by Christina DiMartino
There is no single definition of the perfect parenting style. What is right for one family or child may not be good for another. But there are opposite sides of the spectrum, and the style that you use likely depends on several factors, including these:
In 1967, Diana Baumrind, clinical and developmental psychologist at the Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley, published Genetic Psychology Monographs. In 1983, a fourth parenting style was suggested by psychologists, E. E. Maccoby and J.A. Martin in “Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-Child Interaction,” published in the Handbook of Child Psychology.
Today, these four styles, combined from the pioneering studies, are considered the primary parenting styles by child experts:
These parenting styles are meant to describe normal variations in parenting, not abnormal parenting such as what might occur in abusive homes.
But few parents fit into any one of the categories completely. As parenting situations unfold, you may find yourself swinging from being indulgent to authoritarian, depending on the circumstances and your child’s welfare.
Baumrind’s theory was that parents should be neither strict disciplinarians nor should they be detached. Rather, they should develop rules for their children and be affectionate with them at the same time.
Authoritarian, or strict parenting, is demanding but not responsive. This category 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 disciplinary style in which parents insist the child to follow their directions. Authoritarian parents expect much of their child but generally do not explain the reasoning for the rules or boundaries. These parents are less responsive to their children’s needs, and 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 children what to do instead of allowing children to choose on his own. If demands are pushed too forcefully, a child will break down, rebel or run away.
However, in some cultures and ethnic groups, such as traditional Asian child-rearing practices, the result of authoritarian style of parenting can be positive.
Also called balanced parenting, authoritative parenting is 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.
Authoritative parenting is believed to result in children who have high self esteem. They are more independent because of the democratic give-and-take nature of the parenting style.
This is the most recommended style of parenting by child-rearing experts
Indulgent parenting, also called permissive or lenient, is characterized as having few behavioral expectations for the child. These parents are very involved with their children, but place few demands or controls on them. Parents are nurturing and accepting, and very responsive to the child’s needs and wishes, but indulgent parents do not require their children to regulate themselves or behave appropriately.
Indulgent parenting may result in creating spoiled children who are disrespectful and demanding, always expecting to get their way. Children of permissive parents may tend to be more impulsive, and as adolescents, may engage more in misconduct, such as drug use.
In better cases, these children mature quickly and are independent and willing to learn and accept defeat.
These parents are neither demanding nor responsive. They are uninvolved, detached or dismissive. Parents are low in warmth and control, and generally not involved in their child’s life. 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, such as food and housing.
Children whose parents are neglectful develop the sense that aspects of the parents’ lives are more important than they are. Many of these children attempt to provide for themselves or stop depending on the parent early in life, resulting in a feeling of being independent and mature beyond their years. Children of neglectful parents often display contradictory behavior, and are emotionally withdrawn from social situations. This also impacts their relationships later on in life. In adolescence, they may show patterns of truancy and delinquency.
Christina DiMartino has been a freelance and assignment writer since 1985. She is a researcher, interviewer, writer, editor, and manuscript collaborator with a repertoire of clients from around the world.