Many psychologists believe that there are four main styles of parenting. Each style takes a different approach to childrearing and will affect children in different ways. Some styles of parenting are more likely to lead to low self-esteem, behavioral problems or poor social skills. On the other hand, a healthy parenting style results in a positive parent/child dynamic and more well-adjusted children.
Most people will tell you that they want to be better parents than the ones who raised them. Maybe your parents were too strict and you’ve vowed to give your kids more freedom and flexibility. If your parents failed to provide sufficient structure and routine, it’s natural to want to go to the other end of the extreme with your own kids. Many parents struggle with finding the balance between establishing themselves as an authority figure and giving their children the space to be inquisitive, explore and grow.
Understanding parenting styles can help you to contextualize your childhood and gain a better appreciation of how your parents’ influences may still be affecting you today. If you are a parent yourself (or intend to be), this information can help you to create healthier and more fulfilling relationships with your children.
What are parenting styles?
Clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind theorized that there is a direct correlation between types of parents style and the behavior of children. Parenting styles were put into four main categories, each with its own characteristics and ultimate effect on child development. The four categories (authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved and authoritative) were found to be an excellent indicator of child wellbeing, as well as a predictor of future success, happiness and stability.
Parenting styles have been found to impact everything from self-esteem to physical health to academic performance. Adults who were raised by parents who adopted a healthy parenting style tend to have a more secure attachment style, while displaying better social skills and less likelihood of mental illness.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian parents differ from authoritative parents in their lack of consideration for the feelings and opinions of their children. These parents are commonly referred to as “strict” and usually hold the following views:
- Children should be seen and not heard
- Children should obey me because I say so
- Children should not have too much fun
These parents demand absolute obedience from their children because they believe children should be subservient. They may set very restrictive or unreasonable rules and will implement strict punishments for any indiscretions. A no-nonsense approach often accompanies this parenting style, with lilt patience for silliness or fun.
Though authoritarian parents may intend the best for their children, research shows that there are many drawbacks to this style of parenting. Children of authoritarians generally have an unhappy disposition and are susceptible to clinical depression and anxiety. They may display poor coping skills and may continue to be subservient in adulthood since they were discouraged from asserting independence as children.
Permissive Parenting Style
People using the permissive parenting style are likely to take on more of a friend role than that of a parent. They do not implement enough (or any) structure or discipline and tend to overlook behavioral problems. Due to consistent leniency, permissive parents do not establish themselves as an authority figure and may not gain the respect of their children.
Children of permissive or indulgent parents are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems and to lack regard for rules and authority in general. They are at a higher risk for developing health problems such as diabetes or obesity because permissive parents do not adequately limit intake of junk food and candy. They are also more likely to have dental cavities or poor oral health because the parent does not enforce good habits and routines.
Uninvolved Parenting Style
The uninvolved or neglectful parent doesn’t devote sufficient (or any) time to meeting the child’s needs. This can be as extreme as neglecting to provide food or clothing, but is more often a failure to meet emotional needs or to have a consistent presence. They are also largely uninvolved in the daily lives of their children and are unlikely to help with homework or support extracurricular activities. Uninvolved parents may often be unaware of their child’s whereabouts and do not know their children’s friends or teachers. Quite often, children of neglectful/uninvolved parents are left to raise themselves.
Parents may be uninvolved for a number of reasons, including a demanding job, financial stresses, mental health issues or substance abuse problems. Children of uninvolved parents often struggle with self-esteem issues and are more likely to get caught up in a bad crowd, to try drugs or to experience teenage parenthood. As adults, they often find it difficult to hold steady employment, find healthy relationships or find financial stability.
Authoritative Parenting Style
The authoritative parenting style is the healthiest style to adopt, as it strikes a balance between compassion and laying down the law. Authoritative parents put a lot of effort into maintaining a positive relationship with their children while providing a structure and discipline. They take care to validate their children’s feelings and take their opinions into consideration. The authoritative parent practices positive discipline by parising good behavior and implementing reward systems.
Research has shown that adult children of authoritative parents are most likely to be well-adjusted, responsible, happy and successful.
Even if you aren’t a parent yourself, this information can be incredibly insightful for those trying to contextualize their own childhood. By working with a therapist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) you can gain a deeper understanding of parenting styles and how they may be influencing your life as an adult. This can be excellent for processing childhood trauma or unlearning any negative core beliefs, habits and mindsets that were projected onto you as a child.
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