Parenting Styles

A parenting style is the stable and consistent way in which you rear your child. Parenting styles remain stable across time and different situations. There are two dimensions to parenting style—responsiveness and demandingness. Let’s take a look at what these two dimensions are and explore some examples.

1. The Responsiveness Dimension: love, nurturance, warmth
Responsiveness is about how nurturing, warm and loving you are toward your child. Interestingly, how responsive you are directly correlates to your child’s social competence and psychosocial functioning.

-being available
-spending time with child
-actively listening to child

2. The Demandingness Dimension: control, discipline A parent’s demandingness is the extent to which you expect and insist on responsible behavior. How demanding you are with your child’s behavior is directly associated with their instrumental competence (academic performance) and their ability to control their behavior (deviance).

-set age-appropriate standards (rules) -show your child how to achieve these standards -reward your child for complying

3. Psychological Control Dimension
What? A third dimension? Researchers are beginning to distinguish between behavioral control or demandingness and psychological control. Granting psychological autonomy aids a child’s development, much like demandingness aids your child’s growth. However, being too psychologically controlling limits your child’s opportunities of self-discovery and self-esteem. Basically, giving psychological autonomy is about giving your child ‘space’; the room to make decisions on their own.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the dimensions each parenting style revolves on, let’s take a look at the four prototypical parenting styles. You’ll probably be able to identify your parents’ parenting style as well as your own parenting style relatively easily.

Parenting Styles

1. Authoritative
Authoritative parenting means parents demand a lot from their child’s behavior but they are also highly responsive and caring toward their child. On the third dimension, psychological control, authoritative parents score low. Low psychological control means that authoritative parents give their kids the opportunity to make their own mistakes—autonomy!

2. Authoritarian
Authoritarian parents are very demanding and hold much psychological control over their children. However, they rate very low on responsiveness or caring toward the child.

3. Permissive
Permissive parents rate high on responsiveness to their children, but very low on demandingness or discipline. You can probably guess that they also grant psychological autonomy to their children.

4. Uninvolved
Uninvolved parents rate low on all three dimensions; they don’t try to gain psychological control over their kids, they don’t demand any discipline from them and they’re not responsive to the child’s needs. Basically, they are uninvolved in the child’s upbringing.

So what effect do these parenting styles have on their children? When we examine the dimensions, we discussed some of the correlates attached to each parenting style; in other words, we looked at how a parent scores on each dimension would probably affect their child. But because each parenting style has three separate dimensions, the effects on children are dynamic. Therefore, let’s take a look at how each parenting style affects kids. Also, remember that the effects of parenting styles are seen early—usually by the time your child is a preschooler.

How Parenting Style Affects Children

1. Children of Authoritative Parents
Kids with authoritative parents achieve the best grades, are the most self-reliant and are the best behaved. Basically, the ‘firm but gentle’ approach of authoritative parenting works best on children. These kids are also socially successful.

2. Children of Authoritarian Parents
These children perform moderately well in school and usually don’t exhibit problem behavior. However, they have poor social skills and a low self-esteem. High levels of depression are found in this group, probably due to the lack of psychological autonomy their parents grant them. This lack of autonomy has been found to lead to learned helplessness, a key player in depression.

3. Children of Permissive Parents
Children who were raised by permissive parents perform poorly at school and misbehave frequently. However, they have better social skills and higher self-esteem. Because their parents grant them autonomy, they have lower levels of depression.

4. Children of Uninvolved Parents
These children perform most poorly in all domains. Children need guidance; they learn about their world through watching their parents and imitating.

Parent styles are usually stable only because many parents don’t make use of the parenting resources available at their fingertips. You can easily change your parenting style if you feel yours isn’t achieving the results you’d hoped for. Remember, you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself!

The next step is realizing that parent behavior plays an enormous role in how your children develop. For more information, read our parental behavior article.

Find information about stepparenting styles here.

Another important topic is how you reward and punish your child. This falls under the dimension of demandingness. To learn how to use discipline effectively, visit our disciplining kids article.