Parenting Styles: Indifferent, Indulgent, Authoritarian, and Authoritative

Research has shown that parenting plays a significant role in the optimal growth and development of a child. In that regard, the style of parenting adopted determines the quality of parent-child relationship. Studies conducted in the field of developmental studies have shown that parenting style impacts the mood and temperament of children in different ways as they develop from childhood into adulthood. There are four main parenting styles: authoritarian, indulgent, indifferent, and authoritative. This paper will analyze four main styles, namely indifferent, indulgent, authoritarian, and authoritative parenting styles.

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Several studies have been conducted on the influence of these styles on child rearing. This paper will discuss the four parenting styles and provide an in-depth explanation of each, what they consist of, and the positive and negative results that they produce in child rearing. In addition, it will explain the categories of socioeconomic factors that contribute to each one of them and their impact on self-control, self-regulation, and discipline within children. Finally, reasons will be provided for the most beneficial parenting style in child rearing.

Indifferent Parenting Style

This parenting style is also referred to as uninvolved parenting, and it is characterized by a parent’s unavailability, unresponsiveness, and neglect. Parents who adopt this style make few to no demands of their children as they are busy focusing on other matters (Tashjian, 2018). They are dismissive and in extreme cases, they can be completely neglectful. There is little emotional involvement or connection, and children never learn how to relate properly with people (Hoskins, 2014).

Therefore, the emotional needs of the children are unfulfilled. The parents provide for basic needs, even though they are uninvolved in their children’s lives. Indifferent parents are emotionally distant, offer little or no supervision, may avoid their children intentionally, and have few demands for behavior or performance (American Psychological Association, 2018). They do not attend school events, they express little love and affection, and they focus more on their problems than the welfare of their children.

Effects on Children

Children suffer greatly because of their parents’ unavailability, and so, they are compelled to provide for themselves and deal with their emotions without support. They learn independence, and as a result, develop a fear of depending on others (Riggio, 2014). These children are in many cases emotionally reserved, exhibit violent tendencies during puberty, and experience difficulties in dealing with anxiety, fear, and stress that result from to the absence of parental support (Sarwar, 2016).

Moreover, they are prone to irresponsible behaviors. Research has shown that the children of uninvolved parents perform poorly in almost every area of their lives. For example, they display poor social skills and academic performance, as well as deficits in emotional skills and cognition (Sarwar, 2016). One of the major challenges of indifferent parenting is the children’s inability to form attachments in life. In that regard, forming lasting relationships and friendships is difficult. Fear and anxiety emanate from social isolation and the lack of support from parents and relatives.

Socioeconomic Factors

The indifferent parenting style is mostly adopted by parents who experience financial, emotional, and social challenges that wrap them up in an endless cycle of problems (Hoskins, 2014). In addition, they are so busy struggling with other problems such as depression and being overworked that they have little or no time for their children. Some parents might also be struggling with problems such as drug and substance abuse and other addictive behaviors that render them incapable of performing their parental duties. In such cases, the children are compelled to act as their parents’ caregivers.

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Indulgent Parenting Style

Indulgent (permissive) parenting is characterized by low demands, a few expectations, and high responsiveness. Indulgent parents are very loving and often act like their children’s friends. They provide a few guidelines and rules, and they do not expect their children to behave responsibly (Tashjian, 2018). Instead of closely monitoring their children’s behaviors and actions, they give them the freedom to do what they want (Sarwar, 2016).

They are lenient and rarely enforce any type of structure or schedule. Permissive parents believe that children are supposed to be given the freedom to learn and explore the world on their own (Tashjian, 2018). In that regard, they make no attempts to discipline their children. They consider the wrong decisions that children make as a form of learning.

Permissive parents allow their children to make decisions on their own , may use rewards (gifts, food, and toys) to coerce children into behaving in certain ways, have few standards of behavior, and rarely enforce any type of consequences (American Psychological Association, 2018). They believe that it is better for their children to be free than responsible. (Hoskins, 2014) Moreover, they do not punish them when they misbehave. These actions are aimed at receiving appreciation and love. In many cases, permissive parents give their children freedom and material things as a way of compensating for what they did not receive during their childhood (Hoskins, 2014). This parenting approach encourages immaturity, irresponsibility, and impulsiveness as children get what they want.

Effects on Children

Researchers have revealed that indulgent parenting is an overly relaxed approach to rearing children. Therefore, it inhibits self-control, self-regulation, and discipline (Sarwar, 2016). Indulgent parenting has few rules, demands, and expectations. Therefore, children usually struggle with self-regulation and self-control (Hoskins, 2014). These children are usually insecure, lack self-discipline, and may be self-involved (Sarwar, 2016).

In addition, they make uninformed decisions, perform poorly in school, display aggression and emotional incompetence, and experience increased risk of substance abuse. The lack of parental guidance results in an inability to manage time and habits (Sarwar, 2016). For example, they may watch unregulated television or eat excessively. They embrace these behaviors because their parents never teach them the importance of limits and moderation.

