What Is My Parenting Style? Four Types of Parenting

Mom exhibiting different parenting styles with her young daughter

One of the interesting things about being a parent is that there is great variation in how we raise our children. At the same time, there are many commonalities from one parent to another. In fact, there is enough similarity that researchers like Dr. Diana Baumrind have tried to group parents into four common parenting styles.

The Baumrind parenting styles are United States-centric and it is not clear how well these styles describe parents cross-culturally. Each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations. 

Baumrind Parenting Styles: Four Types of Parenting

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parents are often thought of as disciplinarians.

  • They use a strict discipline style with little negotiation possible. Punishment is common.
  • Communication is mostly one way: from parent to child. Rules usually are not explained.
  • Parents with this style are typically less nurturing.
  • Expectations are high with limited flexibility.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive or Indulgent parents mostly let their children do what they want, and offer limited guidance or direction. They are more like friends than parents.

  • Their discipline style is the opposite of strict. They have limited or no rules and mostly let children figure problems out on their own.
  • Communication is open but these parents let children decide for themselves rather than giving direction.
  • Parents in this category tend to be warm and nurturing.
  • Expectations are typically minimal or not set by these parents.

Uninvolved Parenting

Uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and generally stay out of their way. Some parents may make a conscious decision to parent in this way, while others are less interested in parenting or unsure of what to do.

  • No particular discipline style is utilized. An uninvolved parent lets a child mostly do what they want, probably out of a lack of information or caring.
  • Communication is limited.
  • This group of parents offers little nurturing.
  • There are few or no expectations of children.

Authoritative Parenting

What is authoritative parenting? Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set high, clear expectations. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. This style is thought to be most beneficial to children.

  • Disciplinary rules are clear and the reasons behind them are explained.
  • Communication is frequent and appropriate to the child’s level of understanding.
  • Authoritative parents are nurturing.
  • Expectations and goals are high but stated clearly. Children may have input into goals.

What is My Parenting Style?

While you may hear of other parenting styles in the news, such as helicopter parenting, tiger parenting, or free-range parenting, many of these philosophies are extensions of Baumrind’s research-based parenting styles outlined above. Few of us fit neatly into one single parenting style, but rather, raise children using a combination of styles. Think of the four parenting styles psychology as a continuum instead of four distinct ways to parent. Ideally, parents can tweak their parenting style based on their children’s needs. 

Factors in How Children "Turn Out"

  • Relationships. We know from research that parenting does impact kids. Research shows us that the quality of the relationship between parent and child has a huge impact on brain development—the actual architecture of children’s brains is influenced by parenting. Numerous studies have found that secure, healthy parent-child relationships impact children’s stress levels, social-emotional well-being, and even academic success. The work of parenting is figuring out how to have a warm, high-quality relationship with your child while also creating rules and expectations. This takes time and practice, and willingness to course correct when things are not working. 
  • Temperament. Every person is born with a unique way of approaching the world—their temperament. Research indicates that a combination of family influence and genetic disposition affects how people approach and respond to situations. Temperament includes our activity level, emotional intensity and mood, how we react to new places, transitions, or changes, and our level of focus and persistence. In some cases, children and parents are similar in temperament and share many of the same reactions, perceptions, or opinions. At other times, children and parents may differ. In these cases, parents might need to adjust their expectations. As adults, we’re responsible for the quality and success of our relationships with children. Once we have insight into our temperament and our child’s temperament, we can learn to prepare children and plan or alter the environment, as well as our actions and reactions, to create a “goodness of fit.” 

The Baumrind parenting styles offer a starting point for understanding how you generally parent. From there, you can individualize your style for you and your child, creating a “goodness of fit” that prioritizes strong relationships, clear communication, and effective rules and guidance.

Webinar: Getting to Know Your Parenting Style

When it comes to parenting styles, we all know that one size doesn’t fit all. So how can you ensure your parenting style is helping your child to thrive? Access the Bright Horizons® Family Matters webinar to find out.


More on Parenting Styles:

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Mom exhibiting different parenting styles with her young daughter