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Parenting

Navigating Parenthood and Understanding Parenting Styles

The ins and outs of the parenting different styles, how you can blend them, and how cultural and societal factors can influence the way we parent.

Navigating Parenthood and Understanding Parenting Styles

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Every family has its own distinct approach to raising their kids. But did you know there are different categories of parenting styles? Renowned developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified four primary types: permissive, uninvolved, authoritarian, and authoritative, and each has its own set of characteristics.

However, understanding parenting styles doesn't have to be a daunting task. In fact, recognizing the different approaches can help parents reflect on their own style and figure out where they might want to make some adjustments or try something new.

To give you a closer look at how each one works, we have four parenting pros to break it all down — the ins and outs of the different styles, how you can blend them, and how cultural and societal factors can influence the way we parent.

What are parenting styles?

According to information published by the American Psychological Association (APA), there are four types of parenting styles, each with their traits and characteristics.

Authoritative

According to the APA, authoritative parenting is defined by nurturing, responsive, and supportive parents who set firm limits for their children. This style is often considered the gold standard of parenting, and children raised by authoritative parents tend to be socially competent, energetic, self-reliant, cooperative, and achievement-oriented.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parenting is a style in which parents set strict rules that their children must follow, according to a 2022 article published in StatPearls, a comprehensive, evidence-based medical education platform. Authoritarian parents expect their kids to always meet their high standards and not make any mistakes. This can lead to low self-confidence and struggling to make decisions independently.

Permissive

Permissive parents, according to the APA, tend to be warm but also fail to set rules and boundaries. Because of the lack of structure, children of permissive parents can be impulsive, aggressive, and domineering.

Uninvolved

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According to the APA, the fourth parenting style is characterized by uninvolved and neglectful parents. Uninvolved parents are typically unresponsive, unavailable, and rejecting towards their children, which can cause them to develop low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

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What is authoritative parenting?

Authoritative parenting is defined as having a balance of high expectations, warmth, and support for the child, explains Alisha Simpson-Watt, LCSW, BCBA, LBA, behavior analyst, clinical social worker, executive clinical director, and founder of Collaborative ABA Services.

"Key characteristics of this parenting style include having parental control but also fostering their child's independence and self-discipline," she says. "This parenting style is highly demanding and responsive, fostering a warm, supportive environment. In this approach, parents acknowledge their child's strengths, set and maintain expectations, and support the child's personal growth and development."

According to Dr. Monika Roots, child psychiatrist and co-founder at Bend Health, a provider of pediatric mental health care for kids, the authoritative parenting style is generally thought of as the best way to raise kids because it produces the best outcomes. "Kids raised by authoritative parents are well-behaved, display leadership qualities, are self-reliant, independent, and accepted socially," she says. "They also report less anxiety and depression and are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors like substance use."

What is authoritarian parenting?

Authoritarian parenting is the strictest parenting style and has a few key characteristics, according to Dr. Tasha M. Brown, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist. "It is characterized by low responsiveness, high expectations and demands, and strict rules. However, what makes these expectations difficult is that parents give their children no explanation or feedback about why these rules and boundaries are important or how they should follow them."

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Dr. Brown suggests that children who are raised by authoritarian parenting are often well-behaved out of fear of the consequences of their parents. "However, there are many disadvantages, including low self-esteem and poor relationships with parents and caregivers," she continues. "These children are also afraid of failure and high anxiety."

What is permissive parenting?

Parents and caregivers who use a permissive parenting style often find it difficult to set rules and limits for their child's behavior. As Dr. Brown explains to Today's Parent, "Permissive parents usually have few rules or consequences for their children. Children with permissive parents often make their own choices, and their parents and caregivers have little control over their behavior and decisions."

However, this parenting approach has some positives. "These children have high self-esteem, are willing to try new things, and are outgoing," says Dr. Brown. However, this parenting style does present some disadvantages, such as the development of unhealthy habits due to the lack of structure, difficulties with emotion regulation, and also difficulty accepting limits that are placed on them in other settings."

What is uninvolved parenting?

Uninvolved parenting does not put any demands or expectations on the child, explains Simpson-Watt. "Uninvolved or neglectful parents lack interest in the welfare of their children and do not enforce rules or limitations on their children," she says. "This parenting style is considered both lowly demanding and lowly responsive to the child's needs."

While uninvolved parents provide their children with the most basic necessities, Darlene Taylor, CPC, a parenting expert, author, and former licensed social worker, says they show little emotional involvement. She explains to Today's Parent, "The lack of structure in uninvolved parenting causes children to have issues with understanding boundaries and limits, therefore often displaying behavioral problems and poor decision-making skills.

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It is also common for these children to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. "They are much more prone to develop substance abuse issues, engage in delinquent behavior, and have poor academic skills," adds Taylor. "These children also have difficulty forming attachments later in life and shy away from healthy relationships where love and warmth are routinely shown."

How to find your parenting style

Simpson-Watt says there are many ways for parents to figure out their unique parenting style. "Parents can read, reflect on their childhood and current parenting experiences, seek feedback from others, and complete a parenting style questionnaire. This process allows parents to identify their predominant parenting style."

However, it's always a good idea to be flexible and adaptable when blending parenting styles. "There is not a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting, as different styles are needed based on the child's unique characteristics and capabilities," adds Simpson-Watt. "Each style should be fluid, adapting to different situations and individual children's needs (e.g., age, disability, etc.)"

How to blend parenting styles

Parents don't have to adopt just one parenting style. They can mix and match different parenting styles and techniques to find the best approach for their family.

"For example, parents may integrate authoritarian traits if the child engages in unsafe behaviors, but also balance additional elements of warmth and support when the child is engaging in safe behaviors," says Simpson-Watt. "Parents may also utilize permissive strategies to build a relationship with their child, while also incorporating some authoritative traits of warmth, support and boundaries."

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How cultural and societal influences can impact parenting styles

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Cultural and societal influences can also impact parenting styles. According to Simpson Watt, these include things like location, income, education, and personal perceptions. She continues, "These styles may also vary by the child's gender and disability status, with some cultures favoring authoritarian approaches for girls and permissive ones for boys."

Experts

  • Darlene Taylor, CPC, a parenting expert, author, and former licensed social worker
  • Dr. Tasha M. Brown, Ph.D, a licensed clinical psychologist
  • Alisha Simpson-Watt, LCSW, BCBA, LBA, behavior analyst, clinical social worker, executive clinical director, and founder of Collaborative ABA Services
  • Dr. Monika Roots, child psychiatrist and co-founder at Bend Health, a provider of pediatric mental health care for kids

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