What Developmental Psychology Has to Say About These 4 Parenting Styles

SharePinEmailGod has entrusted us with these precious little ones to watch over. It’s our job to nurture them, guide them toward saving faith in Christ, and help them grow a relationship with Him. This calling can feel like a lot of pressure for single parents, but the best part is we never have to go…

God has entrusted us with these precious little ones to watch over. It’s our job to nurture them, guide them toward saving faith in Christ, and help them grow a relationship with Him. This calling can feel like a lot of pressure for single parents, but the best part is we never have to go through this alone. God promises to be with us through all of life’s difficulties. 

That said, you only get this one chance to raise your kids. Studies prove the significant impact of parenting styles on child development, so the choices you make now are vitally important. Which of the four types of parenting styles is suitable for your family, and what does developmental psychology have to say?

Related: 7 Small Mindset Shifts to Increase Your Confidence in Parenting

4 Types of Parenting Styles in Psychology

The four types of parenting styles are primarily the work of psychologists Diana Baumrind, Eleanor Maccoby, and John Martin. They analyzed countless data to narrow in on these four categories:

  • Authoritative
  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Uninvolved or Neglectful

Their theory is that everyone falls into one of the four parenting types. However, your child’s temperament or your life circumstances may lead you toward a different style. Having a strong-willed child or being a single mom or dad may alter how you parent. 

You can always choose a better parenting style based on the effects it will have on your child. It won’t be easy, but the results are worth it. Lean on the Lord and your loved ones for strength and support.   

Parenting Styles Psychology Scale

The parenting styles in psychology research fall along a sliding scale for two primary qualities — responsiveness and demandingness. Responsiveness refers to parents’ support and sensitivity to their kids’ developmental and emotional needs. Demandingness is the degree of parents’ expectations for their children and how strict they are in enforcing them. All four parenting styles will rank high or low across each category.  

High Responsiveness-High Demandingness: Authoritative Parenting 

Authoritative parenting has a high responsiveness and demandingness rating on the scale. These parents are warm and affectionate toward their kids. They have rules and structure but are flexible as needs arise. Communication is two-sided, with parents and children expressing their thoughts and opinions. These parents use natural consequences, teaching their kids that every action has one, whether good or bad. 

Psychologists believe authoritative parenting is the best option and promotes good development and mental health. This style is also sometimes referred to as positive parenting. 

Related: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: Coping and Protecting Your Children

What It May Look Like

  • Your son blows his savings on a road trip over the summer with his friends. Then, he doesn’t have enough money to buy his first car. You allow him to experience the natural consequences of not stewarding his money correctly. 
  • Your daughter is having friend trouble with a kindergarten classmate. They aren’t in danger, so you listen to them and help problem-solve, but you don’t rush in to fight their battle. 
  • It’s time to turn the TV off and come to the table for supper. Your kids don’t want to budge. You turn it off anyway and remind them that dinner is family time. Your rule is no electronics while eating. You hug them and admit it can be upsetting to miss out on a favorite show, but spending time with each other is also essential. 

How It Affects Kids

Kids raised in an authoritative home are likelier to do well in school and form close relationships. They also have a lower risk of obesity, anxiety, and depression and are less likely to experiment with alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.  

Low Responsiveness-High Demandingness: Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian, despite the similar name, is quite different from authoritative parenting. This type still has a high level of demandingness but a low responsiveness level. These parents are disciplinarians. Their word is the law and needs to be followed without question — any deviation is disobedience. 

They still have high expectations for their children but use force, coercion, shame, and guilt to bring them about. These parents often use corporal punishment to discipline their kids. 

What It May Look Like

  • Your son doesn’t study for their end-of-unit exam even though you’ve told them to all week. He fails as a result. When they come home with their grade, you yell at them for not listening and doing poorly in school. 
  • Your little girl is struggling with bullies at school. You tell her to suck it up because adversity makes you stronger. 
  • Your kids start fighting over who plays with a shared toy. You yell at them to stop and take the toy away for the week. As further punishment, you give them each a spanking. 

How It Affects Kids

Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to have low self-esteem. They don’t learn to value or trust their opinions because no one at home does. Resentment and anger are also lifelong issues for many of these kids. Their lack of connection at home can make building relationships difficult as well. 

Related: ABCs of Single Parenting: 26 Things Single Parents Will Experience

High Responsiveness-Low Demandingness: Permissive Parenting 

Permissive parents are highly responsive to the needs of their children but at the cost of low demandingness. These moms and dads will do whatever they can to avoid a scene. Instead, they’d give in to every demand rather than cause a tantrum or fight. These parents set out with the best intentions, wanting their kids to be happy. However, they fail to provide structure and limits essential for healthy development. 

What It May Look Like

  • You allow your son to go out wherever and whenever he wants. You impose no rules or curfew because you want to trust him. As a result of his freedom, he starts experimenting with drugs. 
  • In the store, your toddler begs to pick out a toy. You tell them no at first, but as soon as they start to tear up, you head for the kids’ aisles. 
  • The school calls you in for a meeting because they’ve noticed the beginnings of bullying behavior from your preteen daughter. You decide not to give her any consequences. You tell the school how girls that age behave, and you’re sure it won’t happen again. 

How It Affects Kids

Kids who have permissive parents never learn about boundaries and reasonable limits. They’re more likely to experiment and act dangerously. They may also experience anxiety because of a long-term lack of structure. They may lean into aggressive behaviors since their parents never gave them consequences. 

Low Responsiveness-Low Demandingness: Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parenting lies on the opposite end of the spectrum from where we began. This style is low in both responsiveness and demandingness. These parents are unwilling or unable to care for their kids. Children in these homes are often abused or neglected and left to fend for themselves. Their parents may experience overwhelming depression, anxiety, or other illness. However, the outcome is the same — these kids have no adult care or supervision. 

What It May Look Like

  • You have little interest in listening to your daughter tell you about her soccer game and the winning goal she scored. 
  • You let your kids do what they want during the day as long as they don’t interrupt your work. 
  • You can’t find a way to connect with your kids because you never learned the example from your parents. 

How It Affects Kids

Psychologists agree these children have the most difficult time adjusting as adults. They learn self-reliance at a young age, but at a high cost. They tend to have low self-control and self-esteem. These kids are also likely to experience mental illness or addiction. They struggle to form healthy relationships and can have difficulty connecting with their children if and when they become a parent. 

Single Parents Must Be Intentional 

Let’s face it — parenting is never a walk in the park, no matter your circumstances. Kids get sick, push their limits, and require much time and energy. Taking care of them is also extremely rewarding. 

Great parents don’t happen by accident. They wake up daily and choose patience, love, connection, and discipline. Single moms and dads need extra intentionality since the job falls on their shoulders. Share your load with the Lord and let Him guide you — the rest will come with practice and time.

Author Bio

Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She writes about parenting, fitness, mental health, and nutrition. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.