Parenting styles represent specific ways in which parents tend to express their love and concern for their children, regulate their behavior, as well as establish discipline and boundaries. Different parenting styles affect children’s personality development in a variety of ways. Their self-esteem, communication skills, social competences, and mental health are highly dependent on the type of interaction that exists between parents and children (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2013). There are four main styles of parenting: authoritative, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritarian styles. Some of them are considered to be more successful than the others because they result in better developmental outcomes. This paper presents the examination of these parenting styles and discusses the effects different approaches can have on a child’s development.
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Authoritative Parenting Style
Authoritative parenting style is an approach that is often considered to be “democratic” and can be characterized by parents’ responsiveness, sensitivity, and warmth. While authoritative parents tend to set strict limits and high demands for their children, they also focus on positive and productive communication, giving reasons for why they expect their children to behave in certain ways. Although these demands may seem high or difficult to satisfy, they are usually reasonable, because authoritative parents explain the benefits of the favorable behaviors and support their children in achieving those goals. Other characteristics of this parenting style include encouraging children to express and discuss their opinions, explaining the consequences of their actions, and fostering responsibility and independence.
Authoritative parents do not simply criticize or blame their children for mistakes and bad behavior; they negotiate and try to find ways to improve the situation or minimize its negative outcomes. They involve their children into the processes of problem solution, which allows the latter to know that their opinions matter, and makes them feel in charge of their own decisions. Even if circumstances change, and the goals set previously cannot be attained due to extenuating factors, authoritative parents are usually ready to adjust their demands and adapt new strategies. They are accepting, flexible, and always willing to reevaluate certain priorities and approaches according to their children’s needs and goals.
This approach is mostly common in families with educated, middle class parents and is associated with children showing superior outcomes later in life. Studies have demonstrated that children raised by authoritative parents tend to be happier and more successful (Lavrič & Naterer, 2020). The overall life satisfaction was shown to be highly correlated with authoritative parenting style, while the lack of it was considered to be the most influential factor in lower life satisfaction among adolescents and young adults.
Permissive Parenting Style
In contrast to authoritative parenting, this approach does not involve strong control of or engagement in children’s lives. Permissive parents express warmth and responsiveness, but their interaction with their children resembles equal relationship with a friend rather than a parent-child one. This is due to the fact that permissive parents are much less controlling and demanding than authoritative parents. They do not set boundaries or expectations; instead, they use bribery to make a child behave. Because of their parents’ high responsiveness and the lack of discipline, children often become impulsive, arrogant, and aggressive; they may even display symptoms of anxiety and depression. Young adults raised by permissive parents may seem to be independent due to the lack of control or guidance in their upbringing. However, in reality they are often selfish, demanding, and have a problematic high self-esteem: they tend to overestimate their abilities because they were rarely criticized or guided by their parents.
Permissive parenting can affect children’s future in a number of ways. Studies have shown that young adults raised by permissive parents demonstrate low achievement and life satisfaction in relation to many aspects of their lives (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2013). Because their parents set little to no expectations and often provided unconditional praise, children failed to learn to set higher goals, meet requirements, and strive for success. In addition, children raised in a permissive environment do not normally manage to make good decisions or solve problems. Studies have also found that such children are more prone to misconduct or alcohol and substance use than others (Kösterelioğlu, 2018). This may be explained by the fact that their parents put greater emphasis on their freedom, neglecting the obligations and responsibilities. As a result, children fail to develop self-control and willpower.
Uninvolved Parenting Style
While permissive parents are not strict or demanding, they still appear to be interested in their children, demonstrate affection and care. Uninvolved parents, however, tend to be indifferent to their children, set no rules, and make few demands which do not aim at improving the children’s self-regulation or any other personal and social skills. This is why uninvolved parenting style is also referred to as neglectful parenting. Children are often subjected to physical abuse by neglectful parents. Children’s needs for affection, attention, and guidance constantly remain unmet, which can lead to them suffering from anxiety and depression due to the lack of support. Other outcomes of uninvolved parenting include the lack of motivation, increased risks of exhibiting delinquency, and being prone to substance abuse. Uninvolved parents may not provide sufficient help and emotional support to their children even in the most serious situations, like a child falling victim to crime related activities or drug addiction. This is why uninvolved parenting is considered to be the most harmful parenting style.
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Uninvolved parenting is characteristic for dysfunctional families with parents who may not even realize the magnitude of the problem. This is often a consequence of parents having serious personal issues of their own. These may include mental health problems, a family history of alcohol or substance abuse, and parents having similar upbringing in the atmosphere of neglect or violence. Studies show that young adults raised by uninvolved parents are more likely to use the same approach with their own children (Kösterelioğlu, 2018). Moreover, they are more likely to choose a partner with a predisposition to similar behaviors.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian, or Guided parenting style is considered to be the most controlling parenting style. It is an approach in which parents set high demands and requirements without providing affection, warmth, or sufficient guidance. They tend to only give orders and do not present any reasons for their requests. Such parents believe that they have unquestionable authority to tell their children what to do without explaining or justifying any of the orders. They expect children to obey the strict rules and directions, and rarely express praise or heartfelt support. Instead, they regulate children’s behaviors by providing feedback through shame and punishments for bad behavior or breaking the rules.
There may be some similarities observed between this parenting style and the authoritative approach. While this style is similar to authoritative parenting in the way it “reflects efforts to direct children’s behaviour”, these two styles still differ significantly (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2013, p. 92). Authoritative parents communicate with their children, guiding them with warmth and affection (Lavrič & Naterer, 2020). Authoritarian parents, on the other hand, are almost never flexible or agreeable. Because of this strict upbringing, children raised by authoritarian parents often become “withdrawn, mistrusting, and unhappy; they are apt to have low self-esteem, little self-reliance, and poor social skills” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2013, p. 92). These children tend to be more aggressive towards people and fail to develop a strong sense of autonomy. However, the outcomes are not exclusively negative. Authoritarian style can also sometimes be associated with successful developmental outcomes. However, it can bring the most positive results when it is combined with the elements of authoritative parenting.
This research has examined the differences between four main approaches to parenting: authoritative, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritarian styles. Authoritative parenting focuses on regulating children’s behaviors through warm, rational, and responsive communication, emotional engagement, and setting reasonable demands. Permissive parenting, in turn, does not involve high expectations or challenging requirements, but parents who use this approach still show affection and care for their children. Uninvolved parenting, on the other hand, does not involve caring attitudes to children or encouraging them to follow any rules. Uninvolved parents tend to care about themselves and neglect their children’s needs for support and attention. Finally, authoritarian parenting is based on the power of authority that parents claim. Authoritarian parents are not usually affectionate and use punishment to control their children. It can be suggested that the most effective approach is the authoritative parenting style, as it combines all the practices that parents can use to ensure successful development of their children.
Kösterelioğlu, İ. (2018). Effects of parenting style on students’ achievement goal orientation: A study on high school students. Educational Policy Analysis and Strategic Research, 13(4), 91-107.
Lavrič, M., & Naterer, A. (2020). The power of authoritative parenting: A cross-national study of effects of exposure to different parenting styles on life satisfaction. Children and Youth Services Review, 116, 105274.
McDevitt, T. M., & Ormrod, J. E. (2013). Child development and education: Pearson new international edition. Pearson Higher Ed.