Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Uninvolved Parenting Styles

By Peter Flom
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Every parent has a slightly different way of parenting. But experts have classified these differences in child rearing on two dimensions -- demandingness and responsiveness -- resulting in four distinct parenting styles. These four parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved and were originally discussed by psychologists Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin in an article called Socialization in the Context of the Family. The article was part of the "Handbook of Child Psychology."

Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents are highly demanding, but not not highly responsive. Authoritarian parents can be intrusive or non-intrusive. The former are the sorts of parents who are likely to say "Do it my way because I said so!" Authoritarian parents give orders, and expect them to be obeyed; obedience is rewarded and disobedience is punished. Authoritarian parents usually provide highly ordered home environments, with clearly stated rules of behavior. In extreme cases, authoritarian style can become abusive.

Authoritative Parenting Style

Authoritative parents are high on both dimensions. They are supportive rather than punitive, and tend to value independence in their children. Authoritative parents tend to give choices and reasons. Some psychologists think this is the most effective parenting style. There does not seem to be an extreme of authoritative parenting.

Uninvolved Parenting Style

Uninvolved parents are low on both dimensions. They tend to have a "live and let live" philosophy of child rearing. Children of uninvolved parents are allowed to do what they want, but they do not get support for what they do. In extreme cases, this can become neglect.

Permissive Parenting Style

Permissive parents are highly responsive but not demanding. They are lenient, and allow a lot of behavior that other parents might not permit. They often avoid confrontation. They might be accused by others of "spoiling" their children. Permissive parents tend to give in to children's demands, but, unlike uninvolved parents, they support their children.

Do These Types Really Exist?

Classifying people into types can be useful, but is also potentially problematic. Both demandingness and responsiveness are continua, rather than categories, and parents can have extreme or intermediate values. For example, a parent could be moderately demanding and extremely responsive, and such a parent would not fit very well into any of these types.

About the Author

Peter Flom is a statistician and a learning-disabled adult. He has been writing for many years and has been published in many academic journals in fields such as psychology, drug addiction, epidemiology and others. He holds a Ph.D. in psychometrics from Fordham University.