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Uninvolved Parenting – Why It’s The Worst Parenting Style

| Four Baumrind Parenting Styles | Characteristics | Causes | Effects | Free-Range Parenting Style | Are Busy Parents Uninvolved |

What Is Uninvolved Parenting (Neglectful Parenting)

Uninvolved parenting is a parenting style characterized by low responsiveness and low demandingness.

These neglectful parents are uninvolved in their child’s life. They do not meet their child’s needs, whether it’s basic or emotional needs. They also do not set boundaries or discipline their children.

Children of uninvolved parents receive little nurturing or guidance from their parents. They are practically left to raise themselves. These kids fare the worst among the four Baumrind parenting styles.

kid sitting in front of window in uninvolved parenting styles, not the same as authoritative parenting style - negligent parenting effect on child

The Four Baumrind Parenting Styles

In the 1960s, Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, identified three different types of parenting styles: authoritative parenting style, authoritarian parenting and permissive parenting.

In 1983, Maccoby and Martin added a fourth type to the framework: uninvolved or neglectful parenting style​1​.

These 4 parenting styles are categorized based on two dimensions: responsiveness and demandingness.

Characteristics of Uninvolved Parenting Style

Uninvolved parents are neither responsive nor demanding.

Uninvolved parenting is indefferent parenting.

If permissive parents are at one end of the responsive spectrum, then neglectful parents occupy the other end.

In terms of demands, authoritarian parents who have high expectations for their children to meet are the opposite of uninvolved parents.

Here are some neglectful parenting examples:

  • Show no warmth or affection towards their children.
  • Act in an indifferent and distant way. They do not help or take care of their children’s basic needs.
  • Do not provide emotional support, such as belonging and encouragement​2​.
  • Do not set rules, boundaries or expectations on their children’s behavior. Also do not monitor or supervise them.
  • Do not show interest in their child’s school work, activities or performance.
  • Do not involve themselves in their children’s lives overall.
  • Intergenerational transmission of neglect parenting style – Research shows that neglected children will grow up 2.6 times more likely to become neglectful to their own children, and twice as likely to be physically abusive​3​.

Causes of Uninvolved Parenting

Neglectful parents often come from dysfunctional families and received neglectful or uninvolved parenting themselves when they were growing up.

Uninvolved parents tend to have mental health issues of their own, such as depression, and alcoholism.

Another common cause is a history of substance abuse problems in the family.

Researchers have found that many addicted parents have been raised by addicted parents themselves (up to 83%) and neglected during childhood (up to 55%)​4​.

Addicted parents who have antisocial personality characteristics and choose mates who are predisposed to substance abuse or other mental health problems are at an even higher risk of becoming neglectful.

uninvolved parent ignores boy with soccer, one of the uninvolved parenting examples
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Harmful Effects of Uninvolved Parenting Style

Uninvolved parenting is the worst style of parenting among the four types because children raised with this parenting style tend to fare the worse.

Neglectful parenting can affect a child’s well being and outcomes in development severely​5​. It can have the following adverse effects in a young child:

  • more impulsive and less self-control​6​
  • underachieve in school​7,8​
  • fewer emotional regulation skills​9​
  • lack social skills
  • low self-esteem​10​
  • increased chance of mood disorders such as depression​11​
  • tend to develop Borderline Personality Disorder​12​
  • suffer higher risk for substance abuse. Neglected children of substance-abused parents are 4-10 times more likely to develop substance abuse themselves​4​.

Uninvolved Parenting Is Not The Same As Free-Range Parenting

Free-range parenting is a term created in recent years to describe parents who give children freedom to go to places such as the playground without adult supervision.

Free-range parenting is not the same as uninvolved parenting.

“Free-range” only describes one aspect in parenting, which is: does the parent supervise their child when they’re outside of the house or not. It doesn’t say anything about whether the parent is warm and responsive to the child’s needs.

A free-range parent can give their child a lot of freedom in going out, but is still warm and responsive. They can also have high expectation of their child’s behavior, such as having good conduct and high school performance.

dad uses cellphone and ignores girl is univolved parents who uses a disengaged parenting style

Busy Parents Are Not Necessarily Uninvolved Parents

Busy parents may not be neglectful parents.

Some parents who hold highly demanding jobs inevitably have less time left for their kids. But they may still be warm and caring. They can still show interest in their children’s lives and create emotional connections when they are spending time together, even if it’s not that frequent.

When it comes to building a healthy parent child relationship, quality is more important than quantity.

Neglectful parenting is a harmful parenting style. Uninvolved parents are uncaring parents who have no interest in their children’s welfare.

They are not just busy parents.

Busy parents who lack involvement because they don’t care are uninvolved parents.

But busy parents who lack time for involvement are just parents who are not good at time management.

In this situation, not being able to get involved in a child’s life is not the same as rejecting or not wanting to get involved in a child’s life.

Final Thoughts on Uninvolved Parenting

Psychologists and experts agree that kids with an uninvolved or neglectful parent generally have the most negative outcomes. A neglectful mother is not simply a parent who gives a child more freedom or less face-time. Negligent parents neglect their other duties as parents, too.


  1. 1.
    Huver RME, Otten R, de Vries H, Engels RCME. Personality and parenting style in parents of adolescents. Journal of Adolescence. Published online June 2010:395-402. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.07.012
  2. 2.
    Berzenski SR. Distinct emotion regulation skills explain psychopathology and problems in social relationships following childhood emotional abuse and neglect. Dev Psychopathol. Published online March 22, 2018:483-496. doi:10.1017/s0954579418000020
  3. 3.
    Kim J. Type-specific intergenerational transmission of neglectful and physically abusive parenting behaviors among young parents. Children and Youth Services Review. Published online July 2009:761-767. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2009.02.002
  4. 4.
    Dunn MG, Tarter RE, Mezzich AC, Vanyukov M, Kirillova G. Origins and consequences of child neglect in substance abuse families. Clinical Psychology Review. Published online 2002:1063 – 1090.
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    Trickett PK, McBride-Chang C. The Developmental Impact of Different Forms of Child Abuse and Neglect. Developmental Review. Published online September 1995:311-337. doi:10.1006/drev.1995.1012
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    AUNOLA K, STATTIN H, NURMI J-E. Parenting styles and adolescents’ achievement strategies. Journal of Adolescence. Published online April 2000:205-222. doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0308
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    BOON HJ. Low- and high-achieving Australian secondary school students: Their parenting, motivations and academic achievement. Australian Psychologist. Published online September 2007:212-225. doi:10.1080/00050060701405584
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    Pinquart M. Associations of Parenting Styles and Dimensions with Academic Achievement in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysis. Educ Psychol Rev. Published online September 7, 2015:475-493. doi:10.1007/s10648-015-9338-y
  9. 9.
    Shipman K, Edwards A, Brown A, Swisher L, Jennings E. Managing emotion in a maltreating context: A pilot study examining child neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect. Published online September 2005:1015-1029. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.01.006
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    Darling N. Parenting Style and Its Correlates. ERIC Digest; 1999.
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    Bernet CZ, Stein MB. Relationship of childhood maltreatment to the onset and course of major depression in adulthood. Depress Anxiety. Published online 1999:169-174. doi:

    About Pamela Li

    Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


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