The Four Parenting Styles And Their Significance Today

What is your parenting style?? The common perception is that each parent has their own style. however, there are so many similarities in how everyone raises their kids that researchers were able to group these into the 4 most common types!

There is no right way to raise your child. Each parenting style also differs across cultures, as well as in discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations.

If another parent were to ask you what parenting style you use, would be able to give a straight answer? This is something that some parents consider carefully and proudly as a way of showcasing their strengths. Others won’t have given it much thought as they are more likely to go with the flow and what feels best. Those of you that are curious to see where they fit in may find the following guide helpful.


What are the four parenting styles?


Below are the four most well-known parenting styles used by parents and researchers. These groups are fairly broad and while you may feel you identify more closely with one than the other, you might not see any as 100% your style. These groups offer guidance on how to parent based on views of discipline and communication with children. From there, I want to talk about some of the other terms you may have heard. Those four key parenting styles are:


Authoritarian or Disciplinarian

Permissive or Indulgent

Uninvolved or Neglectful

As time has passed, few more styles like Attachment Parenting ( from birth) and Free-Range parenting ( especially with older kids)  have evolved and gained popularity. However, Our discussion here will mostly be based on the four most common types as listed above.

The APA favors the Authoritative style out of the cited approaches.

Some journals, such as the American Psychological Association, will cite three key parenting styles. They tend to favor the Authoritative style as the best choice for creating balanced and functional children. They then list Permissive and Uninvolved as negative alternatives. We will look at the potential issues in this assessment further below.

They claim that the authoritative approach is best for children because it is supportive, with firm limits. The parents are in charge and get the final rule on all the rules of the household, and what kids can and cannot do. But, they are also willing to listen to opinions and discuss things rationally.

There may be a grey area here where some authoritarian parents believe they are verging closer to a permissive role when they actually have no intention of backing down on an opinion. But, a greater sense of rationality in the response of authoritative parents could help to build a sense of trust and better communication with kids.

According to the APA, kids with authoritative parents tend to be in better moods with increased self-esteem and self-control. They are also more achievement-oriented. The main difference between authoritative and authoritarian households is the ability to sit down and explain rules and show reasoning. Kids might not get a say, but they get a reason behind the rules. This isn’t as likely in an authoritarian household.


Authoritative Parenting


The authoritarian parenting style is a step up in terms of discipline and barriers.

The authoritarian parenting style is different because there isn’t the same focus on rationality and conversation. This is a setting where a parent’s word is final and kids have to deal with it. They follow the rules, have no way to negotiate on them, and may face negative consequences for breaking them.

This is quite an old-fashioned concept where children are seen but not heard and respect the man of the house but at the same time some parents believe that this helps prevent behavioral problems right from the start and positive discipline strategies like praise and reward systems reinforce good behavior.

While some parents might believe that the firm limits set by parents may lead to negative reactions as kids act out. Kids may become rebellious and distant, with poor relationships and communication with the rest of the family or kids may become scared to do anything wrong, lose out on adolescent experiences and develop self-esteem issues but research has shown that these kids do well socially, perform well at school, enjoy positive relationships with their peers and become independent and self-sufficient later in life.

They become responsible adults. These kids are good at making decisions and evaluating safety risks on their own and tend to be happy and successful in life.


Neglectful or Uninvolved Parenting


An uninvolved parent is the one that pays little to no attention when raising kids and merely provides basic needs. There are no rules or boundaries and they may be unavailable quite often.

While there are suggestions that this could lead to poor self-esteem and the desire to seek out inappropriate role models, it might also make kids self-reliant and independent from a young age.

This isn’t an endorsement for this style of parenting as it isn’t really parenting at all.

Neglectful parents expect children to raise themselves up! There is no time or energy invested in meeting the child’s basic demands. These parents don’t ask children about their school, help with homework, and tend to know little about their whereabouts. Therefore the children may not be getting much guidance, nurturing, or parental attention.

Most of the time uninvolved parents are negligent unintentionally. they could have a mental health issue or substance abuse problem where they are incapable of looking after the child’s day to day needs physically or emotionally.

Sometimes they lack knowledge about children’s development and what milestones need to be achieved. Sometimes they are just simply overwhelmed with other problems like managing a household, working, paying bills, making ends meet, etc. to spend time with the child.

Children of uninvolved parents tend to perform poorly academically and struggle with self-esteem issues. They also rank low in happiness and can have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and significant trauma to resolve.

The lack of emotional attachment in childhood also affects relationships later on in life and make it difficult to trust others easily. These kids tend to be lonely and reserved and find it hard to share their feelings with others.

While the uninvolved and authoritarian approaches to rules and discipline are on different ends of the spectrum, there may be similar issues with the amount of time spent engaging with kids and creating discourse.

The uninvolved parent may let their kids stay out all night with no repercussions while the other grounds them in their room for being home late. Either way, there is little communication and a big barrier between parent and child.


