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Parenting Styles

A parenting style is a psychological construct representing standard strategies that parents use in their child rearing. There are many differing theories and opinions on the best ways to rear children, as well as differing levels of time and effort that parents are willing to invest.

Many parents create their own style from a combination of factors, and these may evolve over time as the children develop their own personalities and move through life's stages. Parenting style is affected by both the parents' and children's temperaments, and is largely based on the influence of one’s own parents and culture. "Most parents learn parenting practices from their own parents — some they accept, some they discard." The degree to which a child's education is part of parenting is a further matter of debate.

Parenting Styles

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Parenting Young Children
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Handling your child 's Temper Tantrums

Theories of child rearing

One of the best known theories of parenting style was developed by Diana Baumrind. She proposed that parents fall into one of three categories: authoritarian (telling their children exactly what to do), indulgent (allowing their children to do whatever they wish), or authoritative (providing rules and guidance without being overbearing). The theory was later extended to include negligent parents (disregarding the children, and focusing on other interests).
A number of ethical parenting styles have been proposed, some based on the authoritarian model of strict obedience to scriptural law (for example in the Bible), and others based on empathy with the emotional state of a child.

The intensity of parental involvement remains a matter of debate. At opposite extremes are Slow parenting in which parents stand back, merely supporting their children in doing what they want to do as independent individuals (but guiding them when the children are not developing healthy attitudes), versus Concerted cultivation in which children are driven to attend a maximum number of lessons and organized activities, each designed to teach them a valuable skill which the parent has decided for them.

Beginning in the 17th century, two philosophers independently wrote works that have been widely influential in child rearing. John Locke's 1693 book Some Thoughts Concerning Education is a well known foundation for educational pedagogy from a Puritan standpoint. Locke highlights the importance of experiences to a child's development, and recommends developing their physical habits first. In 1762, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau published a volume on education, Emile: or, On Education. He proposed that early education should be derived less from books and more from a child's interactions with the world. Of these, Rousseau is more consistent with slow parenting, and Locke is more for concerted cultivation.

Other theorists, mainly from the twentieth century, have focused on how children develop and have had a significant impact on childhood education and how parents rear their children.

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development describes how children represent and reason about the world. This is a developmental stage theory that consists of a Sensorimotor stage, Preoperational stage, Concrete operational stage, and Formal operational stage. Piaget was a pioneer in the field of child development and continues to influence parents, educators and other theorists.

Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, proposed eight life stages through which each person must develop. In each stage, they must understand and balance two conflicting forces, and so parents might choose a series of parenting styles that helps each child as appropriate at each stage. The first five of his eight stages occur in childhood: The virtue of hope requires balancing trust with mistrust, and typically occurs from birth to one year old. Will balances autonomy with shame and doubt around the ages of two to three. Purpose balances initiative with guilt around the ages of four to six years. Competence balances industry against inferiority around ages seven to 12. Fidelity contrasts identity with role confusion, in ages 13 to 19. The remaining adult virtues are love, care and wisdom.

Rudolf Dreikurs believed that pre-adolescent children's misbehaviour was caused by their unfulfilled wish to be a member of a social group. He argued that they then act out a sequence of four mistaken goals: first they seek attention. If they do not get it, they aim for power, then revenge and finally feel inadequate. This theory is used in education as well as parenting, forming a valuable theory upon which to manage misbehaviour. Other parenting techniques should also be used to encourage learning and happiness.

Frank Furedi is a sociologist with a particular interest in parenting and families. He believes that the actions of parents are less decisive than others claim. He describes the term infant determinism, as the determination of a person's life prospects by what happens to them during infancy, arguing that there is little or no evidence for its truth. While other commercial, governmental and other interests constantly try to guide parents to do more and worry more for their children, he believes that children are capable of developing well in almost any circumstances. Furedi quotes Steve Petersen of Washington University: "development really wants to happen. It takes very impoverished environments to interfere with development ... [just] don't raise your child in a closet, starve them, or hit them on the head with a frying pan." Similarly, the journalist Tim Gill has expressed concern about excessive risk aversion by parents and those responsible for children in his book No Fear. This aversion limits the opportunities for children to develop sufficient adult skills, particularly in dealing with risk, but also in performing adventurous and imaginative activities.

