- 4 types of parenting styles
- Diana Baumrind’s parenting style theory
- Definition & Impact
- Best parenting style
- Nature vs. nurture
- Other parenting styles
- Chart & infographic
4 types of Parenting Styles
The four parenting styles used in psychology are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting style. They are based on the work of developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960s. Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin at Stanford University expanded the model in the 1980s.
Diana Baumrind’s Parenting Styles Theory
Baumrind noticed that preschoolers exhibited distinctly different types of behavior. Each type of behavior was highly correlated to a specific kind of parenting. Baumrind’s theory suggests a close relationship between the type of parenting style and children’s behavior. Different parenting styles can lead to different child development and outcomes.
Based on extensive observation, interviews, and analyses, she initially identified three parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive.1
Although Diana Baumrind is known for her work on categorizing parenting styles, Maccoby and Martin (1983) were the ones who expanded this 3-parenting-styles model using a two-dimensional framework.2
They added a fourth style and expanded Baumrind’s permissive parenting style into two different styles: permissive (also known as indulgent parenting style) and neglectful (also known as uninvolved parenting style).
These four parenting styles are sometimes called the Diana Baumrind parenting styles or Maccoby and Martin parenting styles.
In the US, roughly 46% of parents use the authoritative parenting style, 26% use the authoritarian parenting style, 18% use the permissive parenting style, and 10% neglectful parenting style.3
The distribution is relatively stable within the population, except that European-American parents are about 2% more likely to have an authoritative style, while Asian-American parents are 2% more likely to be authoritarian.
Parenting Style Definition & Impact on Child Development
Parenting styles are categorized based on two dimensions of parenting behavior – demanding and responsive.
Demandingness refers to how parents control their child’s behavior or demand maturity.
Responsiveness refers to how much parents are accepting and sensitive to their children’s emotional and developmental needs.
1. Authoritative Parenting Style (Democratic)
High demandingness. High responsiveness.
Authoritative parenting involves high expectations for achievement and maturity, but authoritative parents are also warm and responsive.4
These parents set rules and enforce boundaries by monitoring, having open discussions, providing guidance, and using inductive discipline.
They provide reasoning and explanation for their actions. Explanations give children a sense of awareness and teach them about values, morals, and goals.
The disciplinary methods are described as confrontative5 – reasoned, negotiable, outcome-oriented, and concerned with regulating behaviors instead of coercive.
Authoritative parents are assertive but not intrusive or restrictive. Their disciplinary styles are supportive rather than punitive. They respect their children’s autonomy, provide them with a lot of freedom and encourage independence.
Allowing bidirectional communication, this parenting style is also known as the democratic parenting style.6
Children of authoritative parents are cherished.
Based on Baumrind’s research on parenting styles, children of authoritative parents tend to:7
- Appear happy and content
- More independent
- More active
- Higher academic performance
- High self-esteem
- Competent social skills
- Better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol, and drug use8–10
- Less violent tendencies
- Develop secure attachment11
- Good parent-child relationships
This is regarded as the best parenting style among the four types of parenting.
2. Authoritarian Parenting (Disciplinarian)
High demandingness. Low responsiveness.
High levels of parental control and low levels of parental responsiveness are the two characteristics of the authoritarian parenting style.
Although authoritarian and authoritative have similar names, they differ significantly in parenting beliefs, demands, and approaches.
While both styles demand high standards, the authoritarian style is directive, and obedience- and status-oriented. These strict parents demand blind obedience from their children without explanation. They use reasons such as “because I said so.”
The authoritarian parenting style is also known as the disciplinarian parenting style.
Authoritarian parents view themselves as authority figures. They use stern discipline and harsh punishment, such as corporal punishment, to obtain behavioral and psychological control. Their disciplinary strategies are dictatorial and coercive12, i.e., arbitrary, peremptory, domineering, and concerned with marking status distinctions.
They only allow one-way communication through strict rules and orders. Any attempts to reason with them are seen as backtalk.
They are unresponsive to their children’s needs and are generally not nurturing. They believe their harsh discipline is justified as it will toughen up their kids or make them more resilient.
Children of authoritarian parents tend to have worse outcomes than those with authoritative parents. They are more likely to have the following characteristics.13
- Unhappy disposition
- Less independent
- Low self-esteem
- More rebellious behavior
- More behavioral or conduct issues14
- Less emotional regulation skills and more temper tantrums
- Worse academic performance
- Poorer social competence
- Prone to internalizing behavior and mental issues
- Substance abuse15
- Less coping skills16
- Prone to depression
- Linked to avoidant attachment17 and disorganized attachment18
3. Permissive Parenting (Indulgent)
Low demandingness. High responsiveness
Permissive parenting sets very few parental rules and boundaries. If there are rules, these passive parents are reluctant to enforce them.
