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What Exactly is Permissive Parenting?

The Permissive parenting style, is a term Diana Baumrind, used for one of her 3 Parenting Styles: Along with Authoritarian Parenting and Authoritative Parenting styles, these categories were how she observed and researched parent's style of parenting.

These parents, tend to be seen as over indulgent parents who are reluctant to limit or control their child's behavior.

Permissive parents don't enforce rules, or impose boundaries on their children, preferring their children to be free and self directed.

Like Authoritative parents, Permissive parents are warm, supportive and emotionally available to their children. But unlike Authoritative parents, the Permissive parenting style doesn't place the Parent in the position of power, or authority.

Indulgent parenting tends not to insist on participation or place demands on their child, giving the child free rein to choose.

What Effect Does Permissive Parenting Have On Children?

Some studies show children raised with overly permissive parents, have little respect for authority and have difficulty conforming to rules and regulations. Some also report children are more likely to engage in anti-social or self destructive behavior when raised by permissive parents.

Others show, academically, children achieve better when parents have high expectations, so long as these children also have warm supportive parents. So children of Indulgent Parents, may be less successful at school due to lower expectations and demands from their parents.

Some experts suggest that, particularly young children exhibit more anxiety and stress when they have permissive parents who give little guidance or set few limits.

Is This Parenting Style Bad?

Is it all bad? No. Certainly kids raised with parents who are indulgent, warm and intensly interested in their children, tend to have better self esteem and are more resourceful than children raised in authoritarian style families.

There is also much evidence about the importance of closeness and parental responsiveness, particularly with babies and very young children, as being vitally important for normal development.

One thing to keep in mind, Baumrind's original body of work began in the 1960s. So what was considered overly Permissive back then may well be considered fairly mainstream now!

How important is this kind of research? Considering much of it is very subjective, and may also be very culturally specific, I would suggest you don't place too much importance on categorising yourself!

Few parents would parent consistently according to one parenting style. You may lean towards permissive parenting, but most parents have more of a continuum of parenting styles depending on the situation, age of the child, personality of child and parent, or even the parent's stress levels on the day.

I know from my own parenting, when I was on deadlines, was tired, or under pressure, I probably tended to lean far more towards the authoritarian style of parenting!

As a parent I think the value in this kind of research is to help us be more aware of our parenting style in order to be more conscious about how we want to parent. Simply parenting the way you were brought up - "if it was good enough for me then it is good enough for my kids" doesn't really have the child's best interests at heart.

Permissive Parenting and the Four basic parenting styles
This article examines Macoby and Martin's research into Parenting Style.

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