By: Michaela Patoilo
Toddlers having tantrums. Teenagers talking back. Being a parent is a full-time job. But for every child misbehaving in public, there is another parent nearby rolling his or her eyes. However, what might seem like bad parenting to one might be a perfect fit for another. That is why, to better understand different parenting styles, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind studied more than 100 preschool-aged children in the early 1960s and revolutionized the way parenting styles are classified.
As anyone who spends a lot of time around children and their parents would know, every dynamic is unique. Even within a single household, parents may interact with, respond to, and discipline their children very differently. According to Baumrind’s original study, parenting styles fall into three main categories: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. In later years, researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added a fourth category – uninvolved or neglectful parenting. While these four categories are not an exhaustive list of universal parenting styles, they do broadly represent several commonly utilized approaches.
One of the original three parenting styles proposed by Baumrind, authoritarian parenting, is easily distinguished from the other styles by its demanding and direct nature. Typically referred to as “strict” parenting, an authoritarian parenting style expects unwavering obedience without question. When rules and expectations are questioned, authoritarian parents often reply, “Because I said so”, rather than explaining why certain rules exist. In this parenting style, disobedience and mistakes are punished harshly and immediately, commonly via yelling or corporal punishment. Children are not given opportunities to make their own choices or learn from their mistakes independently. Since authoritarian parents value discipline and respect over fun and warmth, they tend to come across as distant and aloof.
- Children tend to be competent and great at rule-following
- Development is supported through established structure and rules
- Children tend to rate low on happiness and self-esteem
- They often have difficulties in social situations and associate obedience with love
Slightly more lenient than authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting is still a highly-structured parenting style. The difference is authoritative parents are highly responsive to their children and encourage open discussion regarding rules, transgressions, and punishments. This parenting style is characterized by a more nurturing and democratic approach that helps foster children’s independence and self-regulation. Children are encouraged to discuss their opinions, and parents take into consideration all sides of the story before administering reasonable and consistent punishments. Children of authoritarian parents know what to expect, thus view rules as reasonable and are more likely to internalize them. Authoritative parenting is widely seen as the most effective parenting style for confident, well-adjusted, and happier children.
- Children are more likely to follow rules because they understand why they exist and view the rules as fair
- Since parents give explanations for their rules, children internalize the lessons and a sense of right and wrong
- Children view their parents as reasonable and just, therefore are more likely to do what their parents ask and have a more positive parent-child relationship
- Children develop skills such as independence and self-control as they mature
- Parenting styles are not one-size-fits-all, and this parenting style may not work if your child has behavioral problems or traits that are difficult to manage.
The final of the original three Baumrind parenting styles is permissive parenting. Parents who utilize this parenting style tend to take on more of a “friend” role with their children. Though they are highly responsive and loving, these parents put forth few expectations and establish few boundaries with their children. Permissive parents rarely enforce rules and make minimal or inconsistent efforts to discipline or reprimand their children. This lax parenting style is often referred to as “indulgent parenting” and emphasizes the children’s happiness and freedom over obedience and self-regulation. According to an article from Developmental Psychology at Vanderbilt, permissive parenting can be detrimental to children’s development and lead to problematic interactions with authority, poor self-discipline, insecurity, and a higher likelihood of delinquency further down the line.
- Parents who use this style tend to be very warm and nurturing with their children and maintain frequent communication
- This style supports children’s happiness and freedom
- Children are often insecure and develop poor self-discipline
- As they age, children tend to struggle with authority and have an increased likelihood of delinquency
Several years later, researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added a fourth category – uninvolved or neglectful parenting – to the original three parenting styles. This style is the polar opposite of authoritarian parenting, lacking warmth, communication, rules, and clear expectations. While these parents attend to their children’s basic needs like food and shelter, uninvolved parents are not responsive within much of their children’s day-to-day lives. However, there is considerable variation within this category. On one end of the spectrum, uninvolved parents set loose limits for their children and show little affection. At the other end, uninvolved parents intentionally avoid their children, become emotionally distant, and shun their children entirely. This style of parenting is the one of most harmful for children and typically raise children who rank low in self-efficacy, self-regulation, and interpersonal abilities.
- There are no obvious benefits to this parenting style
- Children have difficulty relating to and communicating with others
- Children tend to be poor self-regulators and rank low in self-esteem
- The child-parent relationship is virtually non-existent
The Impact of Parenting Styles
Since every parent-child interaction is different, research is still being conducted to categorize parenting behaviors. Even further, the long-term impact of different parenting styles has been a major developmental research focus since Baumrind’s original study. Without a doubt, every parenting style comes with both benefits and disadvantages, and outcomes vary depending on children’s personalities and other factors. Once you establish a baseline understanding of your unique parenting style, the key is finding the combination of styles that works best for you and your child(ren).
That being said, the next time another parent offers unsolicited advice or critiques your parenting style, you can let it roll off your back. You know what is best for your child and you are the only one who knows their personality inside and out. Every child has different needs and responds to parenting styles differently. If you do need help, rest assured, parenting styles are not set in stone, and a professional can direct you towards the most effective style for your situation.