Comparative Analysis Of The 4 Natural Parenting Styles

Parenting was once considered an instinctive style oftentimes adopted and influenced by one’s own childhood rearing by your parents.

Utilizing what worked for your parents was handed down and tweaked by each subsequent generation of parents and caregivers.

Studies have ensued that seek to go beyond the mere parenting by how you were parented.

The culmination of observations, studies and research being utilized today isolate two factors of parental interaction, involving parental expectations and parental response. Based on where the parental approach rests on the two-axis plane, will reveal the mode of parenting style and expression.

Although the results are generalized, researchers have gone on to support a solid link between specific parenting styles and the effect on childhood behaviors that will affect and manifest into adulthood.

Parenting Style History

The vast credit and most influential understanding of parenting style categories is attributed to clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind who, in 1967 published a comprehensive study on parenting styles and their general effect on child development.

In classifying her parenting categories, she included observations of disciplinary strategies, nurturing, communication style, and parental expectations on control and maturity. As a result, Baumrind identified 3 parenting styles: 1) Authoritarian; 2) Authoritative; and 3) Permissive

In 1983, Maccoby and Martin further developed Baumrind’s results by splitting the earlier Permissive Parenting category into permissive / indulgent parenting and uninvolved / neglectful parenting.

Today, the prominent parenting categories have meshed the Baumrind study and Maccoby and Martin study into the following 4 parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian
  • Authoritative
  • Permissive/Indulgent
  • Uninvolved/Neglectful

Defining Two Factors Of Parental Interaction By Dianna Baumrind

Parental Demandingness

Parental demandingness gauges the parent’s control and regulation of the child. Baumrind defined demandingness as “the claims parents make on children to become integrated into the family whole by their maturity demands, supervision, disciplinary efforts and willingness to confront the child who disobeys”. This axis defines the level that the parent seeks to control the child’s behavior or demands a high level of maturity.

Parental Responsiveness

Parental responsiveness gauges the parent’s warmth and affection toward the child. Baumrind defined responsiveness as “the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned, supportive, and acquiescent to children’s special needs and demands”.

This axis defines the parent’s understanding of the child’s emotional needs at each developmental stage.

The parental high and low levels of influence on these two axes of interaction results in the current 4 pillars of parenting styles that we will see below.

Understanding The 4 Parenting Styles

Authoritarian Parenting (Low Responsiveness / High Control)

“Children should be seen and not heard”. “It’s my way or the highway”. “Because I said so”. These are the tenets of the authoritarian parenting style.

The parent that habits this philosophy have high expectations for maturity and obedience from their children. At the same time the parent is intolerant of misbehavior and is oftentimes seen as expecting blind obedience from their child.

Corporal punishment is quick and severe for the typical childhood mistake or misbehavior.

The authoritarian parent is not responsive to the child’s needs, offering little affection or guidance. Oftentimes described as cold and aloof, they offer little verbal communication, encouragement or positive reinforcement for expected behaviors. And, since children are not given guidance or reasoning for the consequence, the child is often left wondering what they did wrong. in this style little warmth, affection and nurturing.

Truly, the authoritarian parent doesn’t trust her child to make a good decision, so little opportunity for freedom or choice is offered.

Where good decision-making is gleaned from experiencing natural consequences for decisions, the authoritarian parent will hover over the child to ensure mistakes are never made.

The authoritarian parent is oftentimes domineering and unapproachable, with high expectations while offering little praise for accomplishments.

Authoritative Parenting (High Responsiveness / High Control)

Parents that utilize the authoritative style have high expectations for maturity and behaviors that are expected to be followed. This parent sets rules and disciplines bad behaviors.

However, the correction is coupled with active listening, forgiveness and nurturing affection. Baumrind viewed the discipline as supportive versus punitive.

At the same time the authoritative parent offers plenty of affection and nurturing. Childhood discipline and punishment is tempered with support and guidance for future compliance. The authoritative parent listens to feedback and offers positive consequence and affirmation, as well.

High expectations precede independence, which is valued highly in this parenting style. Independence is nurtured through affection, communication, understanding, negotiation of rules and affection.

Permissive Parenting (High Responsiveness / Low Control)

The permissive parenting style incorporates few rules, boundaries and limitations. Anything is permissible in this nontraditional style of parenting.

If established rules are breached, the permissive parent will be disinclined to enforce a consequence. Punishment will be lenient and inconsistent. This parent does not want to cause offense to their child so makes little demands on their child’s behaviors.

Permissive parents tend to be nurturing, supportive and communicative with their child. This parenting style will typically evidence as affectionate and demonstrative. However, the child is permitted to self-regulate and determine the rules. Indulgence is the norm manifesting in a reluctance to say “no” or upset the child in any way. This is the parent that prefers to be a friend versus a parental figure.

Low parental expectations for maturity and behavior result in inconsistent, indulgent and lax discipline and understanding for rules and regulations.

Uninvolved / Neglectful Parenting (Low Responsiveness / Low Control)

The uninvolved or neglectful parenting style offers very little in the way of positive development for the child.

