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Permissive, Authoritative, or Uninvolved – What Is Your Parenting Style?

A number of years ago, psychologist Diane Baumrind described four parenting styles that have different child behavior outcomes. Additional research has provided ample evidence for the validity of these styles and their long lasting effects upon children’s overall development. Although styles are idealizations that never fit any family exactly, they do provide a useful reference point for parents to assess their own parenting styles. These different styles are defined by the extent to which parents rank high or low on demandingness and responsiveness.

Permissive parents are those who rank low on demandingness but high on responsiveness. These parents tend to be lenient, do not demand mature behavior and permit a lot of self regulation. They also try to avoid confrontation. At the same time these parents rank higher on responsiveness and are loving and supportive without being demanding. Children who have permissive parents are likely to be involved in problem behavior. They do average work in school but do have high self esteem, good social skills and show few signs of depression.

Authoritarian parents tend to be very demanding but relatively low in responsiveness. These parents are very concerned with obedience and social status. Such parents do not provide explanations for their rules and do not expect to be challenged. Although they provide a well structured environment, they tend to provide little emotional warmth and support. Children who come from Authoritarian homes tend to perform moderately in school and not to be involved in problem behavior. But these children also have poor social skills, low self esteem and high levels of depression.

Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. Such parents are often described as “setting limits with love.” While they monitor their children’s behavior they do so in a non-intrusive way. In disciplining their children they are supportive rather than punitive, and offer rewards for good behavior rather than punishment for bad. They have clear goals for their children and want them to be both self assertive and socially responsible. Children from authoritative homes are likely to do well in school and to be socially and vocationally competent with high self esteem and low rates of depression.

Uninvolved Parents rank low in both demandingness and responsiveness. At the extreme such parents may be rejecting and neglectful. But most parents in this category are, fortunately, not at the extreme. Children who come from a home with uninvolved parents tend not to do well in school, to be involved in problem behavior, to have poor social skills, low self esteem and to be subject to depression.

Like all research findings, the effects of different styles of parenting are generalizations and may not hold for all families and children. In addition, it is important to say that the reality is that all parents probably engage in all four parenting styles at times. What is important is that, insofar as possible, parents strive towards the authoritative style which is the most supportive of healthy overall child development.

By Professor David Elkind. Renowned child psychologist David Elkind Ph.D. shares his experiences, opinions and insights on children’s perceptual, cognitive, and social development. Read his blog to learn more about how early experiences in infant development impact growth into adulthood and how you can support your child’s healthy development every step of the way.

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