Which parenting style has the most consistently positive outcomes?

What's Covered

The term “Socialization” means to help integrate an individual into a society. Family are among the first agents of socialization meaning that they play a highly consequential role in the development of a child. The style which one chooses to parent a child has a direct impact on the child’s success, habits, regulatory skills, and ability to interact with individuals in a society.

Diane Baumrind developed a now widely accepted theory which categorized different parenting styles into four categories; Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Uninvolved. The main question becomes which is the best style of parenting? Before we answer that we must break down what influences one’s parenting style?

What influences your parenting style?

There are a number of things that influence your personal parenting style. A few being;

Our cultural influences and the country we raise our children. What is it emphasizing on the importance of success? And parents often follow the societal norm of extracurricular and academic success.

The factor of stress and patience is often a dominant limitation to the involvement of a parent. If the child has a bad temperament you might not be as patient with them as if you had a child who was more calm and responsive. This often leads parents to either give up and let the child do whatever they please or become extremely strict with no compassion.

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The influence of the style you were brought up in[1]. It’s fairly common to follow to install the same values and skills you acquired from your parents and transfer them to your children. It’s a common mentality to think that it worked for me, so it might as well work for my children.

What are the parenting styles?

Authoritative:

These parents set strict rules which need to be followed with reasoning and support. The parents usually have high demands and expectations from their child; however, they are also responsive and compassionate towards their child’s needs. A common disciplinary method is to be confronting, meaning to negotiate and reason with the child.[2] This parenting style supports individuality, good self-esteem, and a good sense of security.

Examples of Authoritative parenting include; If your child wants to be out with friends until 11pm on a Saturday, but you think that is too late you come to an understanding and agree upon a curfew which suits both the child and parent, in this case lets say it was 10pm. Another example is if your child does bad on a test but you know they studied, the best course of action is to talk through the issue and come up with a solution. 

Authoritarian (or Disciplinarian):

These parents tend to have extremely controlling and strict rules and no follow-through on reasoning or support for their child. Much unlike Authoritative where the parents set boundaries but reasons with their child, an Authoritarian parent seeks obedience with no reasoning. The common disciplinary method is some form of punishment; harsh, corporal, domineering, and arbitrary. This parenting style is generally not nurturing nor responsive to the needs of the child, thus causing the child to have low self-esteem, inability to cope with their emotions and no sense of independence or individuality[3].

Examples of Authoritarian parenting include; If the child wanted to stay out your response would be “no” and when the child would ask why you would respond with “Because I said so”, only causing frustration and an argument. If your child does badly on a test and even though you saw them studying your response would be that “you didn’t study hard enough”, they would punish them and take away any privileges they have. The child wouldn’t learn why they did poorly on the test thus not learning their lesson. 

Permissive (or Indulgent): 

These parents tend to have exceedingly low expectations of rules or order, and have very few mechanisms of enforcing them. The parents tend to be more of a friendly figure rather than a parental figure. They are kind and responsive to the needs of their child, however they tend to rarely refuse or discipline their child. The result of this style of parenting causes a child to be egotistical, lack of self-control and unable to follow rules.

Examples of Permissive parenting include; If the child wants to stay out late you let them, even if it does not necessarily sit well with you. If your child does poorly on a test you just say “better luck next time”, no inquiry into what went wrong and thus the child will eventually stop trying because you the parent let them do whatever they please with no consequences. 

Neglectful (or Uninvolved):

These parents tend to be completely uninvolved in their child’s life, there are no rules or standards set. This type of parent often is caused by a parent suffering with a mental illness or was physically abused or neglected as a child. An example of this sort of parenting style would be feral children, those abandoned or distanced from the real world. Thus parenting style generally leaves children unable to regulate themselves and their emotions, have mental issues themselves and often struggle to find their place in our society.

Examples of Neglectful parenting include: In this case the parents would not care if the child even came home, they are completely uninvolved. If their child was struggling they wouldn’t even care, their children completely disinterested the parent.[4]

What are the Pros and Cons to each style of parenting?

