What are the 4 Types of Parenting Styles?

Words by
Joseph Pratt

MAY 29, 2024

What are the 4 Types of Parenting Styles?

As parents, we are constantly trying new ways to connect with our kids and guide them through life’s challenges. Preparing the next generation for adulthood is a Herculean task! How we approach its complexities matters.

This seems to be even more true in a digital age. Navigating the online world with our kids can feel like a daunting task. Knowing the right way to respond to the questions, mistakes, and successes that come with our kids’ early steps into online life is a whole new facet of parenting today. 

Fortunately, much of the decades-worth of parenting research that has already been done can be applied to these new online scenarios. And that includes “parenting styles.”

Parenting styles psychology was pioneered by Dr. Diana Baumrind and furthered by Drs. Maccoby and Martin. Today, their research of four parenting styles based on values for “warmth” and “expectations” is widely used.

The four parenting styles terms are authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful.

For better or worse, each style impacts children in myriad ways.

4 parenting styles

What Are the 4 Types of Parenting Styles?

Parents approach the raising of children differently, and most parents identify with some combination of the four styles. Research shows that parents have the greatest impact on their kids when they create an environment of high warmth and high expectations in their homes.

Authoritative: The Most Effective Parenting Style

authoritative parenting style

Studies show the most effective parenting style with the best child outcomes is authoritative. These parents demonstrate high levels of warmth while also “setting and enforcing reasonable limits” for their children. While they have high expectations, they encourage and support their children to meet these expectations.

Authoritative parents want more than blind obedience. They want their children to understand why the rules exist so that young people can apply them to future situations.

This works well when teaching a child how to set boundaries around tech and when building digital citizenship skills. Children of authoritative parents learn the principles of online safety and the whys behind each rule so they can apply it to any situation that may arise.

These parents view their children as maturing people and treat them as such. The result is a respectful relationship that can facilitate open discussions about important topics such as distracted driving, drugs, and sexting.

Authoritative parents want their children to understand why the rules exist so that young people can apply them to future situations.

Parents striving to be authoritative are involved in their children’s lives without being intrusive, allowing them to judge situations for themselves and make their own decisions.

They respect those choices and typically only step in if the consequences would be detrimental to their child’s health or future.

Authoritative parenting and technology

When raising kids in our digital world, the authoritative principles of high expectations, warmth, and support work best. Parents can have high expectations of their children’s responsible behavior online and provide high support.

This could include the use of a technology plan or cell phone contract where the child is encouraged to share their input into the rules and consequences. Parents still hold the final say, but allow children to influence the decisions. 

Support can be open with frequent conversations surrounding the benefits of technology and dangers online, including teaching kids digital citizenship skills, guiding their knowledge of phone etiquette skills, and providing them with kid safe devices.

Children also benefit from high parental involvement in their internet activities. Parents provide flexible and personalized rules for a child’s use of the internet, tailoring expectations to each child’s needs and allowing children to provide input to the rules and consequences.

The guidelines are not arbitrary — they have reasons behind them that children understand. If a child breaks an online rule, authoritative parents will enforce them.
Research shows that parents who educate their children on the how and why of behaving well online, and who also engage in a reasonable amount of monitoring internet activities, use the most effective approach to online safety.

Authoritarian Parenting Style: Low Warmth, High Expectations

authoritarian parenting style

Authoritarian caregivers have high parental expectations for their children, but don’t show them the same support and encouragement as authoritative parents do. Also coined tiger parenting, these caregivers hold inflexible parental control and are described as “harsh, unresponsive, and rigid.” 

While authoritative parents encourage their children to explore and create their own identities, authoritarian parents use their position as a form of control. They withhold approval, use sarcasm, or ridicule their children to make them behave properly. 

The intentions of these types of parents may very well be good, but the execution lacks the strong demonstration of love in order to be effective.

Parenting this way does not benefit families.

While children raised by strict authoritarian parents can become high achievers, it comes at a high cost. The parent-child relationship suffers as kids feel fear and resentment toward their parents.

Children of authoritarian parents often believe they are incapable of making their own decisions.

Children of authoritarian parents often struggle to make their own decisions, have lower self-esteem, and may rebel against authority as they grow. 

When the goal is to build resilient and confident young people who are prepared to use technology to benefit their lives, authoritarianism undercuts those goals.

Authoritarian parenting and technology

Authoritative parents can be seen as the “bad cop” version of the police. They have strict rules they impose on their child’s internet usage, but display low warmth or support. They are not very involved in their child’s internet activities. They expect blind obedience without an explanation of rules. 

Parenting that seeks to control too many aspects of a child’s life is considered authoritarian parenting and can be detrimental to a child’s development.

It can impact a child’s self-esteem as kids come to believe that they are incapable of making good decisions on their own. The relationship between parent and child can suffer from the lack of warmth, trust and support.

Permissive Parenting Style: High Warmth, Low Expectations

permissive parenting style

While authoritarian parents overuse their power as authority figures, permissive parents do not use it enough. This is why permissive parenting is sometimes called indulgent parenting.

These parents are affectionate, but their discipline is “lax and inconsistent.” First and foremost, they view themselves as their child’s friend. 

While this may appear commendable, the lack of expectations and structure often results in “impulsive, noncompliant, and aggressive behavior” in children. These kids are more likely to be selfish with low self-expectations.

Permissive parenting and technology

Permissive parenting applied to youth’s internet usage looks like low expectations with high adulation. Permissive parents often try to be their child’s friend. They show a tremendous amount of love to their children, but do not have many expectations of their child’s online activities.

