Parenting Styles and Their Differing Outcomes

Read about the four different approaches adults take when raising kids.

Parenting styles are crucial in shaping a child’s development and achievements. The way parents interact with their children has a significant impact on their children’s mental health and future success. According to Baumrind’s theory, different parenting styles can result in varying outcomes for children. Therefore, it is vital to understand the various parenting styles and to choose the most appropriate one to promote a child’s growth.

Researchers have identified four different types of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful. To differentiate between these styles, we need to consider two dimensions: demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to the level of control and expectations parents have for their children. Parents with high demandingness set clear rules and strive to set their children up for success. Responsiveness, on the other hand, refers to how parents react to their children’s emotional needs. Parents with high responsiveness are attuned to their children’s thoughts and well-being.

Authoritative Parents: “Let’s talk about why it’s wrong.”

The authoritative parenting style is characterized by high levels of demandingness and responsiveness. This means that authoritative parents not only establish clear limits and rules for their children, but they also take the time to explain the reasoning behind these rules. For instance, if a child breaks a rule, such as returning home late after dark, an authoritative parent might sit down with their child and listen to their explanation for being late. The parents may then take the opportunity to explain why they have set the rule, highlighting the importance of safety.

By engaging in open communication, authoritative parenting can foster mutual respect and understanding between parents and children, as well as promote a greater sense of autonomy and responsibility in a child. As they grow older, children raised by authoritative parents will likely understand the reasoning behind their parents’ expectations and develop the ability to think critically for themselves and others. Consequently, authoritative parenting styles can create a supportive and nurturing environment for children.

Authoritarian Parents: “Because I said so.”

On the contrary, authoritarian parents have high expectations for their children but show low levels of responsiveness. They establish strict rules and demand that their children follow them without question. Authoritarian parents tend to use one-way communication, view themselves as ultimate authority figures, and often lack equality in their relationships with their children. This parenting style is frequently described as coercive and arbitrary.

For instance, if a child comes home late, authoritarian parents may not take the time to listen to their child’s explanation before assigning blame. Instead, they may immediately accuse the child by asking, “Why are you still coming home late after I’ve already told you not to?” Such interactions can intimidate and discourage children from expressing their thoughts and feelings to their parents, leading them to strictly adhere to established disciplinary rules.

Although such strict parenting styles may motivate children to work hard and perform well in and out of school, they may also have negative consequences for these children’s development. Authoritarian parenting can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and insecurity. Additionally, children raised in authoritarian households may become overly dependent on their parents and lack decision-making skills.

Permissive Parents: “Do whatever you want to do.”

Permissive parents, also known as indulgent or lenient parents, exhibit low levels of demandingness and high levels of responsiveness. They are often hesitant to set rules or establish boundaries, and tend to be very responsive, rarely saying “no” to their children.

While this permissive parenting style can foster a relaxed and open relationship between parents and children, it can also have negative consequences. Without clear limitations or structure, children of permissive parents may lack self-discipline and problem-solving skills. As they enter the real world, they may struggle to handle disappointment or failure, as they have not developed the necessary coping mechanisms to deal with setbacks. Furthermore, without adequate self-discipline, these children may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug use or early sexual activity.

Neglectful parents may not say much to their children.

Neglectful parenting is characterized by low levels of both demandingness and responsiveness; these parents are not actively involved in their children’s lives. There are several common reasons that neglectful parenting arises, such as poverty and generational trauma. In many rural families, parents often have to travel long distances to work and earn money, leaving their children behind. As a result, these parents cannot be involved in their children’s lives, and the children may experience emotional distress, academic difficulties and low self-esteem.

Of the four types of parenting styles, authoritative parenting has consistently been found to be the most effective for children. Authoritative parents respond to their children while also setting clear boundaries and expectations. Children who grow up in such environments can become more independent and self-disciplined.

Cultural Differences in Parenting

Although all four parenting styles exist in different countries, cultural differences can have an impact. For example, authoritarian parenting is more prevalent in Asian countries such as China and Japan, while authoritative parenting is more common in Western countries like the United States.

In summary, the difference in parenting styles between Asian and Western countries can be attributed to cultural and societal factors. In collectivist societies like China and Japan, the emphasis on education and the limited resources available can lead to authoritarian parenting styles that prioritize high academic achievement. Additionally, the long working hours and workloads of parents may leave them with little time and energy for communication and listening to their children.

On the other hand, in individualistic cultures like the United States, parents may value their children’s success but also prioritize their individual growth and encourage them to pursue their interests and goals. However, these cultural generalizations are not absolute; various family and educational approaches exist in different cultures. Ultimately, it is important for parents to listen to their children’s voices and show them respect, regardless of cultural background, as this can have a positive impact on their growth and development.

Danni Shuai, University of Southern California

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Danni Shuai

University of Southern California

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