Hillary Clinton, former First Lady of the United States, later U.S. Senator, and current Secretary of State said that "Children are not rugged individualists", continuing with "everywhere we look, children are under assault: from violence and neglect, from the break-up of families, from the temptation of alcohol, tobacco, sex and drug abuse, from greed, materialism and spiritual emptiness". She endorsed infant determinism (the idea that a person's life is determined by events during the first three years of their life, and therefore that parents must tread very carefully) at the White House Conference on Early Childhood Development in April 1997, but without scientific evidence.

In 1998, independent scholar Judith Rich Harris published The Nurture Assumption, in which she argued that scientific evidence especially behavioral genetics showed that all different forms of parenting do not have significant effects on children's development, short of cases of severe abuse or neglect. The purported effects of different forms of parenting are all illusions caused by heredity, the culture at large, and children's own influence on how their parents treat them.

Baumrind's four general parenting styles

In her research, Diana Baumrind found what she considered to be the four basic elements that could help shape successful parenting: responsiveness vs. unresponsiveness and demanding vs. undemanding. From these, she identified three general parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Maccoby and Martin expanded the styles to four: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent and neglectful. These four styles of parenting involve combinations of acceptance and responsiveness on the one hand and demand and control on the other.
Demanding Undemanding
Responsive Authoritative/Propagative I Indulgent/Freeranger
Unresponsive  Authoritarian/Totalitarian Neglectful

Baumrind believed that parents should be neither punitive nor aloof. Rather, they should develop rules for their children and be affectionate with them. These parenting styles are meant to describe normal variations in parenting, not deviant parenting, such as might be observed in abusive homes.[14] Most parents do not fall neatly in one category, but fall somewhere in the middle, showing characteristics of more than one style.

Authoritative parenting

The parent is demanding and responsive. Elaborate becomes propagative parenting.

Authoritative parenting, also called 'assertive democratic'or 'balanced' parenting, is characterized by a child-centered approach that holds high expectations of maturity. Authoritative parents can understand their children’s feelings and teach them how to regulate them. They often help them to find appropriate outlets to solve problems. "Authoritative parenting encourages children to be independent but still places limits and controls on their actions." "Extensive verbal give-and-take is allowed, and parents are warm and nurturant toward the child." Authoritative parents are not usually as controlling, allowing the child to explore more freely, thus having them make their own decisions based upon their own reasoning.

Authoritative parents set limits and demand maturity, but when punishing a child, the parent will explain his or her motive for their punishment. "Their punishments are measured and consistent in discipline, not harsh or arbitrary. Parents will set clear standards for their children, monitor limits that they set, and also allow children to develop autonomy. They also expect mature, independent, and age-appropriate behavior of children." They are attentive to their children’s needs and concerns, and will typically forgive and teach instead of punishing if a child falls short. This is supposed to result in children having a higher self esteem and independence because of the democratic give-take nature of the authoritative parenting style. This is the most recommended style of parenting by child-rearing experts.

Authoritarian parenting
The parent is demanding but not responsive. Elaborate becomes totalitarian parenting.
Authoritarian parenting, also called strict, is characterized by high expectations of conformity and compliance to parental rules and directions, while allowing little open dialogue between parent and child. "Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive style in which parents exhort the child to follow their directions and to respect their work and effort." Authoritarian parents expect much of their child but generally do not explain the reasoning for the rules or boundaries. Authoritarian parents are less responsive to their children’s needs, and are more likely to spank a child rather than discuss the problem.
Children with this type of parenting may have less social competence as the parent generally tells the child what to do instead of allowing the child to choose by him or herself. Nonetheless, researchers have found that in some cultures and ethnic groups, aspects of authoritarian style may be associated with more positive child outcomes than Baumrind expects. "Aspects of traditional Asian child-rearing practices are often continued by Asian American families. In some cases, these practices have been described as authoritarian." If the demands are pushed too forcefully upon the child, the child will break down, rebel, or run away.

