Parenting Styles and Their Impact on Child-Adolescent Development

parenting styles

What Is A Parenting Style?

Parenting styles are essentially patterns encompassing behaviors, attitudes, and methods used by parents in their interactions and upbringing of children. This concept hinges on the belief that parents display varying parenting patterns, profoundly influencing their children’s development and overall well-being. It’s crucial to understand that parenting styles differ from specific parenting practices, focusing more on overarching approaches and attitudes shaping the child’s emotional environment. These styles include how parents react to their children’s actions and the demands they place on them.

As children progress through various stages of childhood, their parents’ parenting styles naturally evolve. This evolution is influenced by factors such as the child’s emerging personality. For instance, during infancy, parents often focus on adjusting to their new life with the baby, involving adaptation and bond formation. Developmental psychologists emphasize the importance of the child-parent attachment and the bonding process. When children reach adolescence, parents face new challenges, such as dealing with the adolescent’s quest for independence and freedom.

The parenting style a child experiences is significantly influenced by their temperament and their parents’ cultural background. Children’s dispositions and the cultural norms and values that parents adhere to play a pivotal role in shaping their upbringing. Additionally, the parenting styles parents experienced during their own childhood have a considerable impact on the styles they adopt with their children. This generational influence often dictates how parents approach their child-rearing responsibilities, reflecting patterns and methods experienced in their upbringing.

 

Baumrind’s Four Parenting Styles

In the early stages of parenting research, various dimensions such as responsiveness, democracy, emotional involvement, control, acceptance, dominance, and restrictiveness were examined to understand different parenting approaches. It was in the 1960s that Diana Baumrind introduced a significant typology, identifying three primary parenting styles; authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive (also known as indulgent).

Baumrind’s characterization of the authoritative style stood out as a model approach, striking an ideal balance between control and autonomy. This balance is seen as a key aspect of effective parenting. Her typology has since become a predominant framework in the study of parenting styles. Over time, a fourth category emerged, describing indifferent or neglectful parenting, expanding Baumrind’s original tripartite classification. This addition acknowledges a style where there is a noticeable lack of engagement or responsiveness towards the child’s needs.

Authoritative parenting style: High in responsiveness and demandingness
Authoritarian parenting style: Low in responsiveness but high in demandingness
Permissive parenting style: High in responsiveness but low in demandingness
Uninvolved parenting style: Low in responsiveness and demandingness

 

1. Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is a highly structured style characterized by strict discipline, high demands for obedience, and low levels of warmth and affection toward children. In this model, parents often employ strict and rigid methods, frequently resorting to hostile control or punishment to enforce child compliance and obedience. A key aspect of this style is that parents typically provide no explanations for their rules or decisions and engage minimally in discussions with their children.

In families with an authoritarian parenting approach, there is a significant emphasis on strict adherence to rules and immediate compliance with demands. These parents often struggle to provide or are unwilling to offer explanations or rationale for their decisions, whether these relate to discipline, emotional well-being, or communication. Often, the authoritarian style is a legacy passed down from previous generations or influenced by cultural experiences, leading parents to act as strict disciplinarians who may adhere to the belief that children should be “seen and not heard.”

The characteristics of Authoritarian Parenting include:

 

    • Low Parental Responsiveness: There is a notable lack of responsiveness to children’s emotional or behavioral needs.

    • Intense Criticism: Children often face intense criticism and are held to very high standards.

    • Strict Rules and Expectations: Authoritarian parents enforce strict rules and have high expectations for obedience.

    • Minimal Consideration for Children’s Feelings: Little to no importance is given to understanding or valuing the child’s emotions.

    • Neglect of Behavioral Needs: There is a lack of interest in or neglect of the child’s individual behavioral needs.

    • One-sided Communication: Communication is predominantly one-sided, with parents dictating and children expected to listen without question.

    • No Explanations for Decisions: Children receive little to no explanations for the rules, decisions, or expectations set by parents.

    • Limited Affection and Emotional Sharing: These parents show limited affection and place little importance on sharing or expressing emotions.

