The effect of parenting styles on child development specifically answers which manner or style of parenting leads to the best outcomes for children in the long term.
In this article:
- What is parenting style?
- The 2 dimensions of parenting style.
- The 4 parenting styles and effect of parenting styles on child development.
- Outcomes of different parenting styles in a child’s behaviour.
What is Parenting Style?
Parenting style refers to the standard practices and strategies that parents use to nurture their child.
The 2 Dimensions of Parenting Style
Parenting styles vary along two dimensions:
Warmth, which is about about how much of affection you show your child. What is basically means is how much love you express to your child and how much warmth you demonstrate to your child.
Control, which is about how much structure you impose upon your child. It’s about the extent to which you are involved in your child’s life. Do you set a firm bed time, do you involve in the child’s schooling, are you keeping up on what homework they are given, etc.
The 4 Parenting Styles and the Effect of Parenting Styles on Child Development
There are 4 types of parenting styles. As we proceed, we are going to describe where the four parenting styles fall along these two dimensions, so that you get the key distinctions across the four styles.
Adopting what is called the 2×2 matrix (2-by-2 matrix, which forms 4 quadrants when put on X axis and Y axis) we can combine the two dimensions Warmth and Control in such a way that creates our four different parenting styles:
High Control Vs Low Control
High Warmth Vs Low Warmth
Let us start with the terms of each of the four styles and then specifically go through the definition of each style of parenting. We will also look at some examples for each of the parenting style and what it looks like in the real world.
1. Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parenting that is high in warmth and high in control. Parenting here is very loving and very affectionate but it also comes with a lot of structure (control).
Authoritative parenting is kind of a give and take. It’s an active two-way traffic, and is more democratic in nature. The parent here is still the parent. They position themselves so (which is the warmth aspect) but they have demands and they also set limits (which is the control aspect).
Having said, they openly express their affection for the child, which is the warmth aspect, and they are also open to listen to their child’s point of view. Not only they listen openly, they also listen patiently.
Example of Authoritative Parenting
Let’s say you and your family are out on a vacation for a few days and your child wants to stay up for an hour past bed time (which means you have already set a time for bed time, which is high in control, but since you’re all on a vacation and there’s no school tomorrow).
Instead of telling the child “You know the house rules and you also know what time is bed time”, you could say “Okay, let us talk about that. May I know why do you want to stay up late for an hour? Why do you think you should now and not do what you want to do during daytime tomorrow?
Listen to your child’s response attentively and patiently. Attention and patience is key! Once you have listened, you can express your point of view as the parent. Your response could be “I don’t want you to feel tired in the morning tomorrow as we have a trek starting at 8 am and we have to leave an hour earlier. Also, we can’t make the bus wait for us.”
May be your child will have some response for that too, which you should listen patiently and could then say “Okay then. An hour is too long a time, given that the bus will be here to pick us up at 7”. You have 30 extra minutes and after that it’s bed time. Hope that sounds good?” That’s how authoritative parenting sounds like.
2. Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritarian parenting is also high control, but low warmth. Parents adopting this style hold themselves from expressing affection to appear strict and ‘in control’ to their children.
Note: Do not confuse Authoritarian parenting with Authoritative parenting, which is high warmth and high control. They both sound very similar but are very different.
Unlike Authoritative parenting, Authoritarian parenting (in contrast), is all about conformity and obedience. Absolute conformity and total obedience to be precise.
This style of parenting is all about I am the adult and you’re the child-kind of approach. It’s the “I said it’s bedtime already. Do you hear me?” kind of parenting. Very high in control, which means bedtime IS bedtime! And very low in warmth. It’s the “We’re not discussing on this. Got it?” kind of approach.
Authoritarian parenting is a parenting style which dwells on a very strict relationship. You are almost always closely monitoring your children, almost kind of breathing on their shoulder.
That’s why parents using this style are sometimes referred to as Helicopter Parents. In this style, there may be some warmth or mostly very little warmth. That’s why it is Authoritarian and not Authoritative (where there is control but also more warmth).