Permissive caregivers may hesitate to enforce rules to avoid disrupting the friendship with their child. They have a blanket approach to tech boundaries and avoid all confrontations surrounding their child’s online behavior.

Setting boundaries and expectations for children can assist in building life skills that include; patience, problem solving, resourcefulness, responsibility and self-discipline.

Gail Innis, Michigan State University

While this approach may sound like it focuses on natural consequences, it can be damaging. Without enough boundaries, children whose brains are still developing impulse control can more easily be sucked into excessive screen time and other harmful digital behaviors.

This can have lasting impacts over their lifetime, reducing their sleep, increasing the risk of obesity, and decreasing cognitive development, behavioral development, and mental health.  It can open children up to higher risks of exposure to inappropriate media, being lured by online predators, and cyberbullying.

Neglectful Parenting Style: Low Warmth, Low Expectations

neglectful parenting

Neglectful parenting is sometimes called uninvolved or indifferent parenting. Unlike authoritarian and permissive parenting styles, which have some positive outcomes for children, neglectful parenting is completely detrimental.

Neglectful parents demonstrate low levels of warmth and control. They are uninvolved and willfully unaware of their children’s needs, progress, friends, and activities.

Authoritative parenting style improves psychological well-being, authoritarian parenting style decreases the autonomy of the adolescent, permissive parenting style hampers the personal growth of the adolescent, and neglectful parenting style hampers the psychological well-being of the adolescents.

Ansu Francis, Manipal College of Nursing, Manipal Academy of Higher Education

Neglectful parenting and technology

Neglectful parents leave their children alone on the internet with few rules, provide little involvement, and low warmth. They offer scant communication or assistance on proper and safe internet use, or the detrimental effects of social media and excessive screen time. They have no technology rules and do not teach kids digital citizenship skills. 

Children of these parents tend to have unmet emotional needs resulting in behavior problems and lower happiness levels. Kids may turn to any source of love and affection, even if those relationships are dangerous — even resorting in connecting with strangers online.

What Parents Can Do: Positive Effects of the Authoritative Parenting Style

All parents know there is not a handbook that comes with our new baby. We do our best. But when we are willing to reflect on our parenting style, we can make adjustments.

The impact of parenting styles on social and emotional development has been studied extensively. Many facets of child development have been considered — from childhood obesity to adolescent criminal behavior. 

illustration of a family

Authoritative parenting has been shown to improve kids’ mental health and well-being. It is related to healthier family interactions and higher levels of academic achievement. These positive effects last into adulthood.

Overall, kids with authoritative parents show greater adaptability to challenges and fewer internalizing or externalizing behaviors (such as self-abuse, extreme eating habits, or bullying).

Being authoritative doesn’t mean you are always your child’s best friend or cheerleader. There are times when children need to be disciplined, and authoritative parents don’t shy away from those moments. Avoiding discipline when it is needed is a characteristic of permissive parenting.

The child of an authoritative parent may not like their parent in moments of conflict, but they don’t question whether their parents love them.

APA Research

Authoritative parents can be firm with their children when required, but don’t use techniques like shame, ridicule, or withdrawal. 

Same Parent, Different Styles

No parent is firmly planted in the authoritative quadrant, and it is never too late to change. Depending on the child and their relationship history — along with a host of other factors — parents could identify themselves as permissive one minute, authoritative the next, and authoritarian later in the day. 

If you can identify with this, there is no need to become discouraged. This fluctuation is normal. 

A healthier approach than feeling shame or drowning in parental guilt is to identify your unique strengths and weaknesses and use that information to be more aware and conscious in the future.

It’s a spectrum. You can be more warm or less warm, but still warm. You can be more supportive or less supportive, but still supportive.

Pamela Li, Parenting for Brain

It is also important to recognize that most parents exemplify different parenting styles depending on the circumstances.

A parent may be authoritative about education — encouraging a child to take challenging classes while providing support — but permissive about technology habits, resulting in having fewer rules regarding cell phone use.

Parents and children alike can benefit by considering different areas of the child’s life (such as education, dating, fashion, friends, work, finances, or technology — to name a few) and asking themselves what kind of parenting style they exhibit in each facet. 

Most likely, they’ll see places where they can demonstrate more warmth and situations that could use firmer discipline.

Becoming More Authoritative

Parents who want to become more authoritative can look at why they are not already using this style. They may have never seen this parenting style modeled in their home growing up, but they are willing to learn. It is never too late to change. 

Small actions can make big impacts. 

A parent who feels they lean too far on the authoritarian quadrant and see a need to become more authoritative can shift by consciously looking for ways to show their child love and support. They might explain to their kids why they ask them to do certain things rather than just expecting them to follow blindly.

This parent could talk to their child more about their life—their wants, desires, hopes, and wishes. When kids do most of the talking, they can benefit more from these conversations.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.

Sue Atkins, The Parenting Expert

Alternatively, a parent who feels overly permissive could set and enforce higher expectations. Healthy change is difficult, but setting clear boundaries for your child demonstrates your love and commitment to them, even if they are upset with your rules for a time. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Kids don’t need perfect parents or technology experts. They need parents who are willing to learn about their world — on and off the screen — and improve with them. 

Don’t become discouraged when you realize aspects of your parenting aren’t perfect. Be quick to apologize and try to learn from the experience.  

Being willing to apologize demonstrates your strength of character to our children, and allows kids to recognize that mistakes are learning opportunities we all can come back from.

As you work toward progress, your child is likely to recognize and appreciate your efforts. Your efforts will eventually pay off, even if you don’t see immediate improvements in your relationship.

Do you feel the way you parent falls within one parenting style? What changes, if any, would you make to the way you parent? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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