This is the emotionally absent style of parenting. A neglectful parent impacts the child in the least ways, as far as interaction and guidance.

Other than meeting some basic needs of the child, such as food and shelter, the involvement of this style lacks in the realms of responsiveness and control; otherwise being developmentally absent.

Much like the permissive parent, this style offers little in the way of guidance for rules and boundaries. Few demands and requirements are placed on the child, and little monitoring is offered to oversee rules and activities are followed.

Sadly, any redeeming benefit for responsiveness and affection ranking high in the indulgent parenting style, is otherwise lacking with the uninvolved/neglectful parent. Little warmth and nurturing are offered by the neglectful parenting style.

This parent offers little communication and developmental guidance. Ultimately, very little involvement is offered in the child’s life.

Parenting Characteristics


  • Parent expresses little warmth, affection or nurturing
  • Parent offers little positive feedback or praise
  • Parent is very demanding or domineering
  • Parent is not emotionally responsive to child’s needs
  • Parent is rules-oriented
  • Parent often micromanages child’s activities to assure obedience
  • Parent values discipline over positive childhood experiences
  • Parent advocates severe corporal punishment with little explanation
  • Parent supports high negative consequence
  • Parent supports low positive reinforcement
  • Parent reacts quickly and harshly when rules are broken
  • Parent allows few options or negotiations to child
  • Parent offers little guidance and explanation for rules
  • Parent values obedience from child


  • Parent expresses warmth, affection and nurturing
  • Parent has high expectations for behaviors based on age-related rules, boundaries and limitations
  • Parent offers clearly defines rules
  • Parent emphasizes responsibility for actions
  • Parent offers fair and consistent consequences for misbehavior
  • Parent listens to the child’s point of view
  • Parent allows child to express opinion
  • Parent allows child to negotiate on rules
  • Parent encourages communication and options
  • Parent fosters reasoning
  • Parent values and encourages independence of child

Permissive / Indulgent

  • Parent expresses warmth, affection and nurturing
  • Parent places few rules, boundaries and limitations on child behaviors
  • Parent has low expectations for behaviors
  • Parent offers little and inconsistent consequences for misbehavior
  • Parent offers inconsistent discipline for misbehavior
  • Parent often lenient for misbehavior
  • Parent often asks their child’s point of view
  • Parent seeks child’s opinion on major issues
  • Parent allows child to set rules
  • Parent emphasizes child’s freedom over responsibility
  • Parent encourages communication and options
  • Parent encourages independence
  • Parent appears to be more like a friend than a parent to their child
  • Parent oftentimes bribes child with a gift, toy or food to get desired behavior

Uninvolved / Neglectful

  • Parent expresses little warmth, affection and nurturing
  • Parent places little rules, boundaries and limitations on child behaviors
  • Parent offers little supervision
  • Parent may be emotionally distant from child
  • Parent indifferent to child’s needs
  • Parent has few expectations or demands for childhood behaviors
  • Parent is seldom involved in child’s events
  • Parent is often too involved with their own issues to give any regard to their child

The Impact On Development & Behavior

You may wonder how each parenting style will influence the developing child. Beyond the studies of 1967 and 1983, research continues to unravel the impact of each parenting styles.

Authoritarian Impact on the Child

The domineering and autocratic philosophy of the authoritarian parenting style involves high expectations with little positive reinforcement for accomplishments.

The result is a child known to be high in obedience and rigid in structure. In effect the child will interpret love as obedience and success and strive to attain it. This child will become the perfectionist, striving to do no wrong and needing to provide results to please others.

However, due to the strict nature of the rearing, the authoritarian child may act up outside the home environment, either through aggression or be the wild child once the parental confinement is lifted.

The general authoritarian parenting style impacts the child – into adulthood – in the following ways:

  • Children generally unhappy
  • Children typically obedient to rules and regulations
  • Children very success-oriented
  • Children able to function well under rules and structure
  • Children exhibit low academic performance
  • Children exhibit poor social skills
  • Children exhibit low self-esteem
  • Children may engage in criminal, delinquent or self-destructive behaviors
  • Children may suffer from drug and alcohol dependence
  • Children may suffer mental illness or behavioral issues
  • Children may suffer from depression and high anxiety

Authoritative Impact on the Child

The supportive and democratic philosophy of the authoritative parenting style that couples high expectations with positive discipline and support, results in a child that has developed skills including independence, discipline and self-control.

The general authoritative parenting style impacts the child – into adulthood – in the following ways:

  • Children generally happy
  • Children typically respectful of rules and regulations
  • Children typically rank high in skill and competence
  • Children exhibit higher academic performance
  • Children exhibit good social skills
  • Children exhibit high self-esteem
  • Children exhibit confidence
  • Children exhibit less mental illness or behavioral issues
  • Children engage in less criminal or delinquent behaviors
  • Children typically more independent and successful

Permissive / Indulgent Impact on the Child

The indulgent and non-confrontational philosophy of the permissive parenting style can result in an egocentric child with little self-control, maturity or respect for authority.