Authoritative

Pros: this style creates a very supportive, open, and safe environment for the child, consequently making the child have high levels of self-esteem, not as prone to substance abuse, exhibit violent behaviour and generally better quality of life according to the University of New Hampshire’s 2012 study[5].

Cons: It is agreed upon within the psychological community[6] that children from authoritative households tend to have the most positive outcomes in life, this style of parenting requires loads of patience and a constant effort to listen to the child.

Authoritarian (or Disciplinarian)

Pros: this style encourages strict boundaries and rules. It is thought that setting strict rules for the child to follow will transfer to them being able to concentrate on their tasks, which is true to a certain extent.

Cons: However Authoritarian parents tend to take it too far, the same study done at the University of New Hampshire found that children from such households are far more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as; not attending class, smoking, drinking, doing and drugs. The study also found that a large majority suffer from depression and have a tendency to get bad grades and fail courses.

Permissive (or Indulgent)

Pros: this style of parenting prompts love and nurture above all else. In some cases when the children become adults they develop independence and good decision making.

Cons: A study in 2019[7] found that these children are more likely to be victims of bullying, and children of authoritarian parents are likely to be the bully. These children tend to have a lot of anxiety and some research suggests that permissive parenting leads to a child to have obesity and cavities. This is due to the philosophy that this parenting follows, the child should do what they please, the word no, essentially does not exist in the parents vocabulary.

Neglectful (or Uninvolved)

Pros: there is no scientific research that suggests any positive outcome of this style of upbringing. There are cases where children learned to be self-sufficient but that was purely out of necessity to survive.

Cons: a study done in 2018 found that children that came from neglectful parents often have issues dealing with their emotions, suffer from depression, anxiety, are not able to function in society due to their lack of social skills and often have almost no academic achievements.

Why is Neglect the least effective form of parenting?

Uninvolved or neglectful parents are often uninterested or unresponsive to their child’s needs. Due to the lack of affection, indifference and lack of basic care there tends to be no maternal or paternal bond between the child and parent. Unfortunately due to the lack of encouragement from the parents the children are left to themselves, and with no one pushing them to stay on top of their school work or do any extracurricular activities these children tend to fall through the cracks in school and never learn proper social etiquette. Unfortunately inter generational trauma has its role in this form of parenting. According to a study done in South Korea[8] children who are neglected are 2.6 times more likely to become themselves neglectful parents and twice as likely to abuse their child physically and emotionally. In the end the children who are raised with uninvolved parents tend to have the least effective outcomes compared to any other child from any other parental upbringing.

Why is Authoritative the most effective form of parenting?

Authoritative parenting consistently outperforms the other styles, thus producing the most successful children. Authoritative parents often are compassionate and sensitive to their child’s needs but still draw strict boundaries between them being a parent and a friend. It is fairly popular among middle class educated families to use this approach to parenting. A study done in Iceland[9] found that teenagers with authoritative parents are more likely to complete high school and go on to some form of post secondary education. Based on the data collected by the study[10], it was concluded that parenting styles were a strong predictor of school dropout due to the involvement or lack of the parent in the child’s life. These results prove the importance of encouragement and a connection or bond between the child and parent. Thus affirming that when a child receives this support from at home, with an authoritative parent they do, they are far less likely to drop out of school.

Does a cultural difference vary the definition of Authoritative parenting?

Yes, each country has their own traditions, customs and societal norms thus resulting in a differentiation in the style of upbringing.

For instance, in the United States and Canada authoritative parenting will most likely consist of democratic practices, such as allowing them to be open with their sexuality, to make their own judgements and have their own opinions when it comes to politics, and in general challenge the ideals and judgements their parents hold.

However in countries such as Russia and China, children are generally not seen as equals to their parents, therefore their opinions are not as welcome as they possibly would have been in America.

