Parenting style is a popular topic, with new advice popping up every day. It’s a hot topic, too, as experts debate the merits of being a “tiger mom” or a “French” one. If you feel lost in this sea of opinions, you’re not alone!
To simplify the topic and help you figure out how you want to parent, we’re heading back to 1966, when psychologist and researcher Diana Baumrind developed a parenting-style framework that has inspired over four decades of research. Her four parenting styles are based on two things: Demandingness (having expectations) and responsiveness (attending to emotional needs).
Four Types of Parents
Here are four parenting styles, based on Baumrind’s framework, along with what the research says about each:
The Neglectful Parent: “My parents aren’t around.”
- Are neither demanding nor responsive.
- Have few behavioral expectations for the child.
- Are emotionally detached.
Not surprisingly, research shows that neglectful parenting is dangerous for a child. A lack of secure attachment, meaningful interactions, structure and stimulation puts him at risk for physical, cognitive, social and emotional issues. Experts urge anyone who thinks they are or know a neglectful parent to seek guidance.
The Authoritarian Parent: “My parents are dictators.”
- Are demanding but not responsive.
- Have high behavioral expectations for the child, including blind obedience to rules.
- Use threats, shaming and punishment (sometimes physical) to control the child’s behavior.
- Make decisions for the child and discourage communication about them.
- Are emotionally detached or distant.
Authoritarian parents may feel that this style is the best way to raise well-behaved, responsible children, but research shows the opposite. Several studies across cultures suggest that children with authoritarian upbringings actually tend to act out (according to psychologists this may be their way of channelling the aggression they feel from their parents). Limited decision-making opportunities is correlated with poor problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Other negative outcomes include lower academic achievement, bullying or being bullied, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
The Permissive Parent: “My parents are my friends and I can do whatever I want.”
- Are responsive but not demanding.
- Have few behavioral expectations for the child. Children are given freedom to make their own decisions about what they do.
- Prefer gift-giving and bribery to discipline, often due to avoidance of confrontation.
- Have high levels of emotional attachment.
Some research suggests that children of permissive parents may have high self-esteem, social skills and resourcefulness. Several other studies, however, show negative outcomes linked to permissive parenting, including increased alcohol use among teenagers, school misconduct, lower academic achievement, obesity (perhaps due to limitless screen time and unmonitored food choices), poor manners and sense of personal responsibility, impulsivity, aggression, anxiety, depression and selfishness.
The Authoritative Parent: “My parents have rules, but I know they love me.”
- Are both demanding and responsive.
- Have high behavioral expectations for the child. Children are expected to follow rules, but the logic behind the rules is explained to them and open communication is encouraged. Children are also allowed to fail, and learn from their mistakes.
- Prefer positive discipline, in which children’s emotional needs are considered and consequences are logical (you hit a child at the park, you must leave the park) rather than punitive (you hit a child at the park, you get a spanking).
- Have high levels of emotional attachment.
Research across cultures has established authoritative parenting as an evidenced-based gold standard linked to several positive outcomes for children, including independence, self-reliance, emotional intelligence, happiness, academic success, good behavior, and less anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
What This Means for You
While Baumrind’s framework gives us a neat and tidy view of four types of parents, in reality you can fall into different categories, even on different days! You may adhere to authoritative parenting practices, for instance, and go through a period when you yell and punish more due to stress or your child going through a tough phase. You may even parent differently if you have children with different temperaments—leaning towards permissive parenting with an easygoing child and authoritarian parenting with a hard-headed one.
The key takeaway is that creating a balance of expectations and love will benefit your child. Head over to this article for more information about the authoritative parenting style.