4 Main Types of Parenting Styles and How They Impact Kids

Updated June 2, 2022
Family of five playing on sofa at home

Parenting and its effects on children have been studied widely and research has broken the subject down into four main categories classified as parenting styles. These styles of parenting have both similarities and differences between them, ranging from creating many boundaries for children to not having any boundaries at all. There are pros and cons to virtually every parenting style, and incorporating the positive aspects of them into your life can have a positive impact on your children and family dynamic.

Permissive Parenting

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According to the American Psychological Association (APA), permissive parenting is defined as a parenting style "in which the child is given wide latitude in expressing his or her feelings and opinions and in which artificial restrictions and punishment are avoided as much as possible." Permissive parents are warm towards their children but do not establish rules or boundaries for them to follow. It involves three mains aspects:

  • High amounts of support and emotional availability
  • Low amounts of psychological control
  • Low amounts of behavioral control

Effects of Permissive Parenting

Although permissive parents offer emotional support for children, that does not necessarily mean that the parent-child relationship is healthy, which has led to research finding negative outcomes in children. Some effects of permissive parenting on children include:

  • Increased rates of impulsion
  • Higher rates of rebellion
  • Decreased rates of self-reliance and self-control
  • Lower rates of academic achievement
  • Increased rates of aggression

Permissive Parenting Examples

Permissive parents provide love and support for their child but don't set up boundaries for them to abide by. Without any strict rules or guidance, this means that children can engage in any kind of behavior they choose, without any consequences in the parent-child relationship. Some examples of this are:

  • Giving children whatever they want in order to make them happy.
  • Not setting up basic safety rules for children to follow.
  • Putting a child's wants before your own needs.
  • Not being able to say 'no' to their children.

Authoritarian Parenting

Father scolding pouting daughter

Unlike with permissive parenting, authoritarian parenting involves setting strict rules for children. The APA describes it as a parenting style "in which the parent or caregiver stresses obedience, deemphasizes collaboration and dialogue, and employs strong forms of punishment." Its parenting dimensions include:

  • Low amounts of support and emotional availability
  • High amounts of psychological control
  • High amounts of behavioral control

Types

There are different types of authoritarian parenting that keep high expectations and behavioral control of children consistent. Some of these terms are commonly used and include:

  • Helicopter parenting - parenting in which a parent "hovers" around their children, stepping in whenever the child expereiences difficulty
  • Snowplow parenting - parenting in which a child's success must be achieved at all costs
  • Lawnmower parenting - parenting in which a parent constantly intervenes in their child's life

Effects of Authoritarian Parenting

The authoritarian parenting style has also been found to lead to negative outcomes in children. Some of these effects include:

  • Higher rates of deviant behavior and misconduct
  • Increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Increased rates of aggression
  • Higher rates of depersonalization

Examples of Authoritarian Parenting

Just like with other parenting styles, strict authoritarian parents want their children to succeed; however, their way of ensuring that is by taking as much control over the child as possible to guide them to success seamlessly. Some examples of authoritarian parenting include:

  • Forcing a child to follow a pre-set 'plan' or 'goal' that the parent has established for them
  • Not allowing a child to pursue their own interests, extracurricular activities, or friends because the parents believe they know what is best for the child in order to help them succeed
  • Engaging in strict punishments for a child whenever they go against something a parent said or question it
  • Setting many harsh rules for a child to follow that aren't set in place specifically for the child's safety but because the parent wants more control

Neglectful Parenting

Portrait of preschool age girl looking out window

According to the APA, neglectful parenting is when "the parent or caregiver is unsupportive, fails to monitor or limit behavior, and is more attentive to his or her needs than those of the child." Neglectful parents are very hands-off, even more so than permissive parenting. In this parenting style, children are given neither emotional nor rules to follow. It involves:

  • Low amounts of support and emotional availability
  • Low psychological control
  • Low behavioral control

Effects of Neglectful Parenting

Research has found that neglectful parenting is associated with the most negative outcomes for kids. It leaves children feeling unsupported, unmotivated, and unprotected, which makes it difficult for them to thrive in such a scarcity mindset. Some negative effects on kids include:

  • Higher rates of deviant behavior and misconduct
  • Increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • Decreased rates of self-regulation
  • Lower rates of social responsibility
  • Decreased rates of social competence
  • Lower rates of academic performance

Examples of Neglectful Parenting

After learning more about the neglectful parenting style, you may be wondering what this looks like in practice. Some examples of this parenting style are:

  • Not taking an interest in your child's extracurricular activities
  • Allowing your child to engage in risky/dangerous behavior so that you don't have to get involved
  • Not comforting your child when they are upset or hurt
  • Not engaging in open communication with your child to learn more about them or their needs

Authoritative Parenting

Dad Teaching Daughter Electrical Engineering

Authoritative parenting is a style of parenting "in which the parent or caregiver encourages a child's autonomy yet still places certain limitations on behavior." Authoritative parents find a balance between embracing their children with warmth and setting boundaries for them in order to keep them safe. It is composed of:

  • High amounts of support and emotional availability
  • Low psychological control
  • High behavioral control

Types

Although authoritative parenting is the term used in psychology to describe parents that balance both love and rule-setting, there are other terms for this style of parenting that have become popular in everyday use. These different parenting styles may vary slightly, but keep the core elements of authoritative parenting consistent. Some of these include:

Effects of Authoritative Parenting

Research shows that the authoritative parenting style is associated with the most positive outcomes for children. Some positive effects on kids include:

  • Decreased rates of substance abuse
  • Lower rates of deviance and delinquency
  • Decreased rates of depression
  • Higher rates of self-esteem and optimism
  • Increased rates of academic achievement

Examples of Authoritative Parenting

Practicing authoritative parenting may look slightly different from household to household based on your family's specific rules and boundaries. That being said, there should be consistencies surrounding love, rules, and mutual understanding. Some examples of authoritative parenting include:

  • Explaining to your child why you have established a specific rule/boundary
  • Allowing your child to give their opinion about the rule and possibly being flexible about it
  • Encouraging your child to pursue their own unique interests
  • Practicing open communication throughout your family so that everyone feels heard and understood

Understanding Your Parenting Style

The four main parenting styles share some similarities between them, but the differences surrounding emotional support for children and rates of behavioral and psychological control establish firm separations. Authoritative parenting has been found to lead to the most positive outcomes for a child's development and well-being. So, by adopting some of its cornerstones into your lifestyle, such as open communication, it may help benefit your family and parent-child relationships. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don't pressure yourself to try to become one. Sharing your needs, boundaries, and love with your family is a great next step to take in the marathon that is parenting.

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4 Main Types of Parenting Styles and How They Impact Kids