Even though the opinion of a child may not be welcome in all authoritative households, the clear set of rules, with reasoning and compassion for the child are met.

Why is reasoning so important?

Authoritative parenting requires for the parental figure to have a clear set of rules with an explanation, the importance of reasoning was proved in a study done in 1996 by Krevans and Gibb[11]. The study determined that parents who reason and explain the rules often lead to children having much more advanced and developed sets of moral skills. The reason for this, as indicated by the study, suggests that the relation between parental inductions and moral reasoning is due to the ability to have a perspective and empathy towards individuals in a given social interaction.

Why do kids from authoritative families turn out so well?

Overview: There are a few reasons, studies suggest that responsive parenting promotes secure attachment and prompts a child’s individuality. Evidence from a study done in 2003[12] suggests that authoritative upbringings result in children being less influenced by their peers and more attuned to their parents opinions. The study consisted of students who were asked to come up with solutions for a multitude of moral issues. The students who were brought up in authoritative households were more likely to say that their parents would influence their final choice. This would contribute to the studies[13] which prove that children of authoritative parents are far less likely to engage in excessive drug and alcohol abuse, over other upbringing. Multiple studies[14] affirm that parents who do not punish their children for intellectual mistakes, the children tend to be more resilient problem solvers and in general better learners do to their being no fear of failure. Understanding that failing isn’t a bad thing, causes for resilience and improvement.  Empathy tends to be a natural response in children who are brought up with authoritative parents. According to a study done by Steinberg in 2001 there are great similarities across all parts of the globe when it comes to authoritative upbringing producing the most consistently successful children.[15]

Adolescence drinking and smoking: 

Parenting style has been linked to the predictability of a child to develop substance abuse habits. A study done in Sweden rounded 1268 adolescents (48% girls), aged 12–13 years were surveyed in the first semester of junior high school, and then again in the last semester of the 9th grade, 32 months later. The results found that Neglectful parenting style was linked to the worst outcome of substance abuse. The study also found that Authoritative parenting was the only style of upbringing associated with less frequent drinking. The study found that outside pressure from peers had a huge influence over those participating in the study. Takeaways from these results; participants who came from authoritative households were far less likely to engage in substance abuse and it is theorized that the safe familial environment creates a space that is unnecessary to turn to escapes and harmful past times.

Academic performance

Research conducted by John Hopkins University[16] suggests that authoritative parenting not only influences a child when they are young and live at home. However the skills that this parenting style instills within the child continues to influence their academic performances later on in life. Parents play a huge role in the child’s identity and guiding them. This study confirmed the notion that parental involvement is a significant predictor in the success of a child when it comes to academia. This can be contributed to the set of skills that parents teach their children such as self-efficacy and self motivation and a lack of fear of failure. A study done in 2005 by Mehrafza inquired into the relationships between the style of upbringing to the creativity of an individual. The results concluded that relationships involving firm parents have a direct connection to the child’s career path and success. Essentially the study concluded that the more firm and reassuring a parent is the higher the child will achieve in their chosen career.[17]

How to become an Authoritative parent?

You should see and hear your children

The notion that “children should be seen and not heard” is not welcome in an authoritative household: Listen to your child’s struggles and opinions. Respond in a positive and reassuring manner, so they know they can always come to you when facing any issue.[18]

Acknowledge your child’s emotions

Teach them to identify them and how to deal with them. Correct behaviour not emotions, explain to your child that it is okay to feel a certain way but it is up to you to teach them how to properly deal with it.

If a rule was broken enforce a consequence

Explain to your child why the bad decision they made could possibly have bad consequences, without guilt tripping or using corporal punishment. Create consequences that will lead your child to not make the same mistake in the future.

Let your child have a say in small decisions

Having the chance to make small decisions will help set the child up for making big decisions later in life when you are not there to guide them. Individuality and independence is extremely important to enforce and empower.

