Parenting is tough.
Yes, it’s rewarding, transformative, and paved with milestones.
But there’s also an understanding that the ways we bring up our kids—what we call our parenting styles—shape the adults they become.
Your brand of parenting style will impact everything that makes your child who they are, from their relationship with themselves to how they relate to everyone around them.
Their attachment style, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence all take root at home.
So, it’s understandable you want to know you’re supporting your child’s development in all the right ways to help them become confident, capable, and compassionate.
What you might call a thriving leader in the making.
Looking into the pool of parenting styles is the closest thing we have to seeing the future adults kids will become.
So, what are they? And which one is the best?
Let’s explore the 6 parenting styles together.
In this article: 📝
- What are the 4 main parenting styles?
- What are the 3 most common parenting styles?
- What are the characteristics of neglectful parenting?
- What is the most problematic parenting style?
- What are the additional parenting styles?
- What is the most ideal parenting style?
- What’s your parenting style?
What are the 4 main parenting styles?
Hang on, didn’t you say 6? Yep!
The thing is, usually, when people talk about different types of parenting, they have 4 parenting styles in mind.
These 4 are the most common and the most well-established in science.
That’s all thanks to a certain Diana Baumrind—the clinical and developmental psychologist who came up with the notion of parenting styles at UC Berkeley.
Baumrind identified different kinds of parenting styles in studies she performed on over 100 preschoolers in the 1960s.
She noticed that children demonstrated distinctive types of behavior, which linked to a very specific style of parenting.
Through observation and interviews, Barmrind took note of how parents disciplined their kids, showed warmth and affection, communicated with their children generally, and the amount of independence or supervision they gave.
Ultimately, she classified them on two scales:
- Demandingness: This is the extent to which parents expect particular forms of behavior from their kids. They might demand maturity and independence, or else just obedience.
- Responsiveness: Sometimes called ‘warmth’, this is how receptive parents are to the emotional needs of their child.
And this pioneering research is what led to the Baumrind parenting styles.
The Baumrind parenting styles:
From her work, Baumrind identified three main styles of parenting:
- Authoritarian parenting
- Authoritative parenting
- Permissive parenting
Wait, now there’s only 3?
Well, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin famously expanded Baumrinds’s model of parenting styles by adding a fourth:
- Neglectful parenting (also referred to as uninvolved)
And all 4 Baumrind parenting styles (or the Maccoby and Martin parenting styles) can be put on a grid like this one:
In reality, you might not sit in any one style exactly.
Instead, you may well float somewhere within the grid.
A bit overwhelmed? Let’s break them down together.
What are the 3 most common parenting styles?
Let’s start with Baumrind’s original trio:
1. Authoritarian parenting
In the authoritarian parenting style, kids are expected pretty much to obey. It’s a style of parenting in which kids are required to follow the rules—without question. ‘Because I said so’ is a classic response of the authoritarian style. In this way, authoritarian parents are very demanding but not very responsive to the kid’s needs. The result can be a parenting style built on punishment rather than explanation or understanding.
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Sometimes, this approach has its place.
But, the risk is that kids end up with a limited ability to solve problems or make choices for themselves.
2. Permissive parenting
Look at the permissive parenting style as the opposite of the authoritarian.
Rules are not set, or they’re very lenient.
If you’re a permissive parent, it can mean that you are very responsive (in that you let your kids do what they want) but not very demanding.
In many ways, this is great.
But it can mean that your kids grow up without a healthy respect for authority, behavioral issues, and very few boundaries.
Studies suggest they tend (although it’s far from always) to perform less well at school too.
3. Authoritative parenting
If you’re wondering what is the best parenting style?
Here’s what many experts would say is the answer: authoritative parenting.
It’s thought to offer the right balance between high demandingness and high responsiveness.
You’ll set rules alongside your kid’s input, helping them to understand why that rule might be important (not just because you said so!).
And, when they don’t follow the rules, you don’t punish but give feedback and support them to improve.
In the meantime, you show them lots of warmth and understanding as well. Win–win!
What are the characteristics of neglectful parenting?
We ended on a high with Baumrind’s parenting styles, so where does Maccoby’s and Martin’s addition fall?
4. Neglectful parenting
Also called ‘uninvolved parenting’, this parenting style is characterized by low demandingness and low responsiveness.
Basically, you provide everything to keep your kids alive and well, but you’re distant.
You don’t supply the affection, warmth, and hands-on guidance that other styles do.
There’s no emotional support, little boundaries, and zero expectations or rules.
Think of it as the extreme version of permissive parenting, but this one offers none of the indulgences.