Indulgent parents are warm and indulgent but do not like to say no or disappoint their children. These lenient parents are generally carefree but less likely to foster the growth of their children’s emotional regulation skills.
Children of permissive parents tend to have worse outcomes than those with authoritative or authoritarian parents.19
- Cannot follow clear rules
- Poorer emotional regulation
- Lack of self-control
- Problem behavior such as aggression
- Lower self-confidence
- Egocentric tendencies
- Encounter more problems in relationships and social interactions
- Associated with ambivalent attachment
4. Neglectful Parenting (Uninvolved or disengaged)
Low demandingness. Low responsiveness.
Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards.
They are indifferent to their children’s needs and are uninvolved in their lives.
These uninvolved parents may have unresolved issues themselves, such as depression, abuse, or emotional neglect when they were kids.
Children of neglectful parents have the worst child outcomes among the 4 parenting styles20.
- Poor school performance
- They are more impulsive
- Cannot self-regulate emotion
- Encounter more delinquent behavior and addiction problems
- Have more mental issues — e.g., suicidal behavior in adolescents
- Prone to drug abuse or alcoholism
Best Parenting Style
From decades of studies, parenting research shows that authoritative parenting is consistently linked to the best outcomes in kids.
The authoritative parenting style is considered the best parenting style by psychologists and psychiatrists.
This classification of child-rearing styles has been studied for over 25 years in different countries.
Results are generally found to be as expected for each parenting style.
However, inconsistencies and exceptions in some areas remain.
Here are some important factors that may also play a part in determining how a child turns out.
Cultural and Ethnics Differences
Some studies found that the authoritative style isn’t always linked to the best school achievement across families from diverse ethnic (e.g., Asian, Black, Hispanic) and socioeconomic status (e.g., income level, parental education, number of active parents).
For example, in one study, researchers found that African-American students with authoritative parents but without peer support did not perform the best academically.
As for Asian-American students, in some studies, they performed the best in school when they had authoritarian parents and peer support.
In Spain, a study showed that both indulgent and authoritative parenting styles were associated with positive outcomes21.
Children’s own behavior can affect the parent’s choices and the outcomes, too.
For example, kids with a more sensitive temperament may be perceived as difficult, causing the parents to change their parenting style toward more authoritarian.
In a study, it was also found that some aspects of child behavior, such as sociable and aggressive behaviors, are better correlated to the child’s temperament than to the parenting style of their parents.
It seems like parenting style is not the only determining factor in the child’s outcomes.
Differences in a social context and child temperaments can make a difference, too.
But it is worth noting that, despite being widely publicized, not all of these study results have been successfully reproduced by other researchers.
In addition, these results are also not consistent across other types of outcomes, such as behavior or mental health issues.
For example, while some studies found the use of authoritarian parenting in the Chinese American population was associated with the best academic outcomes22, others found authoritative parenting to be the best in predicting school performance.
To this date, no study has conclusively disproved the benefits of authoritative parenting, while many others have consistently shown its advantages.
Parenting Styles vs. Specific Parenting Practices
Another component that can impact the outcome is the distinction between parenting style and parenting practice.
Parenting style is the emotional climate and control in which parents raise their children.
Parenting practices are specific actions that parents employ in their parenting.
Even parents with the same parenting style may choose different ways or different approaches to implementing specific types of child-rearing practices that will affect the degree of outcomes.
Limitations And Criticisms Of Parenting Studies
When interpreting parenting research results, it is important to note that most of these parenting studies only find links between parenting styles and outcomes.23
That is, the results are only correlation and not causation.
For example, parents who are warm and responsive tend to have children who exhibit fewer behavior problems. One is tempted to say that, therefore, warm and responsive parents result in better-behaving kids.
But you can easily turn that around and say that kids who behave cause their parents to be more warm and responsive.
Different children have different temperaments, and they can, in turn, affect parents’ behavior.
This parenting research does not tell us which one is the correct cause-and-effect relationship.
So why do most psychologists and experts still recommend an authoritative parenting style?
One reason is that there are overwhelming volumes of studies showing these connections consistently, including longitudinal studies and those involving intervention.
When choosing a parenting style, parents must consider their parenting goals and the type of parent they want to be.
Most parents’ ultimate parenting goal is to raise a healthy, happy, kind, and responsible person who will love them and their family when they grow up. And they also want to enjoy the experience of parenting.