Indulgent parenting
The parent is responsive but not demanding. Elaborate becomes free ranger parenting.

Indulgent parenting, also called permissive, nondirective or lenient, is characterized as having few behavioral expectations for the child. "Indulgent parenting is a style of parenting in which parents are very involved with their children but place few demands or controls on them." Parents are nurturing and accepting, and are very responsive to the child's needs and wishes. Indulgent parents do not require children to regulate themselves or behave appropriately. This may result in creating spoiled brats or "spoiled sweet" children depending on the behavior of the children.

From a recent study,
• The teens least prone to heavy drinking had parents who scored high on both accountability and warmth.

• So-called 'indulgent' parents, those low on accountability and high on warmth, nearly tripled the risk of their teen participating in heavy drinking.

• 'Strict parents' – high on accountability and low on warmth – more than doubled their teen’s risk of heavy drinking.

Children of permissive parents may tend to be more impulsive, and as adolescents, may engage more in misconduct, and in drug use. "Children never learn to control their own behavior and always expect to get their way." But in the better cases they are emotionally secure, independent and are willing to learn and accept defeat. They mature quickly and are able to live life without the help of someone else. But as previously noted, the usefulness of these data are limited, as they are only co-relational and can not rule out effects such as heredity (permissive parents and their children share hands-off personalities and are likely to be less driven as their authoritarian counterparts), child-to-parent effects (unfocused and unmanageable children might discourage their parents from trying too hard), and local shared cultural values (that may not emphasize achievement).

Neglectful parenting

The parent is neither demanding nor responsive and not even be elaborate. Neglectful parenting is also called uninvolved, detached, dismissive or hands-off. The parents are low in warmth and control, are generally not involved in their child's life, are disengaged, undemanding, low in responsiveness, and do not set limits. Neglectful parenting can also mean dismissing the children's emotions and opinions. Parents are emotionally unsupportive of their children, but will still provide their basic needs. Provide basic needs meaning: food, housing, and toiletries or money for the pre-mentioned.

Children whose parents are neglectful develop the sense that other aspects of the parents’ lives are more important than they are. Many children of this parenting style often attempt to provide for themselves or halt depending on the parent to get a feeling of being independent and mature beyond their years. Parents, and thus their children, often display contradictory behavior. Children become emotionally withdrawn from social situations. This disturbed attachment also impacts relationships later on in life. In adolescence, they may show patterns of truancy and delinquency.

Other parenting styles

What may be right for one family or one child may not be suitable for another. With authoritarian and permissive (indulgent) parenting on opposite sides of the spectrum, most conventional and modern models of parenting fall somewhere in between. The model or style that parents employ depends partly on how they themselves were reared, what they consider good parenting, the child's temperament, their current environmental situation, and whether they place more importance on their own needs or whether they are striving to further their child's future success. Parents who place greater importance on the child's physical security may be more authoritarian, while parents who are more concerned with intellectual development may push their children into a number of organized extra-curricular activities such as music and language lessons.

One of the biggest effects on parenting is socio-economic status, in reference with ethnicity and culture as well. For example, living in a dangerous neighborhood could make a parent more authoritarian due to fear of their environment. Parents who are more highly educated tend to have better jobs and better financial security, and this reduction of potential stressors has a significant effect on parenting.

  • Attachment parenting – Seeks to create strong emotional bonds, avoiding physical punishment and accomplishing discipline through interactions recognizing a child's emotional needs all while focusing on holistic understanding of the child.

  • Christian parenting – The application of biblical principles on parenting, mainly in the United States. While some Christian parents follow a stricter and more authoritarian interpretation of the Bible, others are "grace-based" and share methods advocated in the attachment parenting and positive parenting theories. Particularly influential on opposite sides have been James Dobson and his book Dare to Discipline, and William Sears who has written several parenting books including The Complete Book of Christian Parenting & Child Care and The Discipline Book.