A life with little demands placed upon him or her, results in children less happy than might be expected from such permissive lifestyle.

The general permissive parenting style impacts the child – into adulthood – in the following ways:

  • Children generally unhappy
  • Children exhibit low self-discipline
  • Children exhibit high impulsive behaviors
  • Children exhibit difficulty with authority
  • Children exhibit poor social and relationship skills
  • Children rank lower in school academics
  • Children often egocentric and selfish
  • Children often lack empathy for others

Uninvolved / Neglectful Impact on the Child

The uninvolved parenting style unequivocally ranks lowest on both realms of positive parental involvement. Logic follows that without parental guidance or affection, the child’s behaviors will be the most severely impacted.

These children are inclined to show a negative impact by lack of parental involvement in any but the most basic areas.

The child is linked to unhappiness, impulsivity, and low self-esteem and skill. The general uninvolved parenting style impacts the child – into adulthood – in the following ways:

  • Children generally unhappy
  • Children exhibit high impulsive behaviors
  • Children exhibit low self-esteem
  • Children typically rank low in skill and competence
  • Children may engage in criminal, delinquent
  • Children may suffer from drug and alcohol dependence
  • Children may suffer mental illness or behavioral issues
  • Children may suffer from depression

Authoritative Parenting Style Highlighted

In all research studies, the authoritative parenting style offers greater advantages to child development than its other 3 challengers.

This is because those parents who make use of the authoritative style are seen by the child as fair, just and understanding. It follows that the rules will be seen as reasonable and compliance more sensical.

In addition, having clearly established guidelines of rules and expectations make it easier to understand, remember and adopt. Consequences that come with reasonable explanations and forgiveness make the discipline less punitive.

The opportunity to ask questions and negotiate modifications to rules provides self-confidence and allows the child to become invested in the rule’s outcome and parental expectations.

As children mature and cognitive abilities advance, understanding the cause-and-effect consequences makes sense.

Finally, this parental style mixes a healthy complement of parental warmth and forgiveness, which affection results in the child striving to follow the rules to please his parent, resulting in altruistic development.

Caveat On Parenting Style Research And Findings

The Baumrind, and subsequent studies have been the accepted understanding of parenting styles and their effects for greater than fifty years.

However, there are criticisms to the absolute structure purported. This is due to what has been described as limitations in the research.

The predominate research is based on “correlation research”, which cannot provide an exclusive causal relationship with surety. Instead, correlation research merely identifies relationships between common variable factors.

This means that, despite links between a specific parenting style and resultant behavior, there are clearly certain other variables that can influence the resultant behavior.

For example, oppositional research showed that instead of a parenting style influencing a behavioral result, that a child’s behavior could actually influence a parent’s choice of parenting style.

In the study parents who were dealing with a child’s difficult behavior elicited less control as the child aged. In such case, environmental, emotional or physical influences could become a factor.

The parenting styles are also not universal. Culture, divorce, death, and change in family dynamic happens. These influences can become an important factor in styles and child behavior outcomes. Over time, lifestyles change may require a parent to switch or tweak parenting styles.

In addition, each family is further influenced by the parenting styles of individual parents within the family structure. These styles are blended into its own family component style. One parent exhibiting one style may complement or oppose another parent’s parenting style. That could influence positively or negatively the child’s behaviors.

Finally, there are no absolutes. Children raised in substantially different environments can grow in to adulthood with very similar personalities and behaviors.

On the other hand, children who grow up in the same home, under the same parenting style, can grow in to adulthood with completely different personalities and behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that there are no best practices in parenting or parenting styles. There are no absolutes in the application of these parenting styles, either. And, there are no universal responses of a parenting style to all child behaviors.

Studies have clearly identified links showing that parenting styles are a substantial influence on child behavior developments.

Clearly, the authoritative parenting style is associated with manifesting positive child behaviors such as happiness, self-esteem, independence, and good social skills. All these behaviors are associated with impacting development to create successful influences into adulthood.

But there are other relevant factors that include the child’s temperament, cognition, culture, perceptions, social structure, economic structure, familial composition, and other variables that will influence a child’s behavior.


  1. Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior, Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.
  2. Baumrind, D. (1967). Child care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75(1), 43-88.
  3. Maccoby EE, Martin J (1983). Socialization in context of the family: Parent-Child Interaction. In E.M. Hetherington (Ed.), Handbook of child Psychology: Vol.4.

1 thought on “Comparative Analysis Of The 4 Natural Parenting Styles”

  1. My daughter has Down Syndrome and I also work with a range of young people with various disabilities and your research rings true in these parenting situations. The authoritative approach though is the best approach however parents will trend toward the indulgent/ permissive approach due to circumstances. Such young people usually have an increased instance of severe illness and dangerous medical complications as such parents tend to have a more flexible approach to parenting. I personally have had to move between the two. Some times e.g. after a major surgery (open heart surgery) a permissive approach will avoid further medical complications but can then impact on other health needs (weight gain/ asthma).

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