    • Strained Parent-Child Relationship: The relationship between parent and child is often strained and insecure.

Examples of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting often manifests in phrases like “because I said so” or “what I say goes.” These expressions suggest that children should comply without question or understanding, emphasizing unquestioned obedience over explanation.

In a scenario involving disagreement with teens, an authoritarian parent might handle the situation as follows: 

A teenager expresses a desire to pursue a hobby or interest that is unconventional or unfamiliar to the parent. The parent, adhering to an authoritarian style, immediately dismisses the idea, saying, “No, you’re not doing that. I know what’s best for you.” The parent offers no opportunity for the teen to explain their interest or discuss its potential benefits. Instead, the parent imposes their viewpoint unilaterally, emphasizing obedience and conformity over individual expression and exploration. This approach can stifle the teen’s sense of autonomy and self-expression, focusing more on maintaining control rather than nurturing the teen’s developing identity and interests.

Effects of Authoritarian Parenting on Children

Authoritarian parenting, characterized by high demands for obedience and conformity, typically expects children to unquestioningly accept the values and judgments of their parents. This approach can significantly restrict a child’s ability to develop independent decision-making skills. Children raised in such environments often experience negative mental health outcomes due to the lack of encouragement to express and manage their emotions.

The potential effects of an Authoritarian Parenting Style on children can include:

 

    • Increased Unhappiness: Children may often feel unhappy due to constant pressure and a lack of emotional warmth.

    • Low Independence: The authoritarian environment hinders the development of autonomy, leading to reduced independence.

    • Insecurities and Low Self-Esteem: The critical and controlling nature of authoritarian parenting can result in children developing insecurities and low self-esteem.

    • Emotional Dysregulation: A lack of emotional guidance can lead to difficulties in managing and regulating emotions.

    • Poor Coping Skills: With limited emotional support, children might struggle to develop effective coping mechanisms.

    • Depression: The oppressive and non-supportive environment can contribute to the development of depression in children.

    • Poor Social Skills: Authoritarian parenting can impair a child’s ability to develop healthy social interactions and skills.

    • Substance Use: In some cases, children might turn to substance use as a coping mechanism for the stress and emotional turmoil they experience.

    • Avoidant or Disorganized Attachment Style: These children may develop attachment styles that are avoidant or disorganized, reflecting difficulties in forming secure emotional bonds.

    • Rebellious Behavior and Tendencies: The strict and uncompromising nature of authoritarian parenting can sometimes lead to rebellious behavior as children seek autonomy and push against rigid boundaries.

2. Authoritative Parenting

The authoritative parenting style is characterized by a balanced approach that combines high parental expectations with responsiveness and nurturing. Parents adopting this style create a warm and supportive environment while enforcing firm limits and boundaries. The parent-child relationship in authoritative parenting is democratic, with parents open to considering their children’s perspectives when making decisions.

This style actively supports the child’s growing independence, recognizing and respecting their ideas and judgments. Authoritative parents engage with their children’s concerns and disagreements openly, providing clear reasoning and guidance for their decisions and expectations. This stands in contrast to the more rigid and directive approach of authoritarian parents.

Key characteristics of the Authoritative Parenting style include;

 

    • Consistent Rules and Expectations: Authoritative parents establish clear and consistent rules, fostering a sense of stability and predictability.

    • Emphasis on Mental Health and Emotions: There is a strong focus on nurturing the child’s emotional well-being and mental health.

    • Balancing Input from Parent and Child: These parents value the child’s input, fostering a balanced exchange of ideas and opinions.

    • Creating an Emotionally Safe Environment: Children are raised in an environment where they feel emotionally safe and supported.

    • Healthy and Supportive Parent-Child Relationship: The relationship is based on mutual respect, support, and understanding.

    • Modeling Healthy Boundaries and Relationships: Children learn about healthy boundaries and relationships through their parents’ examples.

    • Encouragement of Self-Reliance: Parents encourage independence and self-reliance in their children, fostering a sense of confidence and autonomy.

