Who's the Boss? 4 Parenting Styles

In 1966, an American developmental psychologist named Diana Baumrind described three parenting styles that are still used today to categorize parenting. In 1983, Maccoby and Martin added a fourth. Read on for a handy explanation of each style and how they affect children.

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Authoritarian Parenting

This is the strictest form of parenting. Authoritarian parents set rules and punishments without explaining why. Their children are allowed very little, if any, options or discussion about discipline. They are expected to respect their parents’ authority. When Diana Baumrind first described parenting styles in 1966, she labeled this style as demanding, but not responsive.

What's It Like to Have Authoritarian Parents?

Baumrind criticized this style of parenting, and many others have agreed. They say that children raised by authoritarian parents may develop poor social skills, moodiness, low self-esteem and little self-discipline. Because they follow their parents’ rules without knowing the reasons why, they may struggle setting their own limits later in life. Others say the parenting style has its merits, resulting in children who follow rules and can become excellent students.


Authoritative Parenting

This parenting style is marked by high expectations and consistent discipline, while allowing children to be independent and discuss options. Not to be confused with authoritarian, authoritative parents listen more to their children and show more warmth. They explain to their children the reason for their rules and punishments. Baumrind labeled this style as demanding and responsive.


What's It Like to Have Authoritative Parents?

Children who grew up with this parenting style are generally described as having high self-esteem, social skills, self-control, success in the classroom and the ability to learn new skills. Ideally in this parenting style, parents and children have a mutual respect, and parents become role models to their children. Most research in this field declares this as the “best” parenting style. The rare criticism of authoritative parenting says that it’s either too lenient or too strict.


Permissive Parenting

Also called “indulgent parenting,” this parenting style is characterized by loosely enforced rules and lots of love and nurturing. Parents are often described as a friend to their children, rather than an authority figure. They may have low standards of behavior and achievement but a high level of acceptance. Children are allowed to make many of their own decisions under this style. It’s labeled as undemanding and responsive.


What's It Like to Have Permissive Parents?

Baumrind and many others have criticized this style as well. Research has shown that it causes children to have poor self-discipline and social skills and to be disobedient, self-involved, demanding and insecure. Supporters of permissive parenting argue that the acceptance and warmth shown by parents allow children to think freely and set standards that work for them, and that strict discipline impairs a child’s reasoning skills.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parents are extremely passive, making few demands and ignoring their children’s needs. Some parents have little to no interaction with their children under this style. In its extreme form, uninvolved parenting is neglect—which is child abuse. This style was introduced by Maccoby and Martin in 1983. It’s labeled as undemanding and unresponsive.

What's It Like to Have Uninvolved Parents?

Children who grow up with uninvolved parents have shown to struggle in nearly every area of life. They are emotionally withdrawn, have low self-esteem, perform poorly in the classroom, get into trouble often, have a high risk of substance abuse and may engage in criminal behavior as adults.


Which Parenting Style is Best?

It’s important to remember that not every parent falls neatly into one of these categories and that parents can change their style at any point during a child’s life. That said, in the United States, the authoritative style (demanding and responsive) has the most support and is generally regarded as the “most effective.” Some cultures favor authoritarian parenting (demanding and unresponsive), which can lead to higher success in some areas of life.

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