effective and ineffective parenting styles, backed up by science

There are decades of research on how parenting can impact a child's development. One of the most accepted models for parenting styles was developed by Diana Baumrind in the 1960s. Baumrind stated there were four basic parenting styles with differing levels of warmth and control: permissive, uninvolved, authoritative, and authoritarian.

The permissive parenting style is categorized by low levels of control and high levels of warmth, meaning parents with this style are typically lenient with their children. They implement few concrete rules, entrusting their children with direction and decision making. As permissive parents aren’t strict with their children, they choose to avoid conflict and give in to the child’s desires right away. The result of this parenting style is often children with little self-control, personal responsibility, or achievement. These children tend to become more domineering and have difficulties interacting with their peers because of their aggressive nature. Even though this parenting style is full of affection, it lacks authority, which can cause problems for children as they develop and grow.

Uninvolved parenting is similarly characterized by low levels of control, but also low levels of warmth. Uninvolved parents allow their children to take the lead with direction and decision making and tend to be inactive in their children’s lives, even leaning towards neglect. These parents pay little attention to their children and show little to no affection,  resulting in children with low self-esteem and self-confidence as they develop. These children may also exhibit aggressive and antisocial behaviors, acting out due to the lack of attention they receive from parental figures.

Authoritarian parents exhibit high levels of control, but low levels of warmth. These parents are often very controlling, and while they don’t necessarily display abusive behavior, they are rarely affectionate with their children and instead focus on the child’s achievements and adherence to rules. While the high level of structure these parents give their children can potentially be a good thing, their lack of warmth and focus on achievement can result in children that are insecure and anxious. These children may later partake in dangerous activities and rebel against authority.

Authoritative parents differ from authoritarian parents in that they offer their children high levels of warmth while still maintaining high levels of control. This means that authoritative parents successfully set boundaries for their children while still being responsive to the child’s emotional needs. They set clear rules and have high expectations for their children, while also being affectionate and open to change. This parenting style has arguably proven the healthiest results in children, allowing them to be high achievers who relate to their peers and have a healthy sense of self.

Realistically, parenting is a lot more complicated than these four styles, varying based on culture and family background. Using these styles as a general guidepost, however, can offer useful insight into raising emotionally healthy children. Whether it be a highly controlled environment or a neglectful one, it can be easy for parents to believe that their parenting style is adequate. Psychology tells us that a balance of both control and affection is optimal for healthy child development, and Baumrind’s parenting styles effectively express this.

This article has been republished from Renewed Awareness Magazine.

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