The lack of demands and expectations has a negative effect on the development of children. The concept of self-discipline is not instilled in them, and as a result, they may be unruly in school and exhibit low motivation (American Psychological Association, 2018). Research has linked permissive parenting to risky and irresponsible behaviors. For example, it was linked to underage drinking and drug use. Other negative effects include a sense of entitlement, poor impulse control, and impulsive anger and frustration.

Despite its many negative outcomes, indulgent parenting has positive outcomes too. For instance, children are more resourceful and creative because they have the freedom to learn and explore the world on their own without any adherence to rules or structure (Sarwar, 2016). In addition, they have high self-esteem because of the awareness that their actions do not affect their parents’ affection. Children also display exemplary communication skills because they learn self-expression by saying what they want without the fear of punishment (Riggio, 2014).

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Socioeconomic Factors

Indulgent parenting emanates from the existence of socioeconomic inequality. Parents are not worried about their children’s future and as a result, they allow them to follow their inclinations (Hoskins, 2014). They believe that learning from personal experiences is more effective than imposing rules for their children. In addition, parents could benefit from allowing their children learn from their own experiences.

Authoritarian Parenting Style

One of the most important roles of parents in child rearing is to socialize children to important values and expectations. The effective accomplishment of this role is based on the amount of control exerted by parents over their children. The authoritarian parenting style is the most controlling approach, and it is characterized by little nurturing, high demands, low responsiveness, and lots of psychological control (Darling, 2014).

It leads to the stifling of children’s autonomy, thinking, and creativity. Authoritarian parents focus on disciplining their children rather than teaching them how to control themselves and manage their behaviors (Hoskins, 2014). They believe that a child should adhere to authority and follow instructions and commands without deviation. Punishment is their preferred means of providing feedback.

Authoritarian parents exhibit several characteristics. They are very demanding and unresponsive, they do not express warmth or nurturance to their children, they utilize punishment without any positive reinforcement, and they do not trust their children to make good choices or behave appropriately without control (Tashjian, 2018). In addition, they deny their children the freedom to choose or make decisions, and they use harsh methods of punishment to reinforce certain behavior that they deem appropriate.

Effects on Children

The authoritarian parenting style has been linked with several negative outcomes. Children tend to conform easily because of the fear of punishment, they struggle with self-control and self-regulation, they experience difficulties in social settings, and they exhibit aggressive behaviors when they are away from their parents (Sarwar, 2016). They often have low-self-esteem and associate love with obedience. Other negative outcomes include poor social skills, a lack of self-discipline, indecisiveness, insecurity and hostility, poor performance in school, and increased risk of depression (Riggio, 2014).

Authoritarian parenting has positive outcomes too. Children raised under these settings are disciplined, responsible, and clear about their goals (Hoskins, 2014). Authoritarian parents emphasize discipline, rules, adherence to authority, and the consequences of breaking rules. In that regard, children grow up knowing that disobedience attracts severe consequences (Sarwar, 2016). They learn to obey and behave well in order to avoid punishment. The constant following of rules acclimatizes them to positive habits that they carry into adulthood. Authoritarian parents highly value structure and instruction (Hoskins, 2014). Therefore, their children grow knowing what to do to achieve their goals or complete tasks.

Socioeconomic Factors

This style of parenting is mainly adopted by parents with low socioeconomic status as a way of encouraging their children to become resilient, disciplined, self-reliant and autonomous (Hoskins, 2014). These parents understand that disciplining their children and teaching them to follow the rules and structure is the most effective way to guarantee their future success. Authoritarian parenting is motivated by high economic inequality that compels parents to adopt intensive measures in order to enhance their children’s drive for achievement through hard work, and prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors such as drug and substance abuse (Hoskins, 2014).

Authoritative Parenting Style

Authoritative parenting is different from other styles of child rearing because it is moderate in all child rearing modalities. It is widely described as a balance between discipline, emotional control and autonomy (Darling, 2014). It is characterized by modest demands on children and high responsiveness (Hoskins, 2014). Authoritative parents have high expectations regarding behavior and achievement. However, unlike authoritarian parents, they provide the necessary resources and support needed to attain success. They are loving, affectionate, express nurturance, encourage independence, and administer reasonable and consistent discipline (Riggio, 2014).

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Authoritative parents share common traits: they listen to their children, encourage them to discuss possible solutions to problems or issues, encourage independence and individualistic reasoning, and they place limits and expectations of behavior (Darling, 2014).

Imitation is one of the learning strategies applied by children. Loving, happy, and disciplined parents nurture disciplined, loving, and happy children (Riggio, 2014). Authoritative parents encourage communication by explaining the rationale behind specific rules and giving their children an opportunity to respond or ask questions. Proper understanding of rules enables children to complete tasks without deviation or resistance.

In addition, soliciting the opinion of children allows them to learn how to communicate effectively (Hoskins, 2014). Authoritative parents are also involved in the growth and progress of their children. They provide the support necessary for the completion of tasks because they understand that their children have weaknesses and limitations. Therefore, their expectations are reasonable and match the strengths of their children (Hoskins, 2014).

