Child-rearing isn’t something to be taken lightly, as it can have lifelong consequences for your kids. After more than 75 years of research and study, child psychology dictates that parenting styles can have significant impacts on children’s lives—from social development to academic achievements, self-control, self-esteem, attachment style, and more. In this article, we’ll be identifying different styles and how each correlates to behaviors during early childhood and beyond.
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The parenting styles that are widely discussed today are largely based on the work of Diana Baumrind, who was a developmental psychologist who worked at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1960s. Back then, D. Baumrind noticed that pre-elementary school children exhibited different types of behavior.
Baumrind concluded that the behavior the kids exhibited was closely tied to their caregivers’ style of parenting. D. Baumrind went further to conclude that varying types of parenting can result in equally different child development patterns and child outcomes for the kids involved.
Based on her research and observations, Baumrind identified three different parenting styles, authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Flash forward about twenty years, and researchers Maccoby and Martin expanded Baumrind’s permissive parenting style into two separate categories, indulgent and neglectful.
Today’s construct represents the work of Baumrind, and separately that of Maccoby and Martin. As a result of their efforts, four distinct types of parenting are now widely recognized and discussed, and they are:
- Authoritative parenting style
- Authoritarian parenting style
- Permissive or indulgent parenting style
- Neglectful or uninvolved parenting style
Authoritative Parenting Style
Authoritative parents have some notable traits in common. For starters, they’re known for having high responsiveness, which refers to the extent that the parents are sensitive to their kids’ needs, and high demandingness, a term that references the control parents wield over their children as they attempt to impact their behavior. They also set clear rules and expectations for their child. While their rules and expectations are firm, authoritative parents exercise flexibility and understanding in their child-rearing.
To put this type of parenting style into practice, you must communicate frequently with your kids. You also have to listen to your kids and carefully consider their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. While they enforce their own rules, authoritative parents also embrace natural consequences. For example, if one of their kids doesn’t study for a test and ultimately fails, an authoritative parent will seize the opportunity to teach his child that every action or, in this case, inaction has consequences on its own.
Parents who employ an authoritative parenting style are typically tuned into their children’s needs, wants, well-being, and desires. These parents use open and transparent conversations to teach their children social competence, problem-solving skills, and self-regulation.
The parent-child interaction between an authoritative parent and their children is generally positive, and the parent labors tirelessly to ensure that it remains so. One of the reasons that interaction is positive is that authoritative caregivers invest time in explaining the reasons certain rules and consequences exist, which means their children are fully informed about their parents’ reasoning and rationale.
Caregivers with an authoritarian approach to raising children work hard to prevent behavior problems before they take hold. Because they prize their parent-child relationships, these parents use positive disciplinary tactics to reward good behavior. Such tactics include praise and established reward systems.
For little kids, such a reward system might be a sticker chart, with a child earning a sticker for each good deed. If your kids are in their teenage years, you might reward them with extra screen time, or a later curfew or bedtime on the weekends. In either case, your children will be eager to earn greater rewards, which will increase the likelihood that they’ll continue to exhibit desirable behavior rather than delinquent behavior.
Effects on Early Adolescence and Beyond
The children of authoritative parents are usually happy. They also tend to be successful throughout their lifetimes. Kids raised in an authoritative household are widely celebrated for being good decision-makers and exercising the ability to evaluate risks sensibly.
Baumrind studied kids raised in authoritative homes. Her research shows kids who experience this type of parenting are often:
- Securely attached to their parents and others
- Less violent
The doctor’s research also revealed that kids raised in authoritative homes enjoy better mental health and more adept social skills compared to children who weren’t. These children benefit from good self-esteem and praise-worthy academic achievements as well.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Like their authoritative counterparts, authoritarian parents are known for having high demandingness. By comparison, authoritarian caregivers have low responsiveness, however, which makes them more rigid with their parenting practices.
Authoritarian parents enforce strict rules and expectations, and their kids’ feelings, emotional needs, and behaviors don’t factor into any of them. When their children question a rule or consequence, these parents often respond by saying, “Because I said so,” without offering any reasonable or digestible explanation after uttering the familiar refrain.
Whereas communication in authoritative households is two-way, from adult to child and kid to parent, communication in an authoritarian household invariably flows one way. And that way is almost exclusively from parent to child.
When asked about their parenting role, authoritarian parents often say they employ “tough love” when it comes to their kids. These parents are often stern, and they strive to have parental control of their children at all times. In authoritarian households, parents often punish their children rather than disciplining them, with the parents having the goal of making their kids feel bad about their behavior rather than teaching them to make better choices.
Authoritarian parents are completely out of tune with their children’s needs, and they interpret questions about rules and consequences as backtalk. These adults justify harsh punishments like spankings as the means through which they’re toughening up their kids for the “real world.”
Effects on Child Development and Adulthood
The consequences of a childhood ruled by an authoritarian parent are significant. Compared to kids raised in an authoritative home, kids raised by authoritarian parents are often:
- Less independent
- Poorer performers in school
- More prone to experience poor mental health
- More likely to succumb to substance abuse
In addition, these children will probably have comparatively poor coping skills. They often exhibit behavioral issues like aggression and hostility. Children of authoritarian parents often suffer from low self-esteem as well.
Permissive Parenting Style
Permissive parents boast high responsiveness and low demandingness. These parents enjoy open communication with their children, and they give their kids a wide berth to make their own decisions. Permissive parents generally are averse to setting rules and expectations and they rarely enforce the few they do set.
