by Amy Smith
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 Parenting
In 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.
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. There’s a total consensus that neglectful parenting has a universally 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 toward their children.
Authoritarian parents set high standards and demand compliance with rules, which gives kids needed structure. But their lack of warmth and concern for their children can tend to cause rebelliousness and resentment for the parents’ strictness. 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. 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.
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. Authoritarian 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, authoritarian 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, authoritarian 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 authoritarian 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.
Amy Smith is a writer specializing in family and parenting. She teaches English, Latin and music at a private school, and lives with her husband and five children on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania.