrell, 1992 as cited in Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).

They are also less likely to experience depression and delinquency (Bean et al., 2006 as cited in Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).

They are also less likely to engage in challenging behaviors (Shaw et al., 1994 as cited in Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).

The dimension known as “parental control” includes to sub-dimensions.

Psychological control and behavioral control make up the dimension of parental control. (Barber, 1996; Schaefer, 1965; Steinberg, 1990).

Sub-Dimension: Parental Behavioral Control

In the sub-dimension of parental behavioral control, a parent tries to manage their child’s behavior. This might be done through giving demands, creating rules, disciplining, using rewards or punishment, or through certain forms of supervision (Barber, 2002; Maccoby, 1990; Steinberg, 1990).

When behavioral control is implemented to an appropriate degree a child is likely to experience positive outcomes.

However, when behavioral control is insufficient or, on the other hand, when it is provided excessively, a child may experience negative outcomes. In these cases, a child may display challenging behaviors or become depressed or anxious (e.g.,Barnes and Farrell, 1992; Coie and Dodge, 1998; Galamboset al., 2003; Patterson et al.1984).

Sub-Dimension: Parental Psychological Control

In the sub-dimension known as “parental psychological control,” a parent tries to influence their child’s internal experiences including their thoughts and emotions (Barber, 1996; Barber et al., 2005).

Parental psychological control is fairly intrusive in most cases and is correlated with negative outcomes such as depression and relationship challenges (e.g., Barber and Harmon, 2002; Barber et al., 2005; Kuppenset al., 2013).

Dimensions of Parenting

Parenting is a complex role. Within the day to day experiences between a parent and their child, an over-arching theme can develop in regards to the behaviors a parent engages in to interact with and respond to their child.

A parent can express ‘parental support.’ They can utilize ‘parental behavioral control.’ Or they can engage in ‘parental psychological control.’

To best support their child, parents should ideally interact with their child with a good amount of parental support as well as some level of parental behavioral control (although not an excessive amount of this).


Research cited above was cited in the reference below.

Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. Journal of child and family studies, 28(1), 168181. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1242-x