3. Permissive Parenting
Permissive parenting is characterised by high warmth and low control. It is the absolute opposite of Authoritarian parenting.
Permissive parenting is (again) low control and high warmth style of parenting. In this kind of parenting relationship, the children run the show where just about anything goes. The parents make very few demands and rarely reprimand or punishment their children. Rather than being a parent, they’re more like a friend and choose to play that role.
So what does Permissive parenting look like? Well, it looks like the parent is trying to be their child’s best friend. Kind of a buddy, if you will. You can go out with your friends, go whenever you want and come whenever you want and stay out as long you want. At the most, you need to only keep the parents informed when you’ll be back. That’s permissive parenting.
4. Uninvolved Parenting
Uninvolved parenting is characterised by low warmth and low control. As the name suggests, parents using this style are not involved in the life of their children.
That’s why this is one parenting style that parents should Absolutely Avoid!
That’s not all. Often, they’re also indifferent to their child’s needs, especially the emotional needs of their children. Most of the time, they are even neglectful and make very few or no demands. There is neither warmth nor control!
At best, an uninvolved parent fulfils just the basic needs of the child. They just provide the food, give them shelter and clothes to wear. That’s about it. Beyond that, the children are on their own.
Depending on the person you ask who specialises in the field of psychology, such parents are sometimes called Rejecting or Neglecting parenting style. The parents indeed reject and neglect their responsibilities towards their child.
There can be many reasons why parents are this way. Sometimes, it could be that they’re so ‘drowned’ into their careers (involved would be a subtle word), or maybe they have become so addicted to soap operas, social media, alcoholism or even substance abuse; so much so that they don’t have the time for themselves in the first place (let alone their children) or they’re not taking care of themselves!
Having said, it is very rare one come across instances of uninvolved parenting. But it does exist – unfortunately!
Outcomes of Different Parenting Styles in a Child’s Behaviour
First Things First: What kind of parenting style is better for children also depends on many factors, cultural and ethnic aspects in particular, which is dependent on which part of the world the child is born in. In other words, there are exceptions to what is discussed below.
Generally (not always), authoritative parenting leads to the best outcome for children. Authoritative parents tend to end up having kids who have high self-esteem, do great in school, have great social skills and are less involved in drugs and alcohol later in life.
Authoritarian parenting leads to children having a lot of anxiety, who tend to be pretty withdrawn and overall pretty unhappy. However, there is a cultural difference here.
Many research studies have shown that whether a parent is authoritarian or authoritative, the children grow up to be about the same.
It’s also been shown that if you live in a dangerous environment or a bad neighbourhood, authoritarian parenting could turn out to be better because of how it can literally keep kids out of dangerous circumstances and harm’s way. So that way, authoritarian parenting has its merits as well.
Permissive Parenting leads to children who lack self-disciple, as you let them do whatever they want and it’s associated with poor academic performance and also risky behaviour later in life. Risky behaviours meaning alcohol abuse, substance abuse, unprotected sex, etc.
Uninvolved parenting leads to children who are emotionally withdrawn, they may be fearful, anxious, tend to perform poor in school and at risk for substance abuse later in life.
If you’re a new parent or thinking about parenting in the future, the option is to go for authoritative parenting, especially during the early childhood phase. Be high in both warmth and high control and pose limits on your children.
The word “limit” obviously means you do not restrict them from doing things. It is just that you limit them to a number or frequency that is appropriate. Just make sure they have a bedtime, be involved in their lives but do so with adequate warmth, and do so while always patiently listening out their point of view – which is critical!
As a parent, but for the uninvolved parenting style, you need to demonstrate the authoritative, authoritarian and permissive styles of parenting for the many different situations you encounter with your child on a day-to-day basis.
In other words, no one style fits all situations encountered by you and/your child. In fact, no one style will always fit for the same child, as they could behave differently for the same situation at different points in time. That’s why you need to use your judgment and demonstrate a style that is appropriate for a given situation.
And remember: Judgement comes by experience.
Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.