Identifying The Types Of Parenting Styles

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

A parenting style refers to the approach a parent or primary caregiver takes when it comes to raising their child. It typically includes elements like how they discipline their child, what type of emotional bond they have with them, and what expectations they hold for their child’s behavior. While the actions of most parents don’t fit neatly into a single one, or some parents may have their own unique style, learning about other parenting styles can be helpful for analyzing and planning the way you would like to parent your child. Read on for a brief overview of the various parenting styles, their potential outcomes relating to child psychology, and tips for those who want to adjust their parenting style.

Is your parenting style setting your children up for success?

Identifying the types of parenting styles

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind first introduced three major parenting styles in the 1960s to help explain the different ways in which parents may choose to socialize their children. The Baumrind parenting styles originally included authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Another developmental psychologist, Eleanor Maccoby, added the fourth style—neglectful— with the help of John Martin in the 1980s. Multiple elements factor into each parenting style and how it may shape family dynamics and child behavior. In general, the four major parenting styles are categorized based on how responsive and demanding a parent is with their child.

  • Responsiveness is determined by how sensitive and open a caregiver is 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. 
  • Demandingness is determined by the level of control a parent seeks over their child. For example, demanding caregivers only offer their child a few decisions and feel the need to monitor their activities closely, usually beyond an age-appropriate level.

Extensive research has been done on how each style may affect child development, which will be referenced below along with an overview of all four types.

Authoritarian parenting

Those with an authoritarian parenting style build a high-demand, low-response relationship with their child. It’s usually characterized by one-way communication and a clear definition of parent/child roles. An authoritarian parent often presents their child with strict rules that they are expected to obey without question. They generally offer them little or no room to negotiate and don’t usually feel compelled to explain their rules. The child is expected to uphold these high standards without any mistakes. When mistakes do occur, an authoritarian parent may enforce rules by delivering some form of punishment. 

Children with authoritarian parents are usually well-behaved because they are familiar with stern discipline and the consequences of stepping out of line. These children tend to function well within a structured dynamic with authority figures. However, authoritarian parenting practices often result in children displaying rebellious tendencies as they grow older. In addition, these children may experience trouble managing their anger later in life.

Authoritarian parenting can also vary depending on a family’s culture. One study titled Authoritarian Parenting and Asian Adolescent School Performance, states that Asian-American families were more authoritarian and less authoritative than European-American families and that parenting styles may differ based on immigrant status.  

Authoritative parenting

Authoritative parents tend to build a high-demand, high-response relationship with their child. This approach tends to create a close, nurturing bond between child and caregiver, with clearly defined roles for each and frequent communication back and forth. The child is often presented with clear guidelines for behavior, and expectations come with explanations as well as appropriate disciplinary actions for failing to meet them. Discipline usually focuses on learning through experience and repairing mistakes rather than punishment. The child is frequently given some input into their boundaries and responsibilities.

Authoritative parenting typically supports children in becoming confident, well-adjusted, responsible adults and is generally considered to be the ideal parenting style. Children with an authoritative parent are more likely to have higher self-esteem and to use creativity to accomplish goals because their independence is encouraged. They are also more likely to be able to self-control emotionally after being raised in an environment where speaking about feelings and experiences was normalized. 

Permissive parenting

Parents with a permissive parenting 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 few or no limits or expectations. The adult’s role may be unclear, as the line between parent and friend may not be well defined. Permissive parents tend to be highly responsive to the child’s needs, communicate with them frequently, and offer them free choice, but they 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 raised by permissive parents may develop unhealthy eating, sleep, screen time, or homework habits, behavioral issues, or other traits that may negatively impact them over time. Though they are often creative and independent, children with permissive or indulgent parents also tend to be impulsive, selfish, demanding, and have trouble with self-control.

Uninvolved or neglectful parenting

Those with an uninvolved or neglectful parenting style build a low-demand, low-response relationship with their child. Uninvolved parents tend to create a distant, cool bond without clearly defined roles, as the child is given freedom without guidance. Uninvolved parents may meet the child’s basic needs, but often keep themselves detached from their child emotionally. Communication is often limited, and no consistent discipline style is used. A child may experience uncertainty and disinterest as a result of uninvolved parenting. 

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, have low self-esteem, experience increased academic challenges, and have difficulty establishing or maintaining healthy social relationships.

Is your parenting style setting your children up for success?

What is the ideal parenting style?

Generally, authoritative parenting is considered to be the optimum parenting style 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 them how to learn from mistakes. Clearly defined parent/child roles and taking the child’s feelings and perspective into account can also help build a strong bond and foster open communication. 

“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,” say the authors of a 2019 research paper about parenting styles.

Remember, the approach of many parents won’t fit neatly into one style, but thinking of them in this way can give caregivers a framework to assist them in making decisions about how to relate to their children. It’s also worth noting that every situation and family dynamic is different, and that culture can also significantly influence how people choose to raise their children. The best parenting style for you may not be the best for others, so it's important to explore varying techniques and methods until you find a style that works. 

How to cultivate a healthy parenting style

If you've noticed patterns you don't like in your parenting style or relationship with your child, there are ways to shift your habits over time. Some tips for building toward a healthier parenting style may include a focus on the following goals:

  • Set and consistently enforce well-defined rules
  • Center discipline on learning and growth
  • Communicate how children are expected to behave 
  • Establish open lines of communication
  • Delineate clear parent and child roles
  • Maintain parental authority
  • Offer age-appropriate independence

Another way to grow as a parent is to seek out the support of a therapist. Family therapy can be valuable for allowing families to say their feelings and improve communication to build a healthier group dynamic. Or, individual therapy can help you as a parent identify the underlying causes behind your choices and assist you in strengthening your communication and parenting skills. A therapist can also support you in coping with the stressors of raising a child and offer you a safe space to express and process emotions.

How to find a therapist

If you’re interested in meeting with a therapist, you have options: in-person, or virtual. Those who are interested in traditional, in-person sessions can search for a provider in their local area. For those who have busy schedules and would find virtual meetings to be more available and convenient, virtual therapy may be worth considering. With a virtual therapy service like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to get support for the challenges you may be facing. Research suggests that both online and in-person therapy can offer similar benefits in general, so you can typically choose the format that’s right for you.


Parenting styles have been divided into four key approaches by psychologists, each with different levels of responsiveness and demandingness and different potential outcomes for the children. If you’re looking to make changes to your parenting style or would simply like support on your parenting journey, you might consider meeting with a therapist.
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