Parenting With Psychology

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Which Parenting Style is Best?

5 c’s ages 0 - 6 months ages 11 years - 18 years ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years parenting philosophy Mar 13, 2024


Imagine this: You're navigating the winding road of parenthood, trying to make the best decisions for your child's well-being and future.  Along the way, you encounter a plethora of advice, opinions, and trends on parenting styles, each claiming to hold the key to raising happy, successful children.  But amidst the noise of internet buzzwords and social media trends from helicopter parents to tiger parents, have you ever stopped to explore the foundational research that underpins our understanding of parenting styles?  I’ve briefly introduced the concept of parenting styles in the past (click here to see that post).  Today, we delve deeper into the work of psychologists Diana Baumrind and Maccoby and Martin, shedding light on the research-based parenting styles that offer valuable insights into parental behavior and its impact on children.


Unpacking Research-Based Parenting Styles

In the realm of psychology, two seminal studies have shaped our understanding of parenting styles: Diana Baumrind's research in the 1960s and Maccoby and Martin's work in the 1980s.  These studies identified four distinct parenting styles that continue to serve as valuable frameworks for understanding parental behavior and its effects on children's development.  Let’s review each of the 4 parenting styles and look at the pros and cons of each one. 

  1. Authoritative Parenting: Authoritative parents are characterized by high levels of warmth, responsiveness, and support, coupled with clear expectations and boundaries.  They prioritize open communication, mutual respect, and positive reinforcement in their interactions with their children. An example of authoritative parenting would be a parent saying to their child, “Your one hour of screen time is up now; it’s time to plug in.”

Pros: Research has consistently shown that children of authoritative parents tend to exhibit higher levels of self-esteem, academic achievement, and social competence.  They are more likely to develop strong emotional regulation skills and have positive relationships with others.

Cons: While authoritative parenting is associated with numerous benefits, some critics argue that it may not be suitable for all cultural contexts or individual child temperaments.  Striking a balance between warmth and discipline can be challenging for some parents.


  1. Authoritarian Parenting: (Side note: It drives me crazy that the first 2 types have such similar names; stick with me, and in just a minute, I’ll present an alternative naming system) Authoritarian parents are characterized by high levels of control, strict rules, and low levels of warmth and responsiveness.  They prioritize obedience, discipline, and order in their parenting approach, often using punishment as a primary means of behavior management.  An example of authoritarian parenting would be a parent saying to their child, “Turn that tv off and go finish your chores now.”

Pros: Authoritarian parenting can instill a sense of structure and discipline in children, leading to compliance and respect for authority figures.  In some cases, it may be effective in setting clear boundaries and expectations.

Cons: Research suggests that children of authoritarian parents may experience lower levels of self-esteem, autonomy, and social competence.  The strict and controlling nature of this parenting style can hinder children's ability to develop independence and critical thinking skills.


  1. Permissive Parenting: Permissive parents are characterized by high levels of warmth and responsiveness but low levels of control and discipline.  They prioritize nurturing and emotional support, often avoiding conflict and setting few limits on their children's behavior.  An example of authoritarian parenting would be a parent saying to their child, “Hey, sweetie, do you think it’s nearly time to wrap up screen time?”

Pros: Permissive parenting can foster a strong emotional bond between parents and children, promoting a sense of security and trust.  Children raised in permissive environments may feel free to express themselves and explore their interests without fear of judgment.

Cons: Research indicates that children of permissive parents may struggle with self-regulation, impulse control, and boundary-setting.  The lack of structure and consistent discipline can lead to challenges in academic performance and social relationships.


  1. Neglectful Parenting: Neglectful parents are characterized by low levels of both warmth and control, showing little interest or involvement in their children's lives.  They may be emotionally distant, neglectful, or preoccupied with their own concerns, leaving their children to fend for themselves.  An example of neglectful parenting would be a parent saying to their child nothing because they’re not paying enough attention to notice their child has been glued to the screen for hours on end. 

Pros: There are few perceived benefits associated with uninvolved or neglectful parenting, as this style is generally considered detrimental to children's well-being and development.  The lack of emotional support, guidance, and supervision can have profound negative effects on children's mental, emotional, and social health.

Cons: Research consistently shows that children of uninvolved parents are at higher risk for a range of negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, behavioral issues, and emotional difficulties.  The absence of parental involvement and support can leave children feeling neglected, insecure, and unprepared to navigate the challenges of life.


Which Parenting Style is the Best? 

No single parenting style guarantees perfect outcomes, as individual and contextual factors influence child development.  However, as we journey through the landscape of parenting styles, it becomes clear that authoritative parenting emerges as the most beneficial and effective approach for raising happy, healthy children.  By blending warmth, responsiveness, clear expectations, and positive reinforcement, authoritative parents create a nurturing environment that fosters children's self-esteem, autonomy, and social competence.  


These principles are all taught in Parenting With Psychology through my 5 C’s parenting framework.  As I mentioned above, I find the terms “authoritative” and “authoritarian” to be far too similar and confusing.  So, when you hear me talk about the best parenting style, you’ll hear me talk about amazing parenting.  Amazing parenting involves calm and caring communication, consistent schedules, the setting and upholding of clear and reasonable boundaries, and intentional parenting to promote a strong parent-child dynamic.  


While elements of this style may come naturally to some parents, the good news is that these skills can be learned and cultivated by all caregivers.  By embracing the principles of amazing parenting and tailoring them to their unique family dynamics, parents can set the stage for their children's success and well-being in the long run.


I regularly post examples of how parents can respond to different situations using amazing parenting on social media, so follow @ParentingWithPsychology on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to hone your amazing parenting skills.


Take-Home Message 

While catchy terms for parenting styles abound on the internet and social media, the research-based parenting styles characterized by Baumrind as well as Maccoby and Martin provide a valuable framework for understanding parenting behavior and summarizing related research.  By learning about the nuances of authoritative parenting (AKA amazing parenting) and its positive impact on children's development, we empower ourselves to create nurturing, supportive, and enriching environments where our children can thrive.


So, as you embark on your parenting journey, take a moment to reflect on the principles of amazing parenting and how you can integrate them into your own parenting style.   Embrace the power of warmth, clear communication, positive reinforcement, and mutual respect as you nurture and guide your children towards a bright and promising future.


Remember, you are not alone on this journey.  Seek support, guidance, and resources to help you navigate the ups and downs of parenting with confidence and grace.  Together, we can create a world where children flourish, families thrive, and the bonds of love and understanding grow stronger with each passing day.


Getting intentional about your parenting style is part of the Check Yourself category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (click here to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!


P.S. One common parenting situation where parents wonder how to find the right balance between keeping children happy and enforcing reasonable boundaries is when dining out at a restaurant.  I created a helpful guide packed with tips on how to improve your family Dining Out experience.  Download it today to set you up for success the next time your family eats out!



  1. Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.
  2. Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487-496.
  3. Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. Handbook of child psychology: Socialization, personality, and social development, 4, 1-101.
  4. Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2014). Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence. Cengage Learning.


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