In permissive households, parents go to great lengths to make sure their children are happy and content. Even if it’s a huge inconvenience for her, a permissive parent will go out of her way to appease her kids at any cost.
Adults often act more like their kids’ friends instead of authoritative parents in permissive homes. Permissive parents typically try to avoid conflict and confrontations with their children, and they normally give in to their children’s demands at the first sign of strife.
Generally speaking, kids raised in permissive households are free to do pretty much anything they want. These parents genuinely believe that their kids are better served by learning life lessons on their own with little parental interference. People with a permissive parenting style will only intervene when a situation is severely problematic, otherwise, they’re content to remain on the sidelines as peacekeeping moderators and casual observers.
“Kids will be kids” could and probably should be the mantra of permissive parents worldwide. These parents are highly susceptible to give in to a child’s pleas on the rare occasions they enact a punishment or attempt to exercise discipline.
While permissive parents maintain two-way communication with their kids, they normally do little to discourage problematic child behavior. They generally do little to help their kids avoid bad decisions as well. Like they don’t teach their kids to make good choices, permissive parents are renowned for failing to teach and enforce good habits, such as having their kids brush their teeth at least twice daily.
While their kids’ friends may see permissive parents as cool, the children of these parents often suffer deleterious consequences throughout their lives. To begin with, it’s likely these kids will struggle academically. Unfortunately, kids raised in permissive households usually have low self-esteem and they report a high level of sadness.
Children raised by adults with permissive parenting practices are at greater risk for developing certain health problems, such as obesity. That’s often because their parents didn’t set or enforce limits about the amount of junk food they were allowed to eat in their childhood.
Here are some traits that children raised in permissive homes often share:
- They are unable to follow rules
- They exhibit little if any self-control
- They have egocentric inclinations
- They have poor social skills, which results in problematic relationships and low social competence
Neglectful or Uninvolved Parenting Style
Like the other three parenting styles, the neglectful or uninvolved parenting style has a lasting impact on child development. Neglectful parents have little if any concern for their children’s well-being, interests, or feelings. These parents also don’t care about exerting parental control over their kids or having any influence on their children’s behavior or choices.
Kids raised in neglectful homes often find they must fend for themselves from a young age. Uninvolved parents don’t nurture their kids, and they give them little attention even when they act out. These parents often struggle with their own self-esteem, and many of them have grave difficulty establishing close relationships with their peers.
A parent may prove to be neglectful due to innate or learned indifference. Alternatively, an adult may not be involved in their children’s lives because they’re overwhelmed by or involved with other things, such as daily self-indulgences or a job that requires them to work around-the-clock.
Neglectful parents are often viewed as uncaring and cold. What some people don’t realize, however, is that some uninvolved parents lack the mental stability to be more attentive to their kids, meaning they’re not choosing to stand by as their children grow up around them. Some uninvolved parents may suffer from substance abuse problems, or they may still be processing the trauma of their own abusive childhoods.
Uninvolved parents don’t normally set rules or expectations for their kids. If they do manage to establish boundaries, they often don’t realize when they need to be enforced or they simply don’t bother to discipline their children for infractions.
Neglectful parents are sometimes so uninvolved that they don’t know where their children are at times. It’s not rare for an uninvolved parent to be unaware of the people their kids spend time with.
When adults exhibit neglectful parenting behavior, it has a lasting effect on their children regardless of whether it’s intended or not. Children raised in neglectful homes are usually more impulsive than kids raised in households where a different parenting style was employed.
Kids from neglectful homes also struggle with regulating their emotions. As they approach early adolescence, these children are more likely to suffer mental problems, such as the development of suicidal ideation. Children of uninvolved parents are more at risk to experience behavior problems, more specifically delinquent behavior, as well as addiction.
Which Parenting Style Is the Best?
As you learn about parenting styles, you may wonder which one is the best. Research shows that authoritative parents have a better chance of raising kids who are independent, self-reliant, and socially competent. While that’s true, there is no guarantee that kids raised by authoritative parents are immune to relationship struggles, poor self-esteem, or mental or emotional problems.
Although the children of authoritative parents may still experience certain problems, some of those issues, such as poor self-regulation, are far more common among kids raised by parents who used one of the different parenting styles. That being said, no one parenting style is perfect in every situation, and you’ll likely find yourself using varied parenting behavior as circumstances change.
For example, an authoritative parent may find himself slipping into a permissive style when his child is under the weather. The same parent might be more authoritarian when his child is at risk, such as when he takes his child hiking and requires his child to remain within view at all times. If a father is working late in his home office, he might not be involved when his kids sit down to watch a movie after dinner.
The takeaway is that parents need to adjust their parenting style from time to time at least. Just because you have to skip dinner with your children on occasion, it doesn’t mean you’re a dedicated neglectful parent. Instead, it means you’re adaptable and you’re setting a flexible example of parenting your kids will hopefully emulate when they’re parents themselves.
No Parenting Style Prohibits Having Fun with Your Kids
No matter what your primary parenting style might be, you shouldn’t let it stop you from having fun with your children. Even the strictest of authoritarian parents and the least involved caregivers need to kick back and share lasting memories with their little ones.
Pick up your copy of Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition and get started with the kid-friendly adventures in store! All you have to do is scratch off your chosen challenge. From there, you and your kids will enjoy a shared experience that involves teamwork and leads to tons of laughs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Children raised by permissive parents are often egocentric, or unable to recognize the perspectives of others. While common during childhood, this behavior can be problematic as kids age.
Sharing special experiences has positive impacts on a family, no matter which parenting style you employ. Interactive books, like Adventures From Scratch, are great for family-friendly activity ideas.