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Final Thoughts 

No one is a perfect parent, but what differentiates those that have successful children and those who do not is compassion, boundaries and encouragement. Being a parent is a hard endeavor, but if done right is truly a blessing and extremely rewarding. 


[1] “Wilkinson: What Influences Your Parenting Style?” The Ledger, 19 Aug. 2016, www.theledger.com/lifestyle/20160821/wilkinson-what-influences-your-parenting-style.

[2]What Is My PARENTING Style? Four Types of Parenting. 6 Jan. 2020, www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/parenting-style-four-types-of-parenting.

[3] Turner, Erlanger A., et al. “The Influence of Parenting Styles, Achievement Motivation, and Self-Efficacy on Academic Performance in College Students.” Journal of College Student Development, vol. 50 no. 3, 2009, p. 337-346. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/csd.0.0073.

[4] Christiano, Donna. “Which Parenting Type Is Right for You?” Health Line, 27 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/parenting/types-of-parenting#authoritarian.

[5]Niaraki, Fahimeh Rezai and H. Rahimi. “The impact of authoritative, permissive and authoritarian behavior of parents on self-concept, psychological health and life quality.” European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences 2 (2013): 78-85.

[6]He, Chaoyi. “Authoritarian vs. Authoritative Parenting.” Psych UCLA , 2018, smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/parent.pdf.

[7]Alizadeh Maralani, Fatemeh et al. “The Predictive Role of Maternal Parenting and Stress on Pupils’ Bullying involvement.” Journal of interpersonal violence vol. 34,17 (2019): 3691-3710. doi:10.1177/0886260516672053

[8]Kim, Jinseok. “Type-Specific Intergenerational Transmission of Neglectful and Physically Abusive Parenting Behaviors among Young Parents.” Science Direct , 11 Feb. 2009, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190740909000401.

[9]Blondal, Kristjana S, and Sigrun Adalbjarnardottir. “Parenting practices and school dropout: a longitudinal study.” Adolescence vol. 44,176 (2009): 729-49.

[10] Zahed Zahedani, Zahra et al. “The influence of parenting style on academic achievement and career path.” Journal of advances in medical education & professionalism vol. 4,3 (2016): 130-4.

[11]Shen, Yuh-Ling, et al. “Relations Between Parental Discipline, Empathy-Related Traits, and Prosocial Moral Reasoning: A Multicultural Examination.” The Journal of Early Adolescence, vol. 33, no. 7, Oct. 2013, pp. 994–1021, doi:10.1177/0272431613479670.

[12]Bednar, Dell Elaine, and Terri D Fisher. “Peer referencing in adolescent decision making as a function of perceived parenting style.” Adolescence vol. 38,152 (2003): 607-21.

[13]Dewar, Gwen. “The Authoritative Parenting Style.” Parenting Science , 2017, www.parentingscience.com/authoritative-parenting-style.html.

[14]Dewar, Gwen. “Authoritarian Parenting: What Happens to the Kids?” Parenting Science – The Science of Child-Rearing and Child Development, 2017, www.parentingscience.com/authoritarian-parenting.html.

[15] Berge J, Sundell K, Öjehagen A, et alRole of parenting styles in adolescent substance use: results from a Swedish longitudinal cohort studyBMJ Open 2016;6:e008979. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008979

[16]Turner, Erlanger A., Megan Chandler, Robert W. Heffer, “The Influence of Parenting Styles, Achievement Motivation, and Self Efficacy on Academic Performance in College Students.” Journal of College Student Development, 50 (3), 2009.

[17] Richards, Christine Brown. “Authoritative Parenting and the Relationship to Academic Achievement: Views of Urban African American Adolescents.” St. John Fisher College, 2011, fisherpub.sjfc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1067&context=education_etd.

[18]Amy Morin, LCSW. “Strategies That Will Help You Become More Authoritative to Your Kids.” Verywell Family, 26 Oct. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/ways-to-become-a-more-authoritative-parent-4136329.

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Author

Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.
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