  • Emotion coaching – This style of parenting lays out a loving, nurturing path for raising happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved children. It’s called emotion coaching and it feels good to parents and kids alike. Emotion coaching helps teach your child how to recognize and express the way he is feeling in an appropriate way.

  • Concerted cultivation – A style of parenting that is marked by the parents' attempts to foster their child's talents through organized leisure activities. This parenting style is commonly exhibited in middle and upper class American families.

  • Overparenting – Parents who try to involve themselves in every aspect of their child's life, often attempting to solve all their problems. A helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her children's experiences and problems, and attempts to sweep all obstacles out of their paths, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover closely overhead. It is a form of overparenting.

  • Nurturant parenting – A family model where children are expected to explore their surroundings with protection from their parents.

  • Slow parenting – Encourages parents to plan and organize less for their children, instead allowing them to enjoy their childhood and explore the world at their own pace.

  • Strict parenting – An authoritarian approach, places a strong value on discipline and following inflexible rules as a means to survive and thrive in a harsh world.

  • Parenting For Everyone – A parenting book and one individual's philosophy that discusses parenting from an ethical point of view.

  • Taking Children Seriously – The central idea of this movement is that it is possible and desirable to raise and educate children without doing anything to them against their will, or making them do anything against their will.

Dysfunctional parenting styles
  • Using (destructively narcissistic parents with rule by fear and conditional love)
  • Abusing (parents who use physical violence, emotional or sexual abuse to dominate or take advantage of their children)
  • Deprivation (control or neglect by withholding love, support, sympathy, praise, attention, encouragement, supervision, or otherwise putting their children's well-being at risk)
  • Asymmetrical parenting (going to extremes for one child while continually ignoring the needs of another)
  • Perfectionist (fixating on order, prestige, power, and/or perfect appearances)
  • Dogmatic or cult-like (harsh and inflexible discipline with children not allowed, within reason, to dissent, question authority, or develop their own value system)
  • Appeasement (parents who reward bad behavior—even by their own standards, and inevitably punish another child's good behavior in order to maintain the peace and avoid temper tantrums "Peace at any price")
  • Micromanagement (parents who micro-manage their children's lives and/or relationships among siblings—especially minor conflicts)
  • "The deceivers" (well-regarded parents in the community, likely to be involved in some charitable/non-profit works, who abuse or mistreat one or more of their children)

  • "Public image manager" (sometimes related to above, children warned to not disclose what fights, abuse, or damage happens at home, or face severe punishment "Don't tell anyone what goes on in this family")
  • Role reversal (parents who expect their minor children to take care of them instead)

  • "Not your business" (children continuously told that a particular brother or sister who is often causing problems is none of their concern)

  • "The guard dog" (a parent who blindly attacks family members perceived as causing the slightest upset to their esteemed spouse, partner, or child)

  • "My baby forever" (a mother who will not allow one or more of her young children to grow up and begin taking care of themselves)

  • "Along for the ride" (a reluctant de facto, step, foster, or adoptive parent who does not truly care about their non-biological child, but must co-exist in the same home for the sake of their spouse or partner)

  • "The politician" (a parent who repeatedly makes or agrees to children's promises while having little or no intention of keeping them)

  • "It's taboo" (parents rebuff any questions children may have about sexuality, romance, puberty, certain areas of human anatomy, nudity, etc.)

  • "The identified patient" (one child, usually selected by the mother, who is forced into going to therapy while the family's overall dysfunction is kept hidden)

  • Münchausen syndrome by proxy (a much more extreme situation than above, where the child is intentionally made ill by a parent seeking attention from physicians and other professionals).[26]


Different child-rearing outcomes can be traced to different styles of parenting, but these are effects, rather than causes of factors that lead to the child's outcome, namely genetics and culture. As such successful people are likely to have experienced some forms of parenting more than less successful people because parenting styles are a reflection of the parents' and the child's temperaments (both affected by heredity), and culture. Studying this with any accuracy is very difficult, if not impossible, and trying to simply connect adult or adolescent outcomes to the type of parenting used with them without adjusting for a multitude of other factors will produce misleading or false results.
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