Even though there are potentially as many parental styles as there are parents, the societies in which we live exert such great influence, or counter-influence, that several parenting styles have been identified and described by experts.
One of the psychologists to first identify four distinctly different parental styles was Diana Baumrind. In the 1960’s she conducted a study of more than 100 children of pre-school age. Her methodology included naturalistic observation, and parent interviews. The results of the study enabled her to identify four of the most important aspects of parenting, which are discipline, nurturing, communication, and expectations. Using this criteria, as well as measuring the degree of parental demandingness and level of responsiveness to the child’s needs, Baumrind found that most parents demonstrated one of three parental styles.
Authoritarian Parenting Styles
The first of those styles is the authoritarian style, which she characterized as having high parental demandingness with low responsiveness to the child’s needs. This is manifested in harsh rigidity and in cases in which it is taken to the extreme, can become abusive.
Permissive Parenting Styles
The second is the permissive style, in which parents display a low level of demandingness and high responsiveness. In this style, rules are often inconsistently enforced, which can result in confusion and a lack of a sense of security as well as self-discipline.
Authoritative Parenting Styles
The third is the authoritative style, which combines high demandingness with high responsiveness, and in which rules are firm yet not so rigid that there is no room for exceptions based on circumstances.
In the 1990’s, sociologist Annette Lareau and graduate students conducted a study of 88 families from various racial and economic backgrounds. She went on to conduct more in-depth observations of 12 of those families. The results of those observations inspired her 2003 book, “Unequal Childhoods“, which was updated in 2013. Her findings reveal that middle-class families have different parental styles than poor working-class families, regardless of race.
Parenting Styles and Class
Middle and upper middle class parents are more likely to adopt what she calls a “Concerted cultivation“ style of parenting, while working class parents adopt “natural growth” parenting styles. Concerted cultivation is characterized by high parental expectations and involvement, as well as the purposeful development of talents and social skills. Communication is geared towards teaching children negotiation skills.
“Natural growth parenting” is characterized by less structured time and activities and a lower degree of parental involvement. In this style, communication is geared towards the goal of obedience rather than developing negotiation skills. Lareau contends that concerted cultivation creates and maintains the socioeconomic advantage of the middle class. Conversely, she asserts that natural growth parenting, largely the result of a lack of economic resources, serves to perpetuate economic disadvantage.
Parenting Styles and Attachment
A number of other parenting styles have been identified in the interim between the 60’s and the 90’s. For example, “Attachment parenting” is characterized by measuring the success of the parent-child bond. According to this theory, there are four types of attachment:
- insecure-resistant, and
“Nurturant parenting” stresses allowing children to explore within a protected environment. This style would fall under Baumrind’s “authoritative” style, in which behavior is modeled by example.
“Slow parenting“ is one of the parental styles that encourages less organization of children’s lives in favor of allowing them to enjoy childhood while exploring the world at their own pace. Developing the child’s decision-making abilities based on personal preferences and values rather than peer pressure is stressed in this parental style. Electronics are replaced with simpler toys to encourage the development of creativity and imagination.
Because of the increase in mental illness associated with political and economic inequalities resulting in stressful living conditions , several types of dysfunctional parenting have also been identified. Most of these fall under the umbrella of “Toxic parenting”. Despite their best intentions, parents often either repeat negative patterns from their own childhood, or attempt to over-compensate for them.
“Overparenting” is an example of one potential type of over-compensation. It has been identified, using terms such as “helicopter parent ” to describe parents that hover over their children to the extent that it interferes with their ability to act independently or deal with challenges on their own. Modern communication technology has only increased parents’ ability to monitor their childrens’ emails and activities.
“Narcissistic parenting“ often involves parents competing with one another through their children. While parents can take pride in their children’s achievements, the danger lies in replacing unconditional love with performance-based acceptance. Narcissistic parents, who come to believe that the child exists for their benefit, are often threatened by their child’s growing independence. That can result in an unhealthy attachment.
Experts agree that the damage caused by toxic parenting, including reduced self-esteem, is often unconsciously passed on to the next generation. In this beautiful yet imperfect world, it’s doubtful that anyone alive has escaped at least some form of parental toxicity.
The good news is that through the equalizing magic of the internet, not even the most economically deprived parent must remain unconscious. More than in any previous generation, the support we need as parents is often right at our fingertips.
Head over to the article The Changing Definitions and Understanding of Motherhood that digs out how Motherhood was influenced by Politics or Economics.