Criticism and praise are key components of authoritative parenting. Parents understand that providing feedback is important in a child’s growth and development. They give constructive criticism when a child misbehaves and provide praise when they behave appropriately (Riggio, 2014). Authoritative parents also give children freedom, but monitor their activities. Freedom helps children to learn independence and monitoring is aimed at correcting them when they make the wrong decisions (Darling, 2014).

Effects on Children

Several research studies have come to the conclusion that authoritative parenting is the best approach to child rearing because it is balanced. Children tend to be more capable and successful. The children of authoritative parents possess good social skills, they are self-confident, possess better emotional control and regulation, and tend to exhibit happier dispositions (Sarwar, 2016). Children develop these attributes because their parents act as role models who possess positive behaviors that they internalize. In addition, consistent discipline and rules shape their expectations and teach them to be disciplined.

Authoritative parents usually exhibit high emotional understanding and control that is influential in teaching children self-reliance (Riggio, 2014). The positive outcomes of self-reliance include high self-esteem, self-regulation, self-control, and self-confidence.

Authoritative parenting has negative outcomes if it is extreme or if there is a lack of balance. In extreme cases, families may become overly dependent on rules for the accomplishment of tasks. Therefore, children become confused and indecisive when they encounter situations that do not involve rules (Sarwar, 2016). On the other hand, a lack of balance results in the development of low self-esteem in children because parents become demanding and unresponsive. Authoritative parenting could also cause rebelliousness in children because seeking their opinions on all matters could make them over-confident and elicit a feeling of being too important (Riggio, 2014). The style is ineffective in cases where a child is stubborn or arrogant owing to external influences such as peer pressure.

Socioeconomic Factors

The authoritative parenting style is mainly applied by parents from high socioeconomic status backgrounds: financial stability and higher education levels. The main goal is to mold children in a way that fits the parents’ notion of success (Hoskins, 2014). For example, hard work and discipline are considered two of the most important success ingredients. This parenting style is mainly adopted by the modern middle-class families. Parents set rules for their children, but understand the challenges that they are likely to encounter in their efforts to follow those rules.

The Most Beneficial Parenting Style

The authoritative parenting style is the most beneficial in child rearing. The foregoing discussion of the four main child rearing approaches has highlighted the positive and negative outcomes of each. Authoritative has more positive outcomes and less negative outcomes than the other styles. It works because an emphasis on communication helps children to develop cognitive and social skills, and parents nurture and support their children (Hoskins, 2014).

Moreover, parents act as role models who influence their children in developing self-confidence, self-regulation, and self-esteem. It is important to maintain a balance between pushing children to become successful and giving them freedom for exploration and self-learning. Authoritative parenting is different from other style because it balances the modalities of demandingness and responsiveness, thus facilitating the proper growth and development of children (Hoskins, 2014).

In the authoritarian approach, parents are highly demanding and unresponsive. Indulgent parents are not demanding but they are responsive. Indifferent parents are neither demanding nor responsive. They allow their children to act and behave without too much control or monitoring (Darling, 2014). Authoritative parenting is beneficial because children who are raised by authoritative parents implement the same child rearing style when rearing their children.


The major goal of parenting is to rear children who grow into adults who possess character and competence. Parenting is a difficult task because of the differences in parents’ temperaments, value systems, and beliefs. Parenting can be divided into four main styles based on the level of parents’ responsiveness and demandingness. These styles include indifferent, indulgent, authoritarian, and authoritative. Indifferent parents are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and neglectful. They take no interest in their children’s welfare. Indulgent parents are responsive and undemanding. They allow their children to learn through exploration and personal experiences. Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and display low responsiveness.

They believe that choices have consequences, and they mainly focus on punishing their children as a way of instilling discipline. Authoritative parents create a balance between being demanding and being responsive. Their demands are reasonable and provide the support and resources necessary for the attainment of goals. The indifferent, indulgent, and authoritarian parenting styles inhibit the development of self-control, self-regulation, and discipline within children. In contrast, the authoritative style encourages self-control, self-regulation, and discipline within children.


American Psychological Association. (2018). Parenting styles. American Psychological Association. Web.

Darling, N. (2014). Authoritative versus authoritarian parenting style. Psychology Today. Web.

Hoskins, D. H. (2014). Consequences of parenting on adolescent outcomes. Societies, 4, 506-531.

Riggio, R. E. (2014). How does your parenting style affect your kids? Psychology Today. Web.

Sarwar, S. (2016). Influence of parenting style on children’s behavior. Journal of Education and Educational Development, 3(2), 222-249.

Tashjian, S. (2018). Parenting styles and child behavior. Psychology in Action. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Parenting Styles: Indifferent, Indulgent, Authoritarian, and Authoritative." July 14, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Parenting Styles: Indifferent, Indulgent, Authoritarian, and Authoritative." July 14, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Parenting Styles: Indifferent, Indulgent, Authoritarian, and Authoritative'. 14 July.

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