    • Practicing Flexibility: Authoritative parents are adaptable and willing to adjust rules and expectations as necessary.

    • Freedom for Emotional Expression: Children are free to express their feelings and thoughts, promoting open communication and emotional intelligence.

Examples of Authoritative Parenting

In an authoritative parenting scenario focusing on setting clear boundaries, consider a situation where a child repeatedly interrupts adult conversations. An authoritative parent would address this behavior by first explaining the importance of respecting others’ conversations.

The parent might say, “I understand you might have something important to share, and I want to hear it. However, it’s also crucial to wait for the right moment to speak when others are talking. Interrupting is not respectful.”

Then, the parent could establish a clear boundary and propose a solution, such as, “Starting now, if you need to say something while I’m talking with others, please wait for a pause in the conversation or gently tap my shoulder. I’ll give you my attention as soon as I can.” This approach sets a clear expectation for the child’s behavior, teaches them about respect and patience, and ensures that the child feels heard and valued.

Effects of Authoritative Parenting on Children

Authoritative parenting is often viewed as the most beneficial approach, as it fosters a nurturing and affectionate environment for children. This style, characterized by a balanced blend of guidance and freedom, enables children to develop self-reliance and social responsibility. They are encouraged to explore autonomy and independence within the supportive framework set by their parents.

The positive effects of authoritative parenting on children are numerous and significant:

 

    • Better Mental Health: Children raised by authoritative parents typically exhibit healthier mental and emotional well-being due to the supportive and understanding environment.

    • High Self-Esteem: The encouragement and positive reinforcement characteristic of this parenting style contribute to higher self-esteem in children.

    • High Academic Achievement: The combination of support and expectations in authoritative parenting often leads to greater academic success.

    • Positive Social Skills: Children of authoritative parents generally possess well-developed social skills, as they are taught to communicate effectively and respect others’ perspectives.

    • Healthy Approach to Relationships: These children learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships, modeled by the respectful and responsive interactions within their family.

    • Secure Attachment with Parents: The warm and responsive nature of authoritative parenting fosters a secure attachment between parents and children, laying a foundation for stable emotional development.

3. Permissive Parenting

Permissive Parenting is characterized by high levels of responsiveness to a child’s emotional needs but low in terms of demandingness or setting expectations. Parents who adopt this style are highly supportive and attuned to their children’s feelings but often find it challenging to establish and enforce boundaries. They tend to be lenient, passive, or indulgent, sometimes described as “lax” in their approach to rule-setting, which can lead to enabling behaviors that extend into the child’s adulthood.

In a permissive household, a parent typically prioritizes the child’s emotional needs and happiness above everything else, often adopting an approach where the child’s contentment dictates the parent’s satisfaction. This can manifest in a reluctance to say “no” to the child’s requests or demands, stemming from a desire to avoid causing disappointment. Permissive parents might also fall short of providing adequate guidance on appropriate social behavior.

Key characteristics of permissive parenting include:

 

    • Valuing Social and Emotional Needs: A strong emphasis is placed on meeting the child’s social and emotional needs.

    • Emotionally Secure Parent-Child Relationship: The relationship between parent and child is often emotionally secure and safe.

    • Open Communication: There is typically a high level of open communication, with children feeling free to express themselves.

    • Autonomy in Decision Making: Children are allowed considerable autonomy in making their own decisions.

    • Rare Enforcement of Expectations: Expectations, when set, are rarely enforced, leading to a lack of clear boundaries and structure.

Examples of Permissive Parenting

In a scenario showcasing permissive parenting, imagine a child repeatedly neglecting their homework to play video games. A permissive parent, prioritizing the child’s immediate happiness, might overlook this behavior, saying something like, “As long as you’re having fun and you’re happy, it’s okay.”

In this case, the parent doesn’t enforce a structured time for homework completion, choosing instead to allow the child to self-regulate their activities. This approach might stem from a desire to avoid conflict or from a belief that the child should be free to make their own choices, even if those choices might not be in their best long-term educational interest. The lack of guidance and boundaries regarding the balance between leisure and responsibilities can lead to challenges in developing disciplined study habits.

