Parenting Styles & How They Trigger Anxiety
What type of parent are you? In the field of psychology, experts today recognize four different parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful. These different approaches encompass unique strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at how each style affects children and can impact their risk for anxiety.
Four Styles of ParentingIn the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted research on 100 preschool-age children and their parents and used her observations to distinguish three different parenting styles (authoritarian, authoritative and permissive), to which psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin later added a fourth category (neglectful or uninvolved). The four categories define parenting styles based on a variation of two major factors: warmth (responsiveness) and control (demandingness). Authoritarian parenting has high levels of control and is low in warmth. Authoritative parenting is high in both factors. Permissive parenting has low levels of control but high warmth. And neglectful parenting is low in both factors. The characteristics of each style of parenting are outlined below:
1. Authoritarian Parenting
Authoritarian parenting has high levels of control and is low in warmth. Taking on the role of the disciplinarian, the authoritarian parent demands respect while emphasizing obedience. They are often strict and punitive, requiring their children to follow directions without questioning. These types of parents typically use phrases like “Do as I say, not as I do,” or “Because I said so.” While they are heavy on criticism, they rarely give praise or affection, often leading children to be less autonomous and fear their parents.
2. Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parenting is high in warmth and control. While maintaining an environment that is supportive and non-judgemental, parents are also able to assert their control and guidance through boundaries and reasonable discipline. Authoritative parents want their children to become independent individuals, and they often see compromise as the best route. Children are permitted to voice their own opinions, as long as they do so respectfully.
3. Permissive Parenting
Permissive parenting has low levels of control but high warmth. Without many boundaries in place, children are free to do as they please without fear of disciplinary action. Permissive parents do not want to disappoint their children and they relish the idea of being their child’s best friend.
4. Neglectful Parenting
And neglectful parenting is low in warmth and control. Uninvolved and offering little support, neglectful parents show little love and affection towards their child as well as little guidance. With little structure in the home, neglectful parents often have distant relationships with their children as the children learn they cannot count on their parents for support.
Pros and Cons of Different Styles
Since Baumrind first published her studies, much research has been done on the positive and negative impact of different parenting styles on children. Here are the pros and cons of each style as determined by experts, beginning with what is considered the most harmful:
The general consensus about neglectful parenting is that it has a negative effect on kids. Parents of this type are so uninvolved in their kids’ lives that they make almost no demands on them, but they also provide no affection or warmth. While this parenting style may result in the child's attachment style becoming more self-reliant, which can be a positive outcome, children of neglectful parenting often have low self-esteem and poor social skills because they did not learn how to healthily engage with their parents. This may also lead them to be more emotionally needy or detached in future relationships. It’s important to note that sometimes neglectful parenting is unintentional and a direct result of the parent working too much or struggling with a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder. A parent may also be neglectful because they were raised by neglectful parents. Neglectful parenting should also not be confused with the initial distress or detachment a mother might feel in the postpartum period, in which she is encouraged to speak to a doctor to address her concerns.
Authoritarian parents set high standards and demand compliance with rules, which gives kids needed structure and may set them up to be incredibly goal-oriented and committed to doing what’s “right.” But the authoritarian parents’ lack of warmth and concern for their children can tend to cause rebelliousness and resentment for the parents’ strictness. Children of authoritarian parents often have low self-esteem, poor social skills, and high levels of depression from never feeling free to voice their own opinions or stand up for themselves. If harsh punishment was used in the household, these children may also lean toward violent or aggressive behavior with their peers or later in life. Children of authoritarian parents are also less creative as they were always told to accept the rules and never allowed to think outside the box.
Permissive parents don’t demand much from their children but show them high levels of affection. While this type of parenting includes warm and loving behaviors toward kids, there also tends to be a lack of necessary discipline, boundaries, and standards for behavior and academic performance. While children of permissive parenting may have higher self-esteem, emotional closeness with their parents, and more willingness to be creative, they may also feel free to engage in risky behavior. They might also act disrespectfully towards others because of the lack of boundaries they have at home.
Researchers agree that authoritative parenting usually combines the best of both worlds. Authoritative parents show warmth and affection to their children, while also providing firm boundaries and high expectations. Children of authoritative parents often grow up to feel more empowered, more vocal, and more well-rounded. Because their parents were neither too lenient nor too strict, these children value respect, accountability, and fairness, setting them up for success at school and at home.
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Parenting Style and Childhood Anxiety
Some of these parenting styles can impact your child’s possibility of manifesting anxiety. Neglectful parenting, with its absence of parental concern in any sense, has been linked with children showing higher levels of fear, anxiety, and distress, as well as engaging in delinquent behavior. Authoritative parenting, in which parents push kids to succeed and meet high standards without providing real emotional support, has now been linked with the possibility of anxiety disorders, as the constant pressure of high demands causes children to “stress out” overachieving those standards. Permissive parenting, on the opposite swing of the pendulum, leaves so much to the child’s own choices that it can produce anxiety as well, as children struggle with difficulty and uncertainty in a vacuum of adult guidance. In the final analysis, authoritative parenting is likely the most beneficial for children. With a combination of loving, nurturing interest, firm boundaries and direction for children still learning to navigate life, authoritative parenting is the option least likely to contribute to anxiety in children.
How Does This Apply to Me?
What’s your parenting style? Remember, these categories are generalizations, and you may not neatly align with just one approach. However, keeping in mind that the authoritative model is probably most beneficial for minimizing anxiety, you may be able to make changes to your approach that will improve your expression of warmth, raise demands—or both! If you tend to be a permissive parent, remember that schedule, structure and reasonable requirements are beneficial for kids, especially around issues like regular sleep and controlled screen time, which impacts physical and mental health. If you tend to be a more demanding parent, remember to balance those demands with plenty of affection, hugs, unscheduled downtime together and honest praise for every job well done.
If your child struggles with anxiety on a regular basis, consider natural remedies for anxiety like Brillia to help them feel calmer and more balanced again. Brillia is a gentle and impactful medication that is safe for children five years old and over and contains no harsh synthetic chemicals. Available without an official diagnosis, Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein. Studies show that anxiety and depression stem from an imbalance of this protein and Brillia works to reinstate this balance without causing harmful side effects. If your child is already taking medication for anxiety, Brillia is also safe to take with any other medications or supplements so you can add the medication to their regimen without worry.