Permissive Parenting


The style in between the authoritative and uninvolved parents is the permissive ones. This is a middle ground where parents are attentive and will set rules and limits for the household. But, they are also more likely to bend those rules and turn a blind eye.

There are pros and cons to this. Some children may see this as a chance to get away with a lot. The APA suggests that children in permissive homes are more often impulsive, rebellious, and aggressive low achievers with poor self-reliance.

 These parents will more likely ignore bad behavior and “give in” against their better judgment if the child gets upset.  Therefore they may not set or enforce age-appropriate standards for the child’s behavior and only step in if there is a serious problem.

This idea of permissive parents plays into that idea of parents trying to be a friend to their children rather than a parent. There are parents that can balance those roles and find the line between casual parenting and fun and stricter boundaries when the time is right.

But, there are parents that are too much of a pushover and lose that sense of authority as a parental figure.

Although permissive parents are warm and loving towards their kids, they often don’t enforce good habits, like ensuring a child brushes his teeth and struggle to limit junk food intake. As a result, children of permissive parents may more likely have dental cavities .

Also, it may seem that children who grow up with this type of parenting may be more independent as they have to figure out things themselves without guidance. however, research shows that contrary to this, most kids turn out to be aggressive, have bad social skills, show signs of anxiety and depression, and struggle academically

. They do not appreciate authority and rules and often have low self-esteem and behavioral issues. They also report a lot of sadness due to a lack of interest in their lives from their parents!


Authoritarian or Disciplinarian


Parents set high standards just like Authoritative parenting but are less nurturing. They adopt a strict parenting style ( my way or the highway attitude ) that believes in disciplining children via punishments rather than positive techniques.

They are not working with them and guiding them to achieve their high expectations. According to Psychology Today, these parents believe that “children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent” and  “They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself” and focus on bending their children’s will to this authority!

Authoritarian parents are invested in making kids feel sorry for their mistakes rather than teaching them how to make better choices.  The Kids’ feelings are not taken into consideration and there is no room for negotiations.

The whole focus is on obedience, strict rules, and harsh discipline. The children are not allowed to get involved in problem-solving challenges or obstacles either.

Children of authoritarian parents may grow up to follow rules but are at a higher risk of developing self-esteem problems as well as depression because their opinions are not valued. They may become aggressive and hostile and more likely to become bullies.

Instead of focusing on how to do better in life and develop problem-solving skills, they focus on the anger they feel towards their parents. They may also become good liars as a way to avoid punishments when goals are not achieved.


Does this model of 4 parenting styles really work in today’s society?


We also have to remember that this group of 4 parenting styles came about in the 1960s. Viewpoints and expectations have changed in the 50 years since, as new generations raise children in a whole new world.

This isn’t the America of the nuclear family where we were more tightly bound by social norms and expectations to be the one perfect type of parent. There is a lot more freedom in how to run a household – which also means more debate over good parenting.

With this in mind, I want to talk about a non-scientific study from the UK. In 2020, British audiences got to judge a series of parents on a TV show called Britain’s Best Parent. Couples got to showcase their methods and compete for the title.

There was a mix of hands-off and disciplinarian models with some child-focused and parent-focused styles too. The finalists were home educators, disciplinarian, back to basics, and scholar warriors. This suggests a preference for rules, education, and achievement over a more relaxed approach.

Parenting styles vary greatly as we all find the right balance for the best results.

If you struggle to figure out which style of parent you are, consider your approach to rule-breaking and boundaries, as well as the amount of time spent with your child. How likely are you to discuss rules rationally or to bend them now and then?

It is also important to remember that there are other styles of parenting within these four key approaches. These include:

~the over-involved helicopter parent
~ the free-range parent
~ the tiger mom
~ bulldozer parents


Many of these ties into the approaches above, while adding a specific focus. The helicopter parent is most likely authoritative to a degree, ensuring that kids follow the rules and get the very best while hovering over them.

The benefits are access to the “best” opportunities and high achievement, but there is often the disadvantage of poor self-esteem and self-reliance. Kids from helicopter parents can struggle when they get to college.

Free-range parents are closer to being uninvolved, just with a lot more care and consideration for kids. They encourage independence a lot more from a young age, which does come in for criticism.

Then there are other factors to consider, such as gender fluid parenting. Are you going to encourage binary gender roles, allow kids to be themselves, or actively encourage kids to explore a gender role they don’t naturally express?


Which is the right parenting style for you?


You might come away from this insistent that you will be the perfect authoritative parent that set the right boundaries with respect. But, you don’t really know what style will work until you try it. You might make mistakes if you become too lax or too strict about something important. You may also find your style adapting as your kids go up. If you are prepared to learn and change to create the best environment for your child, and the ideal relationship you should do fine.


The Four Parenting Styles




This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.