Exploring The Four Different Types Of Parenting Styles

2 parents and a child
*This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp

How you choose to parent your child is completely up to you and anyone else with a rightful place in their life. While there is no standard or one-size-fits-all way to parent, certain parenting styles are healthier than others. For example, abuse and neglect are both detrimental to a child’s development, meaning that any parenting style involving these factors is considered unhealthy.

Being consistent as a parent is vital, as kids need structure while they grow up. Therefore, it can be helpful to understand the various types of parenting styles and how each one can contribute to a child’s growth and well-being. In this article, we’ll explore the four different types of parenting styles and discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages of each.

The History Of The Four Parenting Styles

While there are many kinds of parenting styles, psychologist Diana Baumrind narrowed them down into three main styles in the 1960s. These three were authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Researchers at Stanford University added a fourth, neglectful, in the 1980s.

Each parenting style is classified based on how responsive a parent is to their child’s needs and how much control they exert over their child’s decisions and behavior. You don’t have to choose just one parenting style, as each one may be useful in different scenarios. For example, if your child is in danger, you may need to be less accommodating to their perspective and set stricter rules to keep them safe.

Below, we’ll examine the characteristics of each of the four parenting styles and then discuss which one researchers have discovered is most effective.

The Four Parenting Styles

Below is an overview of what it may look like to take each of the four approaches with your child.

  1. Authoritarian: Parents utilizing an authoritarian approach tend to put strict rules on their children with little room for failure. These parents are typically not as nurturing or emotional and may not take their child’s feelings or perspective into account when disciplining or setting rules. Children are expected to obey no matter what, leaving very little room for negotiation or flexibility.
  1. Neglectful: This style of parenting happens when parents are uninvolved in their children’s lives. Also called uninvolved or indifferent parenting, children raised this way may feel that their parents aren’t interested in them because they aren’t responsive to their needs. Although neglectful parents may still provide the basics, like clothing and food, they fail to meet their children’s emotional needs.
  1. Permissive: Permissive parenting involves placing few demands on a child without many rules or guidelines for them to follow. These types of parents may act more as their child’s friend than the authority figure in their lives, creating loose boundaries and failing to give their children standards to strive toward.
  1. Authoritative: Authoritative parenting involves being loving, nurturing, and responsive to your child’s needs, but also setting reasonable yet firm boundaries and limits on their behavior. Parents using this style actively listen to their children and take their input into account, but don’t necessarily agree with them every time. This style promotes trust and safety, leading the child to develop a secure attachment with their parent.

Keep in mind that every child is unique and may respond differently to each of these styles. Parents often need to stay adaptable to find the right fit for their children based on their needs and responsiveness. While consistency is crucial, being too rigid can cause parents to miss out on potential opportunities for growth.

Now that we’ve covered the four different parenting styles, let’s discuss which one tends to produce the most positive outcomes.

Which Style Is Best?

Experts who have researched parenting styles have discovered that the authoritative parenting style is the healthiest and most effective. Authoritative parenting allows children to be nurtured and supported while also placing clear boundaries in place to guide their behavior. Kids raised by authoritative parents tend to be happier, self-assured, independent, and successful. They’re more likely to do well in school, have stronger relationships, and succeed in their endeavors.

Authoritative parenting teaches children how to regulate their emotions and handle conflict constructively, which often leads to greater resilience in adulthood. Instead of being hands-off in their children’s lives, parents are actively involved and seek to show a genuine interest in their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. This often fosters a strong parent-child relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

Healing Your Inner Child

Adult behaviors are typically the result of childhood experiences. If you were raised in a healthy, loving home, it’s more likely you’ll know how to provide the same for your own child. However, if you grew up in a home where everyone suppressed their emotions and a lot was expected of you from a young age, you may have difficulty not repeating those same patterns with your children. One way to avoid repeating unhelpful patterns is to heal your inner child. 

Healing your inner child involves becoming the type of parent you needed but never had. By addressing your childhood wounds and healing from them, you can make healthier choices for yourself and your child. Reparenting therapy was specifically created to help adults work through painful childhood memories and may be a useful option for those wanting guidance and support during the healing process.

Closing Thoughts

Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of the four types of parenting styles can allow parents to make sound and intentional decisions regarding their children’s upbringing. Although authoritative parenting is correlated with positive outcomes, using this approach does not mean that there won’t be obstacles or setbacks along the way. Additionally, it can be vital for parents to remain open to trying new approaches, as every child is unique. 

Parenting can be highly unpredictable, and many other factors beyond someone’s parenting style help determine how a child will turn out. By staying conscious of the way they’re raising their children, parents can adapt as needed to their children’s needs and make choices that will benefit the entire family. 

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