Effects of Permissive Parenting on Children

Permissive parenting, while nurturing and affectionate, often lacks discipline and guidance, which can have significant repercussions. This indulgent approach focused primarily on warmth and responsiveness, might inadvertently lead to various developmental challenges for the child.

The potential effects of permissive parenting on children can include:

 

    • Self-Centered or Egocentric Behaviors: Due to the high level of indulgence, children might develop tendencies to prioritize their own needs and desires over those of others.

    • Emotional and Behavioral Problems: The absence of structured guidance can lead to difficulties in managing emotions and behaviors effectively.

    • Low Levels of Self-Reliance: With parents often stepping in to solve problems, children might struggle to develop the ability to rely on themselves.

    • Low Self-Esteem: Without clear boundaries and expectations, children might not develop a strong sense of self-worth and competence.

    • Dependence on Parents: Children may become overly dependent on their parents for decision-making and problem-solving.

    • Impulsivity: A lack of discipline can lead to impulsive behavior, as children are not accustomed to considering the consequences of their actions.

    • Rebellious Behavior: In some cases, the lack of boundaries can lead to rebellious tendencies, especially as children seek to test limits in other environments.

4. Uninvolved Parenting

Characterized by both low demandingness and responsiveness, uninvolved parenting represents a hands-off approach. This style, sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, is marked by a lack of expectations or active support in the child’s emotional, social, or academic life.

In uninvolved parenting, parents typically provide the necessities like shelter, food, and clothing but do not engage beyond these fundamental needs. Social and academic expectations are not set, and a child’s emotional well-being, relationships, and self-esteem receive little to no attention or validation. Uninvolved parents may seem dismissive or indifferent, showing little interest in the child’s life beyond ensuring basic sustenance.

It’s crucial to understand that uninvolved parenting is not always a deliberate choice. Often, it can be a result of external circumstances, such as the parent working long hours or holding multiple jobs to support the family. Additionally, some parents might adopt this style because it mirrors how they were raised, lacking models for more engaged parenting.

Characteristics of the uninvolved parenting style include:

 

    • Neglect of Emotional Needs: There is a distinct lack of attention to the child’s emotional needs and well-being.

    • Absence of Behavioral or Academic Expectations: Parents do not set or enforce rules or expectations regarding the child’s behavior or academic performance.

    • Fragile or Non-existent Parent-Child Relationship: The relationship between the parent and child is often weak or seems almost non-existent.

    • Children Left to Fend for Themselves: Children are often left to manage their affairs and make decisions independently from a young age.

    • Minimal Parental Involvement: Parents show little interest or involvement in the child’s activities, interests, or achievements.

    • Lack of Nurturing and Affection: There is a significant deficiency in nurturing, warmth, and affectionate behavior towards the child.

Examples of Uninvolved Parenting

In another example of uninvolved parenting, consider a scenario where a child shows interest in joining a sports team or an extracurricular activity at school. The child excitedly shares this interest with their parent, hoping for encouragement or assistance in signing up. However, an uninvolved parent might respond with indifference, saying something like, “Do whatever you want; I don’t have time to deal with this right now.”

In this case, the parent neither discourages nor supports the child’s interest. They do not engage in the conversation to understand why the child is interested in the activity or offer to help with the logistics of participation. The child is left to navigate the process on their own, without parental guidance or involvement. This response reflects a lack of interest in the child’s activities and personal development, characteristic of the uninvolved parenting style.

Effects of Uninvolved Parenting on Children

Uninvolved parenting is often considered the most harmful style due to its neglectful nature. Parents who follow this approach are typically unresponsive, unavailable, and frequently neglect their children’s needs. The lack of engagement in setting rules, participating in the child’s life, or showing affection can lead to several adverse outcomes for the child.

The potential effects of uninvolved parenting on children can include:

 

    • Poor Mental Health: Children may suffer from various mental health issues due to the lack of emotional support and guidance.

