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The Impact of Parenting Styles on Children's Development

by Erica Loop, studioD

Child development isn't a textbook walk through preset milestones. The complex exchange between parents and children offers the opportunity to influence the child in ways that the typical mom and dad might not even think of on a daily basis. While it's tempting to think that your little one will grow and master new abilities on her own or with help from a skilled educational professional, your own parenting style figures in as a prime part of development.

Parenting Style

Parenting style doesn't refer to your personal sense of fashion as a mom. Instead, this term focuses on how the parent acts and reacts to the child. This includes expectations, beliefs and values surrounding how parents support and punish their children. These run the gamut from unsupportive and controlling parents to warm, democratic moms and dads who let their kids lead the way. Parents may or may not have a sense of awareness when it comes to their own style and how it effects their children.


Child development professionals typically think of parenting styles in terms of four main categories. According to the NYU Child Study Center the four types of styles are: Authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. Authoritarian parents are typically highly controlling and strict when interacting with their children. Theses parents value obedience and have little sensitivity to the child's own desires or decision making skills. An example would be: "Do this because I say so!" Authoritative parents set limits, but in a much more democratic sense. While still firm rule-makers with their children, authoritative parents use kindness and warmth to motivate and support their children. An example would be: "You need to do this because it is necessary for your development." Permissive parents are just as kind and warm as authoritative ones, but lack rule-setting skills and typically indulge their children's whims. An example would be: "Whatever you want to do is fine with me." The fourth type, uninvolved, is exactly as it sounds: Having a lack of involvement in the child's day to day life and overall development.

Positive Impact

While every parenting style impacts the child's development, authoritative parents tend to have the most positive outcomes when it comes to their kids. The balance between a firm framework of rules and a loving, supportive environment allows children to develop with an appropriate amount of guidance. Although authoritative parents do exert control over their children, this style does promote a more democratic, or at times child-centered, type of development in which the child may assert her own sense of independence. Children with authoritative parents may show healthy signs of social development when interacting with peers and other adults, and have a higher degree of emotional self-control than kids who have parents who use other styles.

Negative Parenting Styles

Aside from authoritative, the other three styles -- authoritarian, permissive and uninvolved -- have a less than positive effect on child development. This doesn't mean that every child who has a parent that subscribes to one of these styles is left in a developmental void. Instead, these styles may not have the best developmental results or outcomes in comparison to more authoritative parents. Authoritarian parents may promote skills such as self-regulation through their high expectations for obedience, but will typically not give their children the opportunity to develop self-expression. In contrast, children of indulgent parents may have extensive chances for self-expression, but lack the rule-focused framework to build emotional regulation and control. Children with univolved parents may suffer developmentally from a lack of warmth, interest or attention.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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