Four Main Parenting Styles

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In the world of psychology and sociology today, there are four main styles of parenting. These styles are as follows: authoritarian, permissive, neglectful or uninvolved and authoritative . Each of these styles has their own balance of parental support and control. Authoritarian parents show low amounts of support and high amounts of control. Parents with this type of parenting style may be seen as a dictator to the child or children. The expectations and demands of the parents may not be reasonable and the parents offer little to no emotional support in return. Permissive parents have high levels of support but low levels of control. This may sound like the ideal parenting style to some children, but the lack of boundaries and discipline in this parenting style can do more harm than good. Authoritative parenting is characterized by high parental support and low parental control. These parents are reasonable with their demands and reward the child accordingly, as well as provide them with the love and support they need. Neglectful or uninvolved parenting is characterized by low amounts of parental support and low amounts of parental control. These parents do not offer good role models for their children. The child’s physical and emotional needs may often go unmet. The type of parenting style a child experiences throughout their childhood can have strong effects on the rest of their life. This will be explored later. It is vitally important for parents to recognize their own parenting style and be willing to make changes to provide a better environment for their children to learn and grow.

Parenting Styles in Detail

In order to gain a better understanding of how parenting styles affect children, it is important to fully understand each parenting style and what it looks like. According to Benokraitis, simply put, a parenting style is “a general approach to interacting with and disciplining children” . As briefly mentioned earlier, there are two dimensions that make up a parenting style, support and control. Support describes the amount of emotional caring and affection the child receives from the parent. Control is the amount of flexibility a parent gives to the child in regards to their behavior. Both of these dimensions can range from being barely existent, to extreme .

Authoritarian parents are the strictest out of the four parenting styles. Discipline is based on punishment and the blind obedience. Some parents may even resort to physical or emotional punishment when a child does not adhere to the strict standards of the family. These types of parents may offer little explanation behind their rules and regulations and may revert to the “because I said so” excuse more often than other parents. There is little or no room for error on behalf of the child and when the child makes a mistake, they may be punished, regardless of the circumstances. Authoritarian parents offer small amounts of warmth towards their children, and often only disperse it when their unreasonably strict standards are followed. Structure is important for children, but too much of it can be just as damaging, especially when there is no love and nurturing involved. Because of this, authoritarian parenting is not an ideal, nor a healthy parenting style.

Permissive parenting can also be harmful to children. While permissive parents score highly in terms of emotional support and care, there is little or no structure. Even if there is a small amount of structure, parents may change their own rules depending on the child’s mood or other circumstances. These types of parents may be trying to avoid confrontation, or they may simply not care. In other cases, parents may be trying to be their child’s best friend as opposed to their parent. The parent-child dynamic is much different from the friend-to-friend one. Children need a parental figure to look up to and lean on in times of trouble. The lack of structure and inconsistency in discipline that is typical of this parenting style can lead to issues not only in childhood, but in adulthood too .

Neglectful or uninvolved parenting can be considered one of the most harmful styles of parenting. While parents may fluctuate through some of the other styles of parenting, they do not often enter into the neglectful category. This style of parenting is characterized by extreme physical or emotional neglect. There are very low levels of parental support and control. Neglectful parents may need professional intervention in order to foster healthy communication and relationships in the home and to provide a healthy environment for the child to develop in. While permissive parenting also has low levels of parental control, neglectful parenting is much more severe, in combination with the lack of parental support. Neglectful parents are not just hands-off of their children, they are noticeably absent, to the point of rejecting their own child. Intervention is important for this parenting style in order to limit the amount of damage the parents have on the children .

Authoritative parenting is considered the most balanced and beneficial parenting style of the four styles. Authoritative parents have high levels of parental control, which provides the reasonable kind of structure children need to develop into healthy adults, balanced with high levels of parental support. In this parenting style, parents and children have an open line of communication to discuss structure and reasons behind it without the child having the fear of being reprimanded. Children can also talk about other issues they may be having without the fear of judgement. This open communication is one of the key differences between authoritative and authoritarian parenting. It leads to understanding from the child’s standpoint, and they may be more willing to follow structure because of this. This parenting style helps set a child up for being independent in adulthood.

Parenting Style’s Effect on Children

Parenting styles can have a great impact on how a child grows up, whether positively or negatively. Authoritarian parenting tends to influence a child negatively. Children who grow up in these kinds of homes tend to be more dependent on others, passive, and conforming. The strictness of their parents leads to this kind of behavior later in life. Children in authoritarian homes are not allowed to think for themselves, and thus rely on others instead. Children in authoritarian homes also are less creative and less socially adept. Social and externalization problems are common in authoritarian style homes. These children also struggle to have good conflict resolution skills. There tends to not be much, if any conflict resolution in their home because what the parents say goes. When these children grow up, they are unprepared to handle compromises. Because of their parent’s lack of emotional support, these children tend to rely on their peers as a source for moral advice. This could lead to early indulgence in risky behaviors such as sex, drugs or alcohol. Authoritarian parenting is overall a strongly negative parenting style, not only because of the strain it puts on family dynamics, but also because of the effects it has on the children later in life .

Permissive parenting also leads to problems in a child’s life. Children of permissive parents tend to have lower levels of academic achievement. This could be because parents offer no help with the child’s studies, or because parents do not encourage their children to finish their work and to finish it well. The children from these homes also tend to have a lack of impulse control. Because their parents do not tell them no, these children are used to getting what they want. This immaturity could easily lead to issues later down the road when the children encounter the real world and could be part of the reason why these children are more likely to indulge in heavy drinking. Children from permissive families also tend to be less happy than children in a healthier, authoritative family. The lack of parental structure can lead to the child feeling as if they need to be the adult in the family.

As one could assume, neglectful parenting also has harmful effects on children. In this kind of family, children are lacking the support and structure they need, as well as potentially lacking in the satisfaction of physical needs, such as not going hungry. Children from neglectful homes are often immature and withdrawn. They tend to be underachieving in many different aspects, including academically. Neglected children have a high risk of drug use and bullying, perhaps to compensate for the lack of family support. Neglected children also tend to become rebellious when confronted with authority figures. They are not used to dealing with someone trying to dictate their actions because their parents fail to offer that structure .

Authoritative parenting offers the healthiest outcomes for children. Children from authoritative parents tend to have high levels of family interaction, even when the children move out. Authoritative parenting fosters healthy communication skills and can lead to a closeness between the family. Children from authoritative homes tend to have high academic achievements, high self-esteem, and higher levels of psychosocial maturity. These children are also more likely to be cooperative with other people and be better team players. Children who have authoritative parents tend to have more positive outcomes in life compared to children from other parenting styles. Authoritative children are able to be more positively independent than their counterparts. Growing up with a certain parenting style can also have an influence on what parenting style the children will employ when they themselves become parents.


In conclusion, parenting styles are vitally important to the development of children and even to the outcomes of their adult lives. Of the four parenting styles, authoritative is considered the healthiest. The high levels of parental support and structure provide a strong, healthy environment for children that teaches them good communication and conflict resolution skills. Children then can go on to employ these skills in their own adult lives and with their own children. On the other side of the situation, unhealthy outcomes can also follow children into their adulthood. Interventions can be made, but not all of the damage can be undone. It is important for parents to understand their parenting style, and even the parenting style of their own parents, in an attempt to correct unhealthy patterns and bring love, respect, and structure to their children; their future very well could depend on it.

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Four Main Parenting Styles. (2021, Apr 11). Retrieved December 2, 2023 , from

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