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The Four Basic Parenting Styles

Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, expanded Diana Baumrind's research into parenting style. Baumrind put forward that there were 3 parenting styles Authoritarian, Permissive, and Authoritative.

Macoby and Martin, did further research and analysis, examining the degree to which parents were demanding of their children, and how responsive they were to them. With the addition of Neglectful or Uninvolved Parenting, their work is commonly referred to as four basic parenting styles.


Responsiveness vs Demandingness

Responsiveness examines the degree parents value individuality, deliberately encourage children to self regulate their behaviour, and are aware of and respond to their child's needs or demands.

Demandingness is referring to the extent parents insist their child participates in the family, the expectation of maturity, the degree of supervision and discipline, and the consequences of unacceptable behavior.

This Table shows the matrix of the four parenting styles:

  Demanding Undemanding
Responsive Authoritative Indulgent
Unresponsive Authoritarian Neglectful

  • Authoritative Parents are demanding and responsive.
  • Authoritarian Parents are demanding but not responsive.
  • Indulgent Parents are responsive but not demanding
  • Neglective Parents are neither responsive or demanding

Four Basic Parenting Styles:
Authoritative Parenting

With this parenting style, the parent is demanding and responsive:
Authoritative parenting, often called democratic parenting, encourages children to be independent, but still has firm boundaries and guidelines. This is often considered the most balanced of our four basic parenting style, where parents are have high expectations of their child's maturity and contribution, but are also very child centred and involved.

Authoritative parents consult and listen to their children, and are flexible and open to negotiation. They encourage children to solve problems and self regulate their emotions, and value reason and rationality.

This style of parenting is warm and nuturing, but will have consequences for misbehaviour. However, punishments are never punitive, and an explanation would be given, the emphasis being on teaching a child, rather than punishment or discipline.

Research tends to show, children raised with this of our four parenting styles as a preference, will tend to be more independent, have good problem solving abilities, and have higher self esteem.

Four Basic Parenting Styles:
Authoritarian Parenting

This style of parenting is demanding but not responsive:
The Authoritarian Parenting Style, is strict and has high expectations of children conforming to rules and regulations. In the extreme, much like the military, where children are expected to do as they are told unquestioningly.

Authoritarian parents do not negotiate, and children have very little say, or may even be punished for speaking their mind. This parenting style has very high expectations of children, but without any explanation or reason given for rules or restrictions.

Of all the four basic parenting styles, this style is the most likely to punish, often physically, or use shame to control a child's behavior. Discussion or negotiation is not acceptable, and children of Authoritarian parents are more likely to rebel, run away from home, and have problems with alcohol and drugs. These kids do not have good problem solving ability or the ability to think for oneself.


Four Basic Parenting Styles:
Indulgent Parenting

The parenting style is responsive but not demanding:
Indulgent Parenting, often called Permissive Parenting, is the other extreme of Authoritarian Parents. These parents are very laid back, have very few rules and regulations and seldom enforce or follow through with boundaries.

Indulgent Parents are very involved with their children, are very warm and nuturing, but don't have high expectations of their children behaving or conforming. They value self expression, and are indulgent of the child's wishes.

Children raised by Indulgent Parents are likely to have good social skills, be independent and have good self esteem. They are usually creative and keen to solve their own problems.

Some research has shown children growing up with permissive parents are less likely to respect rules and authority, and like the second of our four parenting styles, authoritarian, teenagers maybe prone to experimenting with alcohol, drugs or risk taking behavior.

Four Basic Parenting Styles:
Neglectful Parenting

This style of parenting is neither demanding nor responsive:
Macoby and Martin's four parenting styles has the addition of Neglectful Parenting. Detached or uninvolved parents have very low warmth towards their children, and are not supportive or emotionally involved with them. They may still provide for their basic needs such as food, clothing etc, but seldom interact or participate in activities with their kids.

Neglectful Parents have little value for the child's ideas, feelings or opinions, and children raised with this style of parenting are likely to have difficulty with relationships later in life. These children are likely to have poor self esteem and difficulty learning or succeeding.

What If Both Parents Have Different Parenting Styles?

What happens to children whose parents have different styles of parenting? I often get questions from parents who are unhappy with their partner's way of disciplining the children.

Except in extreme cases, such as neglectful or overly authoritarian, kids tend to be able to adjust to different parenting styles. In fact often, the negative aspects of one style of parenting can be balanced out by the other parent with different ideas.

It is more of an issue when there is a lot of conflict between parents about their style of parenting. Kids learn that different adults have different rules, or tolerance levels depending on the situation - or how they feel at the time.

I often talk of parenting as a continuum, where at different times we may even swing between the four basic parenting styles. Hopefully not to the extreme of being Neglectful or overly Authoritarian however!

You can read more about different parenting style, and the importance of working as a team despite the differences in my answers to some of our Ask Annie Parenting Questions:
Raising Children In A Divided Household

My Spouse Disagrees With My Discipline


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