Identifying The Types Of Parenting Styles

Updated January 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether you’re about to become a parent for the first time, have a wild toddler running around, or are struggling through the moody adolescent years, your parenting style can have a lasting effect on your children. While most parents don’t fit neatly into a single parenting style, they can be helpful categorizations for examining behavior. Read on for a brief overview of the various parenting styles and the pros and cons of each. 

What Is A Parenting Style?

Is Your Parenting Style Setting Your Children Up For Success?

Psychologist Diana Baumrind first introduced the three main parenting styles in the 1960s to help explain how parents control and socialize their children. Researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin added the fourth style in the 1980s. Multiple elements factor into each parenting style and how it shapes the home's family dynamic and emotional climate. Traits such as affection, expectation, guidance, and boundaries are typical aspects of parenting styles. 

“It is beneficial to evaluate the support and demandingness of a caregiver in order to determine which style is being used and how to effectively use it. Support refers to the amount of affection, acceptance, and warmth a parent provides to a child. Demandingness refers to the degree a parent controls a child's behavior,” said the authors of an Iowa State University paper about parenting styles. 

What Are The Four Primary Parenting Styles?

A recent study examined the primary parenting styles and their effects on children, and that information is referenced throughout the following section. While most parents don’t fall neatly into a single parenting style, they will typically land in one category while displaying traits from others. Parenting styles are typically measured by how responsive and demanding a parent is with their child. 

Responsiveness is determined by how sensitive and open caregivers are to their child's needs. For example, responsive caregivers show interest in the child's daily activities, display a high level of affectionate interaction, and are willing to respect the child’s point of view. 

How demanding a parent is often determined by the level of control they seek over their child. For example, demanding caregivers only offer children a few decisions and feel the need to monitor the child's activities closely beyond an age-appropriate level. 

Authoritarian

Parents with an authoritarian style build a high-demand, low-response relationship with their children. This parenting style tends to create one-way communication between parent and child and a clear definition of parent/child roles. Parents present children with strict rules they are expected to obey without question. Authoritarian parents generally offer their children little or no room to negotiate and don’t usually feel compelled to explain their rules. Children are expected to uphold their parent’s high standards without mistakes, which often result in punishment. 

Children with authoritarian parents are usually well-behaved because they are familiar with the consequences of stepping out of line. These children are also more likely to function well within a structured dynamic with an authority figure. However, they may display rebellious tendencies as they grow older and experience trouble managing their anger. 

Authoritative

Parents with an authoritative style build a high-demand, high-response relationship with their children. This parenting style can create a close, nurturing bond between child and caregiver, with clearly defined roles for each and frequent communication back and forth. Children are often presented with clear guidelines for behavior, and expectations come with explanations—and appropriate disciplinary actions for failing to meet them. Discipline usually focuses on learning through experience and repairing mistakes rather than punishment. Children are frequently given some input into their goals, boundaries, and responsibilities.

Authoritative parenting typically supports children in becoming confident, well-adjusted, responsible adults and is generally considered the ideal parenting style. These children are more likely to have higher self-esteem and use creativity to accomplish goals because independence is encouraged. They are more likely to show concerns with parents or guardians after a lifetime of routinely talking about their feelings and experiences. 

Permissive

Parents with a permissive style build a low-demand, high-response relationship with their children. This parenting style often creates a warm, nurturing bond between parent and child but imposes little or no limits and expectations. Parental and friendship roles may be confused without a clear definition of parent/child roles. Permissive parents communicate frequently, respond highly to the child’s needs, and give a free choice but offer little structure or guidance. 

While life without limits may sound appealing to a child, children typically need boundaries, discipline, and structure to become well-adjusted adults. Children with permissive parents may develop unhealthy eating, sleep, screen time, or homework habits, behavioral issues, or other undesirable traits. Though they are often creative and independent, children of permissive parents also tend to be impulsive, selfish, demanding, and have trouble with self-control. 

Uninvolved or Neglectful

Parents with an uninvolved or neglectful style build a low-demand, low-response relationship with their children. This parenting style tends to create a distant, cool bond between parent and child without clear roles, as the child is given freedom without guidance. Uninvolved parents meet the child’s basic needs but may keep themselves detached from their child emotionally. Communication is often limited, and no consistent discipline style is used. Children may experience uncertainty and disinterest with uninvolved parents. 

Children who grow up with uninvolved or neglectful parents may become more self-sufficient and resilient. However, they may also have trouble controlling their emotions, experience increased academic challenges, and have difficulty establishing or maintaining healthy social relationships. 

Additional Parenting Styles 

  • Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting generally focuses on the infant and early childhood stage of development, encouraging emotional responsiveness, positive discipline, and a strong, nurturing relationship between child and caregiver. 

  • Helicopter parenting

Helicopter parenting was named after the caregiver’s tendency to hover over the child, micromanaging every moment of their lives and solving their problems. This parenting style often extends after the child becomes an adult.

  • Free-range parenting

Free-range parenting has the opposite effect of helicopter parenting. It centers on the belief that overprotecting children prevents the development of independence and responsibility. 

How To Change Your Parenting Style

If you've noticed patterns you don't like in your parenting style or relationship with your children, you can change your habits and develop a healthier parenting style. A therapist can help you identify the underlying causes behind your behavior and help you build communication and parenting skills. Family therapy can be a valuable resource for families to show their feelings and receive support or advice for a healthier family dynamic. Individual therapy can help you delve into your emotions and parenting decisions to shift your parenting style in the direction you want. 

Some ways to build toward a healthier parenting style include:

  • Set and consistently enforce well-defined rules

  • Communicate how children are expected to behave 

  • Establish open lines of communication

  • Build clear parent and child roles

  • Maintain parental authority

  • Offer age-appropriate independence

Is Your Parenting Style Setting Your Children Up For Success?

What Is The Ideal Parenting Style?

Generally, an authoritative parenting style is considered the ideal choice because it offers clear parental guidance and expectations, nurturing emotional support, and age-appropriate responsibility. Children can benefit when parents encourage healthy boundaries and teach the ability to learn from mistakes. Clearly defined parent/child roles and taking the child’s feelings and perspective into account builds a strong bond and fosters open communication. 

It is important to remember that these standards are comprised of averages and don’t necessarily apply to every situation and family dynamic. Cultural norms can significantly influence how your family operates, and it can be difficult to sway from traditions. 

“An authoritative parenting style has consistently been associated with positive developmental outcomes in youth, such as psychosocial competence (e.g., maturation, resilience, optimism, self-reliance, social competence, self-esteem) and academic achievement,” said the authors of a paper about parenting styles.

How Therapy Can Help Your Parenting Style

Parenting can be confusing and difficult for both parents and children. If you’ve noticed that your family dynamic feels strained, you or your child is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, or you feel like you need additional support as a parent, therapy can be an effective solution. Therapy can help you cope with the stressors of raising a child and can offer your child a safe space to express and process emotions. 

Depending on your situation, individual, group, or family therapy may be the most beneficial. Many families are turning to online therapy because of the accessibility and affordability it offers compared to traditional in-person appointments. Research suggests that both therapeutic methods offer similar benefits and efficiency. Virtual therapy platforms like BetterHelp provide flexible sessions via phone, video call, or online chat, so you can choose the format that works best for you. 

Takeaway 

Parenting can be challenging, but an effective parenting style can make building and maintaining a strong relationship with your child easier. The strategies outlined in this article may help you choose your style as a parent or guardian.  

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