Authoritative Parenting

Parenting styles

Parenting style is a psychological construct representing standard strategies parents use in raising their children.

One of the best known theories of parenting style was developed by Diana Baumrind. In her research she identified four main parenting styles in early child development: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful. These four styles are described below, each with its own pros and cons.

Authoritative parenting

This is characterized by high expectations of compliance to parental rules and directions, an open dialogue about those rules and behaviors, and a child-centered approach. Authoritative parents, unlike authoritarian parents, encourage the child to be independent. Authoritative parents are not usually controlling allowing the child to explore more freely. Authoritative parents set limits, demand maturity, but when punishing a child, the parent will always explain his or her motive for their punishment. Authoritative parents typically forgive instead of punishing if a child falls short. This is supposed to result in children having a higher self esteem, and being independent. Children who are subject to this kind of parenting may debate with their parents and may form their own opinions in order to justify their disobedience. Authoritative parents raise children who are successful, articulate, happy with themselves, and generous with others. These children are usually liked by teachers and peers, especially in cultures where individual initiative is valued. This is the most recommended style of parenting by child-rearing experts, and it is also the most common one used in the world today.

Authoritarian parenting

This style is characterized by high expectations of conformity and compliance to parental rules and directions. Authoritarian parents expect much of their child but do not explain the rules at all, unlike the Authoritative parent. Authoritarian parents are most likely to hit a child as a form of punishment instead of grounding a child. The resulting children from this type of parenting lack social competence as the parent generally predicts what the child should do instead of allowing the child to choose by him or herself. The children also rarely take initiatives. They are socially withdrawn and look to others to decide what's right. These children lack spontaneity and lack curiosity. These children are often the most vulnerable to enter into relationships with or marry equally abusive and controlling partners or develop mental illness when they enter adulthood. (Although arguably this may be genetic as mental illness sometimes might be the reason behind some of the more extreme cases of authoritarian parents.) On the opposite side of the spectrum some children might also rebel by openly defying the parents by leaving home at a younger age, partaking in drugs, alcohol, and sexual behavior at a much younger age than some of their peers as well, dating and/or marrying a partner whom they know their parents would disapprove of, and often might be estranged from their parents during adulthood. Many people who grew up with authoritarian parents have sometimes mentioned feeling a sense of relief whenever one (or both) of their parents died.

Permissive parenting

Permissive parenting is characterized as having few behavioral expectations for the child and is characterized by warm affect. Parents are nurturing and accepting, but non-demanding. This type of parent simply wants the child to like him or her at the end of the day and will do anything the child requests to do.(Sometimes they might do this out of fear that their children will rebel in negative ways if they are too strict. )Sometimes some parents find this easier to communicate with their children. Sometimes the resulting children are rarely (if ever) punished and are generally immature But in the better cases they are independent and are willing to learn and accept defeat. They are able to live life without the help of someone else. The children can not control their impulses and do not accept the responsibility for their own actions. When in trouble, the child will simply blame someone else even if it was his or her own fault. Permissive parents raise unhappy children who lack self-control, especially in the give-and-take of peer relationships. Inadequate emotional regulation makes them immature and impedes friendships. They tend to live and remain close to where they grew up, still dependent, in early adulthood. However like a child raised in a authoritive setting and unlike a child raised in an authoritarian setting the children will often continue to have a close and loving relationship with the parents in adulthood.

Neglectful parenting

Neglectful parenting, also known as nonconformist parenting, is similar to permissive parenting but the parent does not care much about the child. The parents are generally not involved in their child's life, but will provide basic needs for the child. Many times children will grow up feeling resentment against their parents for being neglectful and often might be estranged from them into adulthood.


Research into the child behavior outcomes associated with each type of parenting has traditionally shown a strong benefit to authoritative parenting. These children have been shown to have more self-discipline, emotional self-control, more friends and better school performance. However, recent research has identified a number of caveats. First, authoritarian parenting may be more effective in certain contexts and in social groups other than those studied in early research. Secondly, little research has examined the genetic influences that may underlie the findings. For instance, harsh parents may produce harsher children through the mechanism of genetic transmission of these traits. Behavior genetics research is currently examining the influence of genes as they pertain to parenting styles.

An additional criticism of the parenting styles research is that parenting has been shown to be part of a bi-directional relationship between parent and child. Thus, characterizing a parenting style as arising from the parent leaves out the essential influence of the child on the parent-child dyad.


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