Parenting can be a challenging and rewarding experience for parents and kids alike. When you find yourself in a parenting role, it is important to consider that with all the parenting instruction and classes available—there are four primary models or styles: Permissive/Indulgent, Authoritative, Uninvolved, and Authoritarian — each with different outcomes on the child’s psychosocial development. A good parenting model can help you feel confident about your choices as your child learns and grows and moves through developmental milestones. If you question what the research says and and want to consider the limitations of the research and how your might choose for yourself, read on!
The Authoritarian model in the lower right quadrant of the graphic provides clear expectations, rules, and boundaries and sets high expectations for the child using punishment to motivate the desired behavior. A strength of the authoritarian model is that the parent has a sense of control; however, the model does not prioritize relationship with child which is a serious weakness that often leads to resentment and rebellion. Parents who build a positive, ongoing relationship with the child are making important investments in their child’s long-term mental health.
The Uninvolved model (bottom left in the graphic) provides freedom of choice for the child without much structure for behavioral expectations or support for relationship. The “freedom” in this model is more of a weakness than a strength in this “whatever” approach. It is far too easy to unintentionally drift into this style when parents face competing priorities related to work, school, their partner, other kids, health problems, and/or responsibilities for other family members, or when addictions are present. When parents lead well, most children will try to rise to the occasion and want to please their parent.
The Permissive/Indulgent model at the top left is accepting of the child while providing few rules and little structure often with the idea that relationship with the child is most important. The strength of this model is that it recognizes the importance of relationship between parent and child. One of the biggest challenges with this model, is that it provides such little guidance and direction that the child often does not get a clear picture of behaviors that are desired or acceptable — either because the standard isn’t communicated, or because it shifts and this can lead to a lot of confusion for the child about cause and effect. A possible negative outcome of this model, is a child (and later an adult) who does not recognize that his or her choices carry both benefits and consequences for the child that also impact other people.
The Authoritative model at the top right in the graphic is a democratic model that, like the Authoritarian model it’s often confused with, provides both high expectations and standards for the child in the context of relationship where there is open discussion and flexibility. The Authoritative model requires the parent to set and share clear, developmentally appropriate expectations for the child while remaining flexible and open to change as the child develops, learns, and responds to parent expectations. The Authoritative model has been correlated with higher self-esteem (Pinquart & Gerke, 2019) and academic achievement (Pinquart, 2016), increased life satisfaction, and decreased incidence of depression (Gherasim, Brumariu, & Alim, 2017) and offers a flexible framework for parents to foster the development of new competencies and strengths in the child.
Drawing upon Baumrind’s work in the 1960s and 1970s, Bornstein & Bornstein (2014, p. 2) stated, “although authoritarian and permissive parenting styles appear to represent opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, neither style has been linked to positive outcomes, presumably because both minimize opportunities for children to learn to cope with stress. Too much control and demandingness may limit children’s opportunities to make decisions for themselves or to make their needs known to their parents, while children in the permissive/indulgent households may lack the direction and guidance necessary to develop morals and goals.”
Research always has limitations, and one that it really important is that culture can play an important role in choosing and applying a parenting model. For example, does your dominant culture place more value on the individual or do you live in a collectivist culture that prioritizes the importance of the family? Western cultures tend to be more individualistic, but do not represent the experiences of all people. In addition, every child and parent is different and some have special needs that are important to consider. For the benefit of yourself as a parent, your child, and the whole family it’s important to adopt and apply a parenting style that allows you to lead with confidence, expect good outcomes, and honor your culture.
We’re here to support you in your role as parent whether it’s working with you individually, with your partner—who may have an entirely different experience or set of expectations—or with your child, and/or as a family unit. Give us a call and schedule an appointment!
Bornstein, L., & Bornstein, M. H. (2014). Parenting Styles and Child Social Development. In Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development(pp. 1–3). Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Development.
Gherasim, L. R., Brumariu, L. E., & Alim, C. L. (2017). Parenting Style and Children ’ s Life Satisfaction and Depressive Symptoms : Preliminary Findings. Journal of Happiness Studies, (18), 1013–1028. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9754-9
Pinquart, M. (2016). Associations of Parenting Styles and Dimensions with Academic Achievement in Children and Adolescents : A Meta-analysis, 475–493. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9338-y
Pinquart, M., & Gerke, D.-C. (2019). Associations of Parenting Styles with Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis.Journal of Child & Family Studies, 28(8), 2017–2035. Retrieved from http://10.0.3.239/s10826-019-01417-5