    • Low Self-Esteem: The absence of parental involvement and validation can lead to low self-esteem, as children might feel unworthy of attention and care.

    • Low Self-Confidence: Without parental encouragement and positive reinforcement, children often struggle with self-confidence.

    • Seeking Validation from Others: Children may become overly reliant on external validation due to the lack of it from their parents.

    • Emotional Dysregulation: The inability to manage and understand emotions effectively is common, as these children have not been taught healthy emotional coping mechanisms.

    • Substance Use: In some cases, emotional neglect and the absence of parental guidance can lead children to seek solace in substance use as a coping mechanism.

Choosing a Healthy Parenting Style

Choosing the right parenting approach is a significant challenge for any family, as it involves finding a method that aligns with their distinct circumstances. Typically, parents gravitate towards a style that resonates with their personal experiences, observations, and the information they’ve gathered over time. This natural preference often stems from how they were raised, what they’ve seen in other families, or insights gained from various sources like books, articles, or even parenting classes.

It’s common for parents to continuously evaluate and question the effectiveness of their chosen style, especially when it comes to discipline. They often ponder whether their approach is the most beneficial for their child’s development and well-being. This reflection is an integral part of the parenting journey, as it encourages ongoing learning and adaptation. Parents may find themselves adjusting their strategies as they gain more experience, learn more about their child’s unique personality, and as their child grows, and their needs evolve. The goal is always to find a balance that nurtures, guides, and supports the child effectively, while also being realistic and sustainable for the family’s lifestyle and values.

Parenting, indeed, is one of the most challenging roles, largely because children don’t come with a set of instructions. Each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Recognizing and wanting to change or develop certain parenting practices is a significant step toward better parenting. Before making these changes, it’s important to consider several factors:

 

    • A Child’s Temperament: Observe and understand a child’s unique personality. This understanding is crucial for adapting a parenting style to meet their specific needs effectively.

    • Cultural Environment and Expectations: Be aware of the cultural norms and values that influence your family. These can significantly impact parenting choices and the expectations parents set for their children.

    • Availability: Reflect on the amount of time and resources available for parenting. Choose a style that fits the parent’s ability level to provide consistent care and support, considering personal and professional commitments.

    • Past Experiences: Consider how a parent’s upbringing and the parenting styles they were exposed to have shaped their views and approaches. Use these insights to inform and possibly modify parenting methods.

    • The Child’s Limitations and Individual Needs: Each child is unique, with their own set of strengths, challenges, and needs. Adapt the parenting approach to cater specifically to these aspects, especially if there are any special needs or challenges.

    • The Size of the Family: The dynamics of a family with multiple children can be complex. Adjust the parenting approach to manage the needs of all children fairly and individually.

    • The Roles of Other Family Members: Factor in the roles and influences of other caregivers, such as grandparents, siblings, or extended family members. Their involvement can impact the child’s development, and they must be aligned with parenting choices.

    • Child Care: If the child is cared for by others (like babysitters, daycare, etc.), ensure these caregivers are informed and capable of following through with the chosen parenting style. Their support and consistency with the parenting methods are crucial.

Final Thoughts

Selecting an appropriate parenting style indeed hinges on several personal and familial factors. Your availability, past experiences, and the specific needs of your family play a crucial role in this decision. It’s essential to recognize that there is no “perfect” parenting style. Each family is unique, and what works for one may not be suitable for another. Flexibility is a critical aspect of effective parenting, as it allows you to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics and challenges that come with raising children.

Understanding the various parenting styles is a valuable tool for parents. It enables them to make informed choices about how to best support their children’s development and well-being. Whether it’s authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or uninvolved, each style has its characteristics, and knowing these can help parents align their approach with their children’s needs.

The goal is to foster a strong, nurturing relationship with your children. This involves a mix of guidance, support, and understanding, tailored to the individual child. By being aware of and adaptable in your parenting approach, you can create a positive environment that promotes your child’s overall growth, happiness, and well-being. Remember, effective parenting is an ongoing process of learning, adapting, and growing alongside your child.

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