What you need to know about the 4 parenting styles.
“What does the research say about parenting styles?”
To answer this question, we are going to look at four parenting styles that have been explored in psychological research for decades. Even though these four styles have been researched mostly in the parent-child relationship, the conclusions can be used to understand best communication styles in any adult-child relationship (whether you are an aunt/ uncle/ grandparent/ babysitter/ educator/ professional).
The four styles of parenting (as seen in the research) are labelled as: Authoritarian, Permissive, Neglectful, and Authoritative. These are simply the labels that have been put on by researchers. These labels are here to help us differentiate between different styles of parenting, and the outcomes associated with each style.
Now let’s dig into the research.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian parents are known for showing high levels of discipline and control with their children and low levels of warmth. These parents place value on keeping children compliant to rules, emphasizing respect, and ensuring that the child knows that the parent is in control. When children misbehave authoritarian parents tend to enforce ‘good behaviour’ through the use of threats, harsh punishments, and control.
These parents do not feel that they have to explain their reasoning for rules to their children, and “because I said so” is a common response when questioned. Finally, authoritarian parents often favour using measures to discipline their children such as spanking, yelling, threatening, and psychological control.
Outcomes for Children with Authoritarian Parents
Although it is a commonly held belief by authoritarian parents that the use of harsh disciplinary measures (such as spanking, yelling, and threats) are effective in increasing positive behaviour, the science does not agree. In a recent meta-analysis of 1400 studies, Martin Pinquart (2017) found that these harsh disciplinary measures along with use of psychological control were actually the biggest predictors for behaviour worsening over time. Although it may seem to parents that these methods are effective as it decreases the behaviour in the moment, over time many studies have shown that the challenging behaviour increases in frequency.
Children that had parents who used authoritarian disciplinary methods, had higher reports of disruptive, aggressive, defiant, and anti-social behaviour later in life. Further, the children in these studies were at a higher risk (compared to children from other parenting styles) for engaging in aggressive behaviour as youth and adults.
Additionally, the research shows that when authoritarian parents get angry at their children for low academic performance, the child will continue to perform low on problem solving tasks. Research has shown parental anger and shaming as contributing factors to low academic performance.
Permissive Parenting Style
These parents are very loving and show high levels of warmth to their children. However, unlike authoritarian parents, these parents show very low levels of discipline and control, often letting their children ‘run the show’. A household with permissive parents often is characterized by: lack of routine, no rules or limits for children, and no discipline. These parents tend to allow their child to regulate their own behaviour, viewing discipline as damaging.
Further, these parents do not present themselves as authority figures, and often find themselves bribing or using manipulation to get what they want from their child. They often follow the child’s lead, allowing the child to dictate the parents behaviour.
Outcomes for Children with Permissive Parents
Studies have shown that children of permissive parents often reported high levels of self esteem. However, this research has also shown that individuals who had permissive parents have difficulty following rules, often show a high level of relational problems, and difficulty controlling their impulses later in life. Permissive parenting has also been linked to higher BMI’s and lower rates of activity in children.
A British study that looked at children aged 10-11 found that children of permissive parents watched more TV than children of other parenting styles, averaging at about 4 hours per day of television. Further, other research has shown that children of permissive parents had higher rates of school misconduct and lower levels of academic performance compared to their peers.
Neglectful/Uninvolved Parenting Style
These parents show low levels of warmth and low levels of control. Neglectful parents are uninvolved and uninterested in their child’s life. These parents often have high levels of stress in their own lives limiting their availability for their children.
Outcomes for Children with Neglectful Parents
Studies have indicated that children with neglectful parents often have higher rates of antisocial behaviour. These children often turn to peers for support, and are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Studies have also shown that these children have lower levels of self esteem compared to their peers. Further research has shown that out of all parenting styles, children from uninvolved parents are most likely to end up in juvenile detention centres.
Authoritative / Democratic Parenting
Authoritative parents show high levels of warmth, as well as high levels of control. These parents set firm rules and boundaries, but allow bi-directional conversation with children about why these limits are in place. Authoritative parents spend time with the child doing activities that are important to child. Instead of harsh “in the moment” punishment, these parents choose natural consequences for their children and communicate with children about expectations. These parents have a balance of nurturing, discipline, and respect for their child.
Outcomes for Children with Authoritative/Democratic Parents
Research has shown that children with authoritative parents show the highest levels of academic achievement compared to other parenting styles. Longitudinal studies have also shown lower levels of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and aggression in adults that had parents with this parenting style (in comparison to other parenting styles). Children with authoritative parents had the MOST positive outcomes in ALL areas (including social, academic, and psychological) in comparison with all other parenting styles.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
It is clear to see when looking at the research done on parenting styles – that the outcomes associated with authoritative parenting are most desirable.
Again, it is important to note that styles of parenting are a spectrum – and you do not need to give yourself a definitive label. Instead it is valuable to learn more about the style of parenting that has the outcomes that you would like for your child, and learn how to incorporate these techniques into your parenting/time spent with children!
Further, it is important to note that parenting is only one factor (of MANY) that determines future psychological outcomes. In future blogs we will talk about other pieces of a child’s environment that impact behaviour. (HINT: All aspects of our environment impact our behaviour!)
Stay tuned for a future post where we dig further into authoritative parenting, drawing practical conclusions from the research that can be used in your life.
Comment below what you found most interesting about this post.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Interested in where I found this information? Find the journal articles below:
Baumrind D. 1966. Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.
Baumrind, D. (1991). Parenting styles and adolescent development. In Brooks-Gunn, J., Lerner, R., and Peterson, A. C. (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Adolescence, Garland, New York, pp. 746–758.
Berge J, Sundell K, Öjehagen A, Håkansson A. 2016. Role of parenting styles in adolescent substance use: results from a Swedish longitudinal cohort study. BMJ Open. 6(1):e008979
Calafat A, García F, Juan M, Becoña E, Fernández-Hermida JR. 2014. Which parenting style is more protective against adolescent substance use? Evidence within the European context. Drug Alcohol Depend. 138:185-92.
Glozah FN. 2014. Exploring the Role of Self-Esteem and Parenting Patterns on Alcohol Use and Abuse Among Adolescents. Health Psychol Res. 2(3):1898.
Lamborn SD, Mants NS, Steinberg L, and Dornbusch SM. 1991. Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development 62: 1049-1065.
Jago R, Davison KK, Thompson JL, Page AS, Brockman R, Fox KR. 2011. Parental Sedentary Restriction, Maternal Parenting Style, and Television Viewing Among 10- to 11-Year-Olds. Pediatrics. 2011 Aug 22. [Epub ahead of print]
Rothrauff, T. C., Cooney, T., & Shin An, J. (2009). Remembered Parenting Styles and Adjustment in Middle and Late Adulthood. Journal of Gerontology and Behavioral Psychology, 64(1), 137-146.
Miklikowska, M., & Hurme, H. (2011). Democracy Begins at Home: Democratic parenting and adolescents’ support for democratic values. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 8(5), 541-547.
Newman, K., Harrison, L., Dashiff, C., & Davies, S. (2008). Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 16(1), 142-150.
Spera, C. (2005). A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 125-146. Zeinali A., Sharifi H., Enayati M., Asgari P., Pasha G. (2011). The mediational pathway among parenting styles, attachment styles and self-regulation with addiction susceptibility of adolescents. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 16(9), 1105–1121