Without that emotional and physical presence, kids can develop issues with self-esteem or in building fulfilling relationships.
What is the most problematic parenting style?
Authoritarian parenting is not ideal, but neglectful parenting is definitely the most problematic.
Because while all the child’s basic needs are met—like shelter, food, and clothing—they receive zero nurturing.
Some examples of neglectful parenting include:
- Leading busy lives that don’t involve their children
- Not responding when their child is upset or crying
- Showing no interest in their school work or activities
- Leaving their children unsupervised
- Difficulty expressing love
- Children are expected to raise themselves
- Parents can be overwhelmed by their own problems
And of course, this all has a serious negative impact on a child’s social and emotional development.
Sure, kids with neglectful parents tend to grow up self-reliant and independent, but this isn’t always a good thing when lacking self-esteem or direction.
According to one study, children raised under a neglectful parenting style tend to become emotionally withdrawn from social situations and show patterns of delinquency in their teens.
And it’s also worth noting that neglectful parenting is not often a conscious decision but often a by-product of mental health issues, substance abuse, or even repeated dysfunctional family patterns.
Depending on the root cause of the neglectful parenting style, it’s not uncommon for children to later experience mental health problems of their own, such as PSTD, depression, anxiety, or behavioral issues.
Rather than a parenting style to be judged, neglectful parenting should spark awareness and ignite conversations about providing help and support to families in crisis.
What are the additional parenting styles?
Yep, we said 6!
While the Baumrind parenting styles tend to be the most famous, scientists since the 60s have come up with different approaches to parenting that are worth knowing.
These aren’t built around Baumrind’s demandingness/responsiveness criteria.
Instead, they’re a little more intentional.
And while we’ve noted 6 parenting styles in this article, there are new parenting types cropping up all the time: helicopter, new-age, positive, and even paranoid.
It’s… a lot.
For now, the two main ones to know are attachment parenting and so-called free-range parenting:
5. Attachment parenting
Attachment parenting is a parenting style that encourages as strong a bond as possible between parent and child.
Parents are supposed to be highly attuned to their kids’ needs, responding immediately to crying and demands and generally aiming to build lots of trust, empathy, and affection between parent and child.
Of course, attachment parenting by the book is not the only way to build that healthy emotional connection.
However, the psychologists that encourage this style developed 8 principles that can help parents achieve this:
- Preparing for pregnancy and parenting
- Feeding with love and respect
- Responding with sensitivity
- Using nurturing touch
- Ensuring safe sleep (that’s emotionally and physically)
- Providing consistent care
- Balancing personal and family life
- Practicing positive discipline
This one is less a general parenting style and more a particular guide to parenting.
Most of these principles may already feel second nature to you.
But, if you ever feel a bit unsure of yourself as a parent, they can be a good reminder of what you might aim for.
6. Free-range parenting
Don’t think of chickens clucking in the farmyard.
Or maybe do!
Free-range parenting is a parenting style that deliberately encourages independence and autonomy in children.
How? By reducing supervision.
It all came about when writer and mama Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old take the New York subway home by himself (eek!).
While she faced a lot of criticism, this was not simply permissive parenting on steroids—or a mild case of neglectful parenting.
Rather, free-range parenting is ideally much more intentional and trusting.
It lets kids discover the rules and limits to their behavior themselves while promoting individual problem-solving, creativity, and self-sufficiency in their own way.
And, at the same time, you’ll need to give them all the support, sensitivity, and responsiveness they need too.
What is the most ideal parenting style?
When it comes to what parenting style encourages the best developmental outcomes for children, authoritative parenting generally comes out on top.
Authoritative parenting types beautifully balance high expectations with high responsiveness.
They know how to set the bar for boundaries, achievement, and maturity while also providing the nourishment, support, and guidance to help their kids get there.
And underpinning it all is mutual respect for autonomy and boundaries.
Hey, there’s a reason it’s also known as the democratic parenting style.
Research shows that children raised in an authoritative environment tend to be more self-reliant, have less psychological distress, and perform well in school.
Even more interestingly, another study revealed that authoritative mothering is linked to higher self-esteem and lower depression.
What’s your parenting style?
Now you know some of the main parenting styles, which is most like you?
In all likelihood, you’re probably not entirely authoritarian or utterly permissive.
You might find yourself striking the balance between both à la authoritative parenting.
Or you might be drawn towards more modern parenting styles.
We’ll say again, wherever you fit into these styles, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing this whole parenting thing wrong!
We trust you’re doing great.
But being conscious of the sort of parent you are might help you see how you can develop your parenting style in the long run.
And that can only be a good thing.