It is hard to imagine being cold and strict (authoritarian), cold and indifferent (neglectful), or warm and indulgent (permissive) will achieve all of these goals.
Which parenting style is most encouraged in modern America?
Of the four Baumrind parenting styles, the authoritative parenting style is the one that is most encouraged in modern American society.
Also See: Montessori Parenting
Nature Vs. Nurture
Nature vs. nurture is one of the oldest debates in the history of psychology. Which one matters more?
A recent study by the Queensland Brain Institute and the VU University of Amsterdam has settled the Nature vs. Nurture debate. 14.5 million pairs of twins from almost every twin study ever done in the past 50 years were collected and analyzed24.
Researchers have found that a person’s behavior and character traits are influenced roughly the same by genetics (nature) and by environment (nurture).
Parenting is one of the most important parts of the environment a child is exposed to since birth. Good parenting’s impact on a child is significant and undeniable.
Also See: What is the worst age to lose a parent, Parenting
Other parenting styles
Several new forms of parenting have surfaced in recent years, and those ideas describe today’s parenting styles perfectly. These are a few of the most popular general parenting styles in the United States today.
Attachment parenting is a style of parenting aimed at meeting the emotional needs of infants responsively through close physical contact and emotional attunement.
Parents create a positive, warm, and safe environment where their children can develop trust and closeness. They also give their child enough time to feel comfortable and familiar with the world.
In 1993, William Sears’ book about attachment parenting popularized this parenting style. The parenting practices he recommends are based on the Attachment Theory developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby.
In Baumrind’s parenting style paradigm, attachment parenting emphasizes responsiveness. Since it focuses on a baby’s early years, there are no references to parents’ demands.
Children with responsive parents tend to have25
- More cognitive competence
- Better Communication
- Healthier social-emotional development
The positive parenting approach focuses on children’s positive development. The emphasis is on what a child does right rather than what they do wrong.
Positive discipline does not involve spanking, yelling, or other forms of negative discipline. Instead, positive parents use positive reinforcement and time outs to teach children prosocial behavior.
A gentle parenting style is characterized by kindness, empathy, and respect for children. This style is the opposite of authoritarian parenting, which involves strict rules and punishments.
Rather than punishing their children, gentle parents discipline them by letting them experience the natural consequences of their actions and helping them find solutions.
This parenting style is also different from permissive parenting, in which parents have few rules or don’t enforce them.
Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe the over-protective attitude and constant involvement of parents with their children.
A helicopter parent hovers over their child, monitors and controls every aspect of their children’s lives, and steps in whenever a problem arises. They tend to control the environment and activities that the child participates in, forcing them to conform to the parent’s expectations while at the same time depriving them of the chance to learn things on their own.
This parenting style often interferes with a child’s development and leads to negative results.
This parenting style does not fit neatly under any of Baumrind’s categories.
Helicopter parents are typically insensitive to their child’s emotional needs. When the child fails to live up to their high expectations, these parents jump in to help. Therefore, this parenting style is close to authoritarian.
Children raised by overparenting tend to have
- Lower self-esteem26
- Fear of failure
- More likely to develop disorders such as anxiety, depression, and drug abuse27
- Poor stress coping skills28
- Less independent
Tiger parenting is a strict parenting style. It is alleged to be a common parenting style among Chinese American families or in the Chinese culture, but research has proven otherwise29.
It is characterized by a very strict and harsh set of rules and regulations.
Tiger parents create a very rigid environment where the children have very little freedom or choices. Emotional abuse such as shaming and insulting is often used to force children to comply.
A tiger parenting style exemplifies the authoritarian parenting style.
Children of tiger parenting are more likely to have:
- Lower academic performance
- Less sense of family obligation
- More depressive symptoms
Free-range parenting is the practice of allowing children to be more independent than traditional parenting would allow. It is the antithesis of helicopter parenting.
Free-range parents allow children to make decisions and develop a strong sense of responsibility for their own lives. In a free-range household, there is less control, less supervision, and more freedom.
Children can explore their environment and develop into independent adults. They make choices and learn from the consequences of their choices.
This parenting style emphasizes the child’s right to make decisions and has been described as a natural parenting style that emphasizes self-direction and respect for the child’s needs.
These parents are sometimes accused of neglect in the United States, although the definition of child neglect is sufficiently vague.
According to Baumrind’s parenting classification, neglectful parents are cold and unresponsive and have no demands or expectations from their children.
Nonetheless, free-range parents can indeed be warm and responsive to their children, but simply believe that children should be given more freedom and autonomy30.
Also See: What To Do When Parents Don’t Agree on Parenting
Chart & Infographic
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