Should You Practice Permissive Parenting?

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on June 22, 2017Written by Chaunie Brusie

Overview

You may think there’s only one type of parenting. But according to parenting theorists, there are actually several different styles of parenting. One theorist came up with eight different styles of parenting, and of those, there are three that are most common in today’s modern-parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive.

Let’s take a look at the different types of parenting and their pros and cons.

The three types of parenting

Permissive parenting

This style of parenting has very few rules and expectations of children. Most times, the parents are loving and express caring about their children, but they don’t see their children as mature or capable enough to carry out certain tasks or responsibilities that require self-control.

Permissive parents rarely discipline their children. They avoid confrontation whenever possible. Instead of setting rules and expectations or trying to prevent problems from happening, they choose to instead let children figure things out for themselves.

Authoritarian parenting

This style of parenting is more of the traditional “Because I said so!” type of parenting. Parents set rules but don’t have a lot of interaction with their children. Rules are strict, punishments are swift, and disciplinary measures are harsh. Obedience is expected.

Authoritarian parenting is mostly about demanding complete control and obedience from a child and doling out sometimes harsh punishment if the rules aren’t followed.

Authoritative parenting

This type of parenting can be thought of as a balance between the two more extreme styles of parenting. Leading psychologist Dr. Baumriand, who developed the theories of parenting styles in the late 1960s, believes this style of parenting is the most “proper” because it balances respecting a child’s personality while allowing the parent to remain intimate and close with their child.

Authoritative parents set rules and expectations for their children but also respond more thoughtfully and lovingly to them. They practice discipline but also provide feedback. They listen more and discuss consequences and expected behavior.

They’re supportive in their efforts and display a mixture of letting children learn while guiding them respectfully. Authoritative parents provide healthy guidelines that let children experience the world in a safe and loving way.

How does it affect children?

Many studies have found that permissive parenting is actually linked to problems in children, like poor academic performance and behavioral problems. For example, one study found that children as young as 4 years old tend to internalize problems more when they’re exposed to permissive parenting. In contrast, children who have more authoritative parenting styles display less signs of internalizing behavior.

Permissive parenting has also been linked to more risky behaviors in older children, like heavy drinking in adolescents and alcohol-related problems as young adults. Children with permissive parents also report less intimacy with their parents.

The authoritative parenting style has been linked to some positive aspects in young children and adolescents. An older study from 1989 shows it helps with psychosocial maturity, cooperation with peers and adults, responsible independence, and academic success. Children also report having more intimate relationships with their parents when an authoritative parenting style is used.

However, there are different levels of permissive parenting styles. Some research has been conflicted about just how “bad” permissive parenting is. For instance, a parent may be permissive on some things — like how much television their child watches in the summer — and more firm on other aspects. Race, income, and education all play a role in the different types of parenting styles as well.

Takeaway

While three main types of parenting styles have been identified, parenting does come in many different shapes and forms. Studies seem to suggest the most extreme types of parenting are “permissive” parenting, with very few rules or expectations of children, and “authoritarian” parenting, with demands of total obedience.

Both types can be harmful for both children and parents. A balance of the two types of parenting styles and a focus on an intimate relationship, firm but loving rules, and discipline that takes into account the child as an individual, has been linked to more positive effects for families.

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