Before you had kids you probably had a pretty good idea about what type of parent you would be. What parenting style you would embrace. Did you think you would be strict and run a tight ship? Or did you think you would be more relaxed, a go-with the flow type of parent?
As the saying goes, the only perfect parents are the ones who don’t have kids. Because you can never truly know what type of parent you will be until you become one.
But what effect does your parenting style have on your children and their development? Studies have found common links between parenting styles and the effects they have on children. Both in the early years and later on in life.
Research shows that how a child is raised can affect every aspect of a child’s development. From mental and physical health to academics and social skills.
What are the different parenting types?
Every parent is different and how we choose to raise our children will vary greatly. In the 1960s clinical psychologist Diane Baumrind identified certain similarities most parents share.
She categorised the different parenting styles into three categories:
In the 1980s Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin then refined the model to include a fourth category:
4. Uninvolved (or neglectful)
Within each category, there are variations of discipline, acceptance, communication, understanding and expectations.
Often parents may find themselves a combination of 1 or 2 parenting types at different times.
Understanding the different parenting styles
Parents who are authoritarian in their approach use parenting as a way to shape and control the behaviours and attitudes of their child according to their own tightly held beliefs and attitudes.
Authoritarian parents tend to see things as black and white, with no interest in negotiation. They often use the argument, “because I said so..”.
These parents favour punishment over discipline, expecting children to apologise for their mistakes. They have high expectations and can be cold and unaccepting. Parents of this style favour restricting a child’s autonomy.
Children with authoritarian parents can display less independence and insecurity. As well as poor social skills and low self-esteem. Children of this style also display more hostility (specifically in boys) and are more anxious.
Authoritative parents have rules and consequences but approach them with a more warm and open attitude. They take their child’s feelings and opinions into consideration and seek to validate those feelings. But ultimately they ensure their children know who is in charge and what is expected.
These parents are all about teachable moments. Using positive discipline strategies and reinforcing good behaviour. They seek to prevent bad behaviour from happening in the first place.
Those with an authoritative style still have high expectations yet remain warm and supportive.
Children with authoritative parents typically have higher academic achievement, higher self-esteem and independence. Generally, they are considered happy and content. They have a higher ability to express their emotions and lower rates of mental health and delinquency.
Permissive parents are warm and accepting but lack discipline. They often try to enforce rules and consequences but rarely enforce them.
They’re very forgiving and often give in when a child gets upset or demands something.
Permissive parents will position themselves in more of a friendship role than that of a parent. They encourage openness and blur the boundaries of the parent-child relationship. They do not like to say no or disappoint their child.
Children of permissive parents often struggle to follow rules and lack discipline. They have poor self-control, can struggle with relationships, social interaction and academically. They may be at higher risk of health problems due to failure to limit junk food and enforcing healthy habits and exercise.
Uninvolved parents often have little to no knowledge or involvement in their children’s lives. They do not enforce rules or boundaries and offer no guidance or nurturing. They are indifferent to their child’s needs and aren’t invested in their development.
These parents may suffer from mental health issues such as depression or substance abuse problems. Often having experienced abuse or neglect in their own upbringing.
Alternatively, these parents may not be intentionally uninvolved. They might simply lack knowledge or education about how to raise children. Or they may be overwhelmed with their own problems such as work, finances etc.
Children of uninvolved parents often struggle with self-esteem and regulating their emotions. They struggle academically and are more prone to delinquency. They often have higher rates of mental health issues.
Which parenting style is the most effective?
Research through the years seems to favour the Authoritative style of parenting. This style linked with the most positive outcomes. There also appears to be no research supporting negative outcomes of this style.
External factors affecting these outcomes and will vary for all parents and children. Certain children may respond differently to the same style of parenting.
Parents will also find they do not conform 100% to one of these styles. At certain times they may find themselves showing more authoritarian or permissive traits.
Are there other parenting styles?
These four parenting types are by no means exhaustive. There are other modern parenting styles such as ‘helicopter parenting’ or ‘free-range parenting.
Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks we undertake as humans, and we want to do the best we can.
Your parenting style plays a huge role in your child’s mental, emotional and physical development. Understanding the consequence of your actions and behaviours is fundamental. It will impact how your child grows and goes on to have relationships and children of their own.