There are generally 4 different and distinct types of parenting styles in psychological research, and they have been shown to have different kinds of effects on your child’s development in areas such as self-esteem, social skills and relationships, as well as academic success (Darling & Steinberg, 1993).
Good parenting habits can predict success for children in many aspects of their lives and provide a healthy, nurturing and safe environment for them to grow up in. On the other hand, poor parenting habits can lead to the increasing development of toxic families and toxic parent-child relationships (read more on toxic families here: link to Demi’s article), even if parents are unaware of these unhealthy family dynamics (Arora, 2020). Knowing which parenting style that you currently align with can help you to see the strengths and weaknesses that you possess as a parent, and from there, work towards displaying healthier parenting.
The authoritative parenting style is deemed to be the style that predicts healthy, holistic development of children (Dewar, 2018), as authoritative parents are warm and nurturing, yet also firm in creating consistent boundaries and rules to instill discipline in children. These parents use positive reinforcement (e.g. verbal praise, reward systems) to instill good habits and practices in children, and also use natural and logical consequences to change children’s negative behaviour (Lee, 2020).
An authoritative parent might say this: “we cannot steal other people’s things because it is not right, and it will make your friend feel sad”, giving a logical rationale behind the need to change poor behaviours (Morin, 2020).
Under authoritative parenting, children will benefit by having higher self-esteem, positive affect, greater social skills and be generally happier (Vijila, 2013). They will also see positive learning outcomes where they are confident in exploring, making good decisions and being responsible for their own actions (Perry, 2019). The implementation of fair and reasonable control brings about more compliance and acceptance by the child when faced with rules. Parents and children can also foster closer, positive relationships with each other with such a parenting style, as parents are being involved with children by listening and guiding them in the right direction (Morin, 2020). This kind of healthy communication can promote good familial bonds and help the family engage in meaningful expression.
Authoritarian parents may seem similar to authoritative parents, except that they choose to engage in punishment over discipline in order to control children’s negative behaviour, and display a lower level of warmth (Brusie, 2017). They usually have high expectations of children, being controlling and strict towards them, while also being impatient with mistakes (Manoochehri & Mofidi, 2014). Mistakes are dealt with in a harsh manner, and feedback usually comes in a less encouraging manner than preferred. Authoritarian parents tend to demand obedience, but also may not express the rationale behind certain actions (Cherry, 2020).
An authoritarian parent may say “go to your room because I said so”, without explaining why. Authoritarian parents may unknowingly shame children when they say “why can’t you do anything right?” (Cherry, 2020). When parents become excessively controlling and think that their decisions supercede the child’s wants and needs, this may negatively affect children’s development.
Under authoritarian parenting, children may suffer from lower self-esteem due to the constant negative feedback and lack of encouragement (Dewar, 2018). These children may become anxious when unable to reach expectations, or turn and become aggressive towards their parents and peers because they are unable to manage their frustrations and anger (Vijila, 2013). Furthermore, the family may not be as close as parent-child relationships lack warmth and are based on a strict hierarchy. Parents may appear unapproachable to children, and children may not share problems as easily with authoritarian parents. Thus, while children with authoritarian parents may see similar strong academic outcomes as children with authoritative parents, due to high structure imposed in their lives, they may have trouble internalising distress and poor development of social skills (Dewar, 2018).
On the other hand, permissive parents seem to be the complete opposite of authoritarian parents. While permissive parents are very loving, they may be overly-indulgent in their children and let them have their way. They do not set boundaries or consistent rules for their children and give in to them and their demands. Permissive parents may also spoil their kids excessively by doing everything for them, even when they start to grow up and require more opportunities to learn independence.
Permissive parents may rationalise their indulgent actions and say “kids will be kids”, and may think of their children as being helpless, not expecting mature behaviour from children.
Children under permissive parenting may show signs of poor decision-making, poor academic achievement (Baumrind et al., 2010), and lack of good habits (Dewar, 2018), as they do not have the chance to be disciplined in learning responsibility and right from wrong. This excessive intrusiveness on the part of the parent by being overly-involved and overly-indulgent can undermine children’s sense of autonomy and independence. They may also show poor social skills and unable to deal with authority and rules outside of the home, as they are used to getting what they want (Baumrind et al., 2010). This is coupled by the way in which family dynamics are disrupted, as permissive parents may seem more like a friend than a parental figure.
This parenting style is one that predicts the most negative outcomes, where parents are uninvolved in the lives of their children, being unaware of what children are doing. Parents that are uninvolved are also regarded as neglectful and rejectful of their children (Higuera, 2019). They do not display warmth and care for children, and neither do they interfere by creating rules, discipline, or guide children in their lives (Higuera, 2019).
As a result, children are left to their own resources when faced with developmental needs. These children often have poor social skills, behavioural problems, and self-esteem issues due to the lack of guidance and also the lack of a parental figure in their lives (Hirata & Kamakura, 2017). They may feel unwanted and blame themselves for being ‘hard to love’ by their own parents, and thus end up feeling sad and dejected most of the time (Aunola et al., 2000). This parenting style also predicts poor academic results for children due to a lack of discipline and motivation in place (Aunola et al., 2000). Children under uninvolved parenting may feel a lack of connection with the family and turn to poor company in order to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. This, coupled with the fact that uninvolved parents are unaware and lack care for their children, makes these children susceptible to engaging in vice behaviours such as gambling, using drugs, and joining gangs (Johnson, 2016).
Which parenting style do you think you fall under? Is there a parenting style that you want to work towards? In an Asian society such as Singapore, many parents may see themselves as a cross between authoritative and authoritarian due to the strict rules that they implement for their children, with more subtle displays of love and affection (Ang & Goh, 2006). This is fine, as long as parents remember that all things should be done in moderation: rules are implemented consistently with a rationale, and that punishment and reward are done in a balanced fashion, where everything is done out of love for the child.
Lastly, by seeing how different parenting styles have different consequences on the development of your child – with authoritative parenting predicting the most positive outcomes – we hope that you will have a better idea on which parenting style to adopt and how to create a nurturing environment for your child to grow and thrive in!
Camellia Wong, MA, Kam Wing Shan
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