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The Four Parenting Styles and Their Impact on Children

By Albulena Murturi


3 December 2023

Parenting styles

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Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s lives. To nurture healthy individuals, parents must first recognize and address their own shortcomings and unhealed wounds from generational trauma. Continuous self-improvement is essential for providing the best care for their children. The love parents offer serves as a lifelong battery for their children’s well-being. Their absence or presence, their discipline or the lack of it, their rules, and the ways they apply them, make all the difference. Understanding the four parenting styles helps parents identify their strengths and areas for improvement.

The 4 Parenting Styles

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind delineated three parenting styles during the 1960s. She differentiated the styles into authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive—derived from her research with preschool-age children. Later on, the uninvolved parenting style was added by Eleanor Maccoby, and John Martin in 1983.

Thanks to their invaluable contribution, now we have access to different ways of parenting, why people choose such ways of parenting their kids, and the effect these styles can have on their children.

Parenting styles
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While authoritative parenting is recommended for healthy child development, it is normal for parents to exhibit characteristics from various styles. Striving to incorporate authoritative traits can positively impact the parent-child relationship while establishing healthy boundaries and guidance for the child. We will see each style in detail above.

1. Authoritarian Parenting

One of the parenting styles identified by psychologist Diana Baumrind is authoritarian, which is characterized by high demands and low responsiveness. It involves strict rules, little warmth, and harsh punishments. Common traits include being demanding but unresponsive, providing minimal explanations for punishments, limiting choices, impatience with misbehavior, mistrust, and unwillingness to negotiate. Above all that, they offer very little nurturing and use shaming tactics to discipline their children. Their ideas of fun are not in alignment with the needs of children, so there is little to no fun.

According to Very Well Mind, the authoritarian parenting style is often influenced by authoritarian upbringing. Parents with this parenting style were once children of authoritarian parents. The factor of such a way of parenting may be the personality type of the parents. If we refer to the Big Five personality framework, people with lower agreeableness and higher neuroticism tend to be authoritarian parents.

This does not go without some scars. Such parenting style can result in social difficulties and lower self-esteem. Children of authoritarian parents may associate obedience with love and conformity with depression and anxiety. They may also struggle with self-control, have fewer prosocial behaviors, and behave aggressively.

To avoid authoritarian parenting, individuals should actively seek information and learn about alternative styles, such as authoritative parenting. They could begin by listening to their children, establishing clear household rules, using logical consequences, and considering parenting classes or therapy. While authoritarianism may be effective in certain situations, overuse can lead to negative outcomes as we mentioned above. Adopting a more authoritative approach can foster positive parent-child interactions.

Parenting styles
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2. Authoritative Parenting

Diana Baumrind introduced authoritative parenting as a democratic and flexible approach. Characterized by reasonable demands and high responsiveness, is effective in fostering a child-centric approach. Parents with this style set high expectations while providing the necessary resources and support for their children’s success. They prioritize listening, love, and warmth. They avoid punishing measures and threats in favor of positive reinforcement.

Other characteristics include fair and consistent discipline. These parents foster independence by allowing children to encourage discussions and express their opinions. They do all this while expressing warmth, and actively listening. In contrast to the authoritarian style, authoritative parents are flexible, considering various factors in their discipline approach.

In comparison with authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting combines guidance with support, reinforcing desirable behaviors and providing structure. According to Very Well Mind, research indicates that children raised with authoritative parenting tend to be more capable, happy, and successful. Effects include self-confidence, good social skills, emotional control, and positive dispositions.

Authoritative parents act as role models, exhibiting behaviors they expect from their children. Consistent rules and discipline, along with emotional understanding, contribute to positive outcomes. Allowing independence fosters self-esteem and self-confidence. While some parents may naturally lean towards authoritative parenting, it is possible to adopt this style through mindfulness and habit development.

To be an authoritative parent parents should establish clear rules and communication. They should also enforce consequences when rules are violated, but at the same time, show compassion and support. It is key to avoid being overly harsh or overly tolerant. This parenting style becomes more natural with time, attention, and flexibility to the child’s needs.

Parenting styles
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3. Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting, characterized by low demands and high responsiveness, is marked by a lack of rules and structure. These parents are nurturing but lenient, often resembling friends more than authoritative figures. The permissive approach contrasts with helicopter parenting, as permissive parents rarely enforce rules, believing that “kids will be kids.” Children raised in this style struggle with self-regulation and may lack discipline.

Permissive parents prioritize freedom over responsibility. Characteristics include being nurturing and asking for children’s opinions. They emphasize freedom by having few inconsistent rules and providing little schedule or structure. They avoid confrontation and even use bribery to make their kids do what they want.

The effects of permissive parenting are often negative, according to Very Well Mind. Children raised in this style struggle with self-regulation and may lack discipline. They may have poor social skills, be self-involved, and feel insecure due to a lack of boundaries. According to Very Well Mind, studies link permissive parenting to low academic achievement, difficulty managing time and habits, and poor decision-making. Above all that, these kids have an increased risk of aggression, delinquency, and substance use. This is very similar to the effect of the authoritarian parenting style, which may seem paradoxical because these styles are the opposite of each other.

Despite these downsides, there are some positive aspects of permissive parenting, including parental warmth, protective effects against risky behavior, and good self-esteem. Cultural factors may influence the impact of parenting styles, with some suggesting that permissive parenting can be effective in certain cultures.

Changing permissive parenting habits should involve developing clear household rules. Parents also should provide explanations for those rules and should be consistent in enforcement. They should ensure consequences are understood, and reward good behavior. While challenging, adopting a more authoritative approach can lead to better outcomes for children.

4. Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parenting, also known as neglectful parenting, is characterized by low responsiveness to a child’s needs and minimal demands placed on them. Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added this style later to the original parenting styles. It involves emotional distance, limited interactions, little supervision, and a lack of warmth and affection. Unlike free-range parenting, uninvolved parents are indifferent to their children’s lives.

Parenting styles
©️ drobotdean / Freepik

Uninvolved parents may be unintentionally neglectful due to various reasons, such as their own upbringing, overwhelming personal problems, or being caught up in busy lives. This parenting style can have detrimental effects on children. It can lead to deficits in cognition, attachment, and socioemotional skills. Children may struggle with anxiety, emotional withdrawal, and fear of dependency. Moreover, an increased risk of substance abuse, and delinquency during adolescence may be present.

Coping with an uninvolved parenting style involves learning more about effective parenting through reading. Parents should take parenting classes and also consider therapy. If you were raised by uninvolved parents, seeking professional help and reparenting yourself can contribute to the healing process. This can result in healthier attachment with your children.

Once again, we encourage parents to continue their journey of self-development and healing. Also, we advise you to be actively involved in your children’s lives.

From the way your life is going, by which parenting style do you think you were raised? We would love to know!

You might also want to read: A Full Guide on Parenting in the Digital Age

Albulena Murturi

An enthusiastic learner rediscovering the joy of writing.