In the 1960s, developmental psychologists highlighted three main parenting styles based on research with preschool children. The matrix is divided by the amount of control (demand) the parent exerts on the child and the amount of warmth/feedback the parent provides to the child.
In other words, the researchers identified how parents interacted with their child and linked it to how the child turned out in the future. Let us discuss the three parenting styles below.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian parenting can be described as parents that have high control and low warmth. These parents have high expectations of their children and expect their child to meet those expectations.
Parents in this style are often status-oriented and expect their child to follow their instructions to the dot. They will not hesitate to punish the child and will often not (or unable to) explain the reasoning behind the punishment. They have little to no patience for misbehaviour and not willing to negotiate. Some even use threats of punishment to keep their child in line.
Children that grew up in authoritarian parenting households are often pictured as successful academically and in their careers. These children are often goal-driven and will be less likely to break the law. However, as an effect, research does point to the children having some negative qualities such as low self-esteem, lack of social competence, and even emotionally withdrawn. These children tend to be more vulnerable to anxiety and/or depression in adulthood, and some may struggle with self-control when parents or authority figures are not around.
A good example of authoritarian parents in popular culture is the Chinese American “Tiger” parents.
Permissive Parenting Style
Permissive parenting, also known as diplomatic parenting, can be described as parents that have low control and high warmth. The parents have little to no expectations for their children and demand very little from them. However, they are the most responsive and shower their children with warmth and love (and probably the most common in modern times).
Parents in this style are non-traditional, lenient, and will mostly avoid confrontations. They do value the choice of the child and nurture creativity/openness. These parents use gifts and toys as a means to get the child to behave. They may have rules but may be inconsistent in enforcing them.
Children that grew up in permissive parenting households are often confident and self-assured. They express themselves freely and are more willing to explore and try new things. These children often have multiple passion and hobbies due to the less rigid environment, allowing them to flex their creativity. However, modern psychologists do point out that these characteristics do promote negative behaviours such as behavioural problems and open to engaging in unnecessarily risky adventures. Without proper boundaries, the child will often be more attention-seeking to gain feedback from parents and may bring this attitude to adulthood.
A good example of permissive parents in popular culture is the parents that bring shopping trolley into Toys “R” Us.
Authoritative Parenting Style
Authoritative parenting can be described as parents that have high control and high warmth. These parents have high expectations of the children, but unlike authoritarian parenting, they do offer feedback and warmth to their children.
Parents in this style are flexible and understand the importance of setting limits and boundaries. They encourage children to problem-solve and express themselves without excessiveness. These parents discuss household rules and prefer to empower their children rather than befriending or intimidating them. They provide ample feedback to their children and provide guidance if asked. They do still discipline their children but will elaborate on reasons for the punishment. The disciplinary actions are kept fair and consistent.
Children that grew up in authoritative parenting households are often identified to be more capable, successful, and self-confident. They are often more resilient due to being allowed to experience failure and receiving guidance from parents in their childhood. Most psychologists agree that this style produces the healthiest outcome for children. Authoritative parenting requires more effort on the parent’s part as they have to persevere and adapt their approach according to the child’s developmental stage.
A good example of authoritative parents in popular culture is the “Ang Moh” parents.
Whether you prefer adopting one parenting style over the other, it is important to remain consistent. For example, one parent cannot adopt a permissive parenting style while the other adopts an authoritarian parenting style. Inconsistent parenting, or neglectful parenting (parenting with both low control and low warmth), would leave the child without a proper direction. The child may grow up with low self-esteem, have poor academic and social lives, and be vulnerable to behavioural or mental problems.
To conclude, there is no correct parenting style. Even if authoritative parenting is valued highly by psychologists, it may not be the best option for your child. The age of the child, the existing relationship with the child, and the culture does play a role in selecting the “best” parenting style to adopt. As a rule of thumb, we recommend adopting an authoritative parenting style in early childhood and slowly transition to a diplomatic parenting style as the child reaches young adulthood.
Baumrind, D. (1971). Childcare practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behaviour. Genetic Psychology Monographs. 43–88.
Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting styles: A closer look at a well-known concept. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(1), 168–181.