Every parent wants to know if they’re doing the best for their child. From the moment their child is born to their first day of school, not a single moment goes by when they aren’t wondering about how best to nurture their child’s growth and development. However, different parents might have different ideas of how best to raise their children, leading to parenting styles that diverge vastly from each other.
This concept was first proposed by Diana Baumrind in 1966, who theorised that three general types of parenting styles, authoritarian, authoritative and permissive parenting, existed. The framework was later expanded on by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, who arranged the different styles into a 2-by-2 matrix and proposed a fourth style, uninvolved parenting.
Parenting styles are judged based on the qualities of demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to the extent to which parents exert control over their child’s behaviour, while responsiveness refers to the degree to which parents are sensitive to their child’s emotional needs.
1. Authoritarian Parenting
“It’s my way or the highway!” an authoritarian parent might declare. These parents tend to exert high levels of control over their children’s behaviour without providing any explanation for their decisions. Authoritarian parents love their children, but they don’t express that love.
Children raised by authoritarian parents are generally obedient as children, but they may grow to resent their parents as time passes. They tend to suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and may face difficulty in making decisions for themselves as adults.
You might be an authoritarian parent if you:
- Scold your child more often than you praise or compliment them
- Set strict household rules without taking your child’s opinions into account
- Punish your child when they do something wrong without listening to their side of the story or explaining your reasoning
- Value your child’s obedience above all else
2. Permissive Parenting
Say that your child’s teacher called to report that your child is misbehaving in school. Perhaps they punched a classmate or haven’t been handing their homework in on time. When faced with such a situation, permissive parents might shrug and say, “Kids will be kids.”
Permissive parents typically do not make many demands of their children and do not provide much in terms of rules, schedules or structure. Due to this, children of permissive parents are likely to misbehave or act out.
Children of permissive parents tend to under-perform in school, as their parents’ expectations are too low, leaving them with relatively lower goalposts to strive towards. The lack of structure in their home lives may also cause them to lack self-discipline, causing them to make poor decisions and face issues with managing their time. They also do not gain much in terms of emotional management skills, which may cause them to become more aggressive when dealing with emotionally difficult situations.
You might be a permissive parent if you:
- Are emotionally supportive and loving towards your child
- Have few household rules for your child
- Do not consistently enforce rules for your child
- Always take your child’s side, regardless of who is at fault
- Take your child’s opinion into account when making major decisions
- Seem more like a friend than a parent
3. Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parents are strict, but fair. They are more likely to explain their decisions to their child and negotiate with them.
Children of authoritative parents tend to be self-reliant and happier in general. They tend to cope better with stress due to having good emotional management and social skills and tend to be confident in their abilities.
You might be an authoritative parent if you:
- Encourage your children to express their views at home
- Listen to your children’s opinions
- Practice what you preach
- Consistently enforce the rules you set for your children
- Carry out fair punishments when your children do something wrong, while providing them with ample feedback and support to understand their mistakes
4. Uninvolved Parenting
Uninvolved parents exert the lowest amount of influence over their children’s lives. Unlike permissive parents, they are often emotionally distant from their children and do not show them much warmth or affection.
Children of uninvolved parents learn to rely on themselves at an early age, but this independence comes at a cost. The lack of emotional responsiveness from their parents early in life may cause them to face difficulty in forming attachments or relationships in their later years. They are likely to face self-esteem issues and struggle in school.
You might be an uninvolved parent if you:
- Do not emotionally engage with your child
- Show little warmth, love or affection towards your child
- Show little interest in your child’s life
Effect on Children’s Health
The impact your parenting has on your child’s mental well-being is obvious. But did you know that it can impact their physical health as well?
Researchers found in a 2015 Canadian study that children of authoritarian parents faced higher risks of childhood obesity. Similarly, a study conducted in 2017 found that these children of permissive parents are more likely than their peers to have weakened immune systems due to being exposed to chronic stress. Furthermore, as our minds and bodies are so intrinsically interlinked, the emotional and mental stress that a child faces will naturally have a toll on their physical health.
Which of the four parenting styles, then, is the best for your child’s development?
As with all things in life, moderation is key. It’s best to strike a balance with an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting creates an environment of trust which lets your child know that it’s okay to talk about their concerns with you. As an authoritative parent, you are likely to come off as being reasonable and fair, which increases the probability of your child listening to your advice. Your child will be able to understand why the rules exist and develop a strong sense of right and wrong. Unlike permissive parenting, authoritative parenting also provides your child with the structure they need to equip them with the skills they need to manage their time and emotions later in life.
The social standard for what constitutes good parenting may fluctuate as societal norms change, but most research agrees that children reap the most benefits from authoritative approaches to parenting. Even if your natural parenting style tends towards one of the other categories, you can still adopt a more authoritative style by being more mindful of the way you interact with your child.
American Psychological Association. Parenting Styles. 2018. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <http://www.apa.org/act/resources/fact-sheets/parenting-styles.aspx>.
Cherry, Kendra. 8 Characteristics of Authoritarian Parenting. 15 June 2018. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-authoritarian-parenting-2794955>.
Cherry, Kendra. Understanding and Identifying Authoritative Parents. 21 June 2018. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-authoritative-parenting-2794956>.
Cherry, Kendra. Uninvolved Parenting. 9 June 2018. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-uninvolved-parenting-2794958>.
Cherry, Kendra. What is Permissive Parenting. 21 June 2018. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-permissive-parenting-2794957>.
DevPsy.org. “Diana Baumrind’s (1966) Prototypical Descriptions of 3 Parenting Styles.” n.d. Developmental Psychology. Electronic. 11 July 2018. <http://www.devpsy.org/teaching/parent/baumrind_parenting_styles.pdf>.
Patrick, Heather, et al. “Parenting Styles and Practices.” Childhood Obesity 9.1 (2013): 73-86. Electronic. <https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/chi.2013.0039>.
Rhee, Kyung E., et al. “Parenting Styles and Overweight Status in First Grade.” Pediatrics 117.6 (2006): 2047-2054. <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/6/2047>.
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