Developmental psychologists have been interested in how parents influence the development of children’s social and instrumental competence since at least the 1920s. One of the most robust approaches to this area is the study of what has been called “parenting style.”
Parenting is a complex activity that includes many specific behaviors that work individually and together to influence child outcomes.
Parenting style captures two important elements of parenting: parental responsiveness and parental demandingness. Parental responsiveness (also referred to as parental warmth or supportiveness) refers to “the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s special needs and demands”. Parental demandingness (also referred to as behavioral control) refers to “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family whole, by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys”.
Four Parenting Styles
Categorizing parents according to whether they are high or low on parental demandingness and responsiveness creates a typology of four parenting styles: indulgent, authoritarian, authoritative, and uninvolved.
Each of these parenting styles reflects different naturally occurring patterns of parental values, practices, and behaviors and a distinct balance of responsiveness and demandingness.
- Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. “They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative”.
- Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. “They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation”. These parents provide well ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules.
- Indulgent parents (also referred to as “permissive” or “nondirective”) “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation”.
4.Uninvolved parents are low in both responsiveness and demandingness. In extreme cases, this parenting style might encompass both rejecting–neglecting and neglectful parents, although most parents of this type fall within the normal range.
Consequences for Children
Parenting style has been found to predict child well-being in the domains of social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development, and problem behavior. Research based on parent interviews, child reports, and parent observations consistently finds:
Children and adolescents whose parents are authoritative rate themselves and are rated by objective measures as more socially and instrumentally competent than those whose parents are nonauthoritative.
Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform most poorly in all domains.
In general, parental responsiveness predicts social competence and psychosocial functioning, while parental demandingness is associated with instrumental competence and behavioral control (i.e., academic performance and deviance). These findings indicate:
Children and adolescents from authoritarian families (high in demandingness, but low in responsiveness) tend to perform moderately well in school and be uninvolved in problem behavior, but they have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression.
Children and adolescents from indulgent homes (high in responsiveness, low in demandingness) are more likely to be involved in problem behavior and perform less well in school, but they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression.
Parenting style provides a robust indicator of parenting functioning that predicts child well-being across a wide spectrum of environments and across diverse communities of children. Both parental responsiveness and parental demandingness are important components of good parenting. Authoritative parenting, which balances clear, high parental demands with emotional responsiveness and recognition of child autonomy, is one of the most consistent family predictors of competence from early childhood through adolescence.