It was in the 1960s that psychologist Diana Baumrind carried out a research study on preschool children and their parents to conclude that the way a parent behaves towards their child will have serious impacts on the wellbeing and future development of that child. The way a parent communicates with and disciplines, how much responsibility and independence they give, and how much warmth and affection they display, can all significantly affect a young child in many areas of their life, from their self-confidence to their future relationships.
Through observation and interviews, Baumrind concluded that there are three key styles of parenting, while later research conducted in the 1980s by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin expanded on this theory and added a fourth style.
Of course many parents will display characteristics of a number of different styles, but it is presumed that most fit into one dominant category. It should also be noted that many things can influence an adult's parenting style, including their child's behaviour and their own parents' styles.
The four main parenting styles
Authoritarian parents are generally controlling and set high standards for their children to live up to. They hold the view that any rules they set should be followed without question or debate, and failure to do so will result in strict punishment. The daily life of a child who has authoritarian parents is very structured, with little room for flexibility or individual expression. These children tend to have lower self-confidence and can lack initiative and be dependent on those around them. However, they are also very capable and are happy to follow rules when it matters.
These kinds of parents expect a lot from their children but they also encourage freedom of expression. They manage to hold on to the power in the relationship but still allow their kids the opportunity to be independent and explore the world for themselves. They're assertive and responsive, and focus on supportive rather than punitive discipline methods. Children of authoritative parents are generally mature and well-adjusted. They're competent in social situations and display self-control and self-confidence. These children are generally the happiest and most secure of all the parenting styles.
Permissive parents have difficulty controlling their children and setting rules or limits for them to adhere to. They tend to give their kids free reign and independence when they're too young to be actually capable of making their own decisions, and they like to act as more of a friend than a parent figure. These kinds of parents are so worried about prohibiting their children's creativity that they allow them to get away with a lot, which is why they've also been labelled indulgent. Children of permissive parents can be disobedient, lack self-control and hold no regard for rules.
Uninvolved parents are exactly what their name suggests -- uninvolved in their children's lives. They're emotionally detached from their kids and don't have a very close relationship with them, but instead offer just the bare essentials (and in some cases, not even that). They don't set clear rules for behaviour and don't have good communication with their children. This style of parenting can often result in kids who are detached from those around them and who lack competence in social situations. They also tend to have low self-esteem and in extreme cases, they may even be aggressive.