As shown across numerous studies, child development and mental health is affected significantly by numerous factors, many being environmental. For younger people, the environment they grow up in is largely controlled and influenced by the parenting style their parents choose to raise them by, which is defined as “a set of attitudes a parent holds toward their child that are communicated to the child and that, taken together, create an emotional climate in which the parent's behaviours are expressed”.
Parenting styles can be categorised into four distinct categories according to its level of demand and responses: indulgent, authoritarian, authoritative and uninvolved. (Demand refers to how controlling the parents are of their child’s behaviour or how demanding the parents are of the child’s maturity; responses refer to how accepting and sensitive the parents are of their children’s emotional and developmental needs.)
With global reports of poor mental health and developmental issues in children on the rise, it is imperative for parents to be educated on how to raise their children in a constructive and developmentally beneficial way.
Authoritarian parenting is characterised by high levels of demand and low levels of responses. With this approach of parenting, the parent would typically establish a one-way mode of communication where there are strict rules put in place, and which their child is expected to obey with little to no room for negotiation.
Children that have been reared using this parenting approach are typically the most well-behaved and are normally better at following precise instructions to reach a certain target. However, it can lead to higher levels of aggression, and they may have difficulty managing and controlling their anger due to lack of proper guidance from their parents. This may also be the reason children who grow up with strict parental rules and punishments often rebel against authority figures when they are older.
This parenting style also may also influence children to be more shy, socially inept, and unable to make their own decisions. Additionally, the children may develop a poor self-esteem, which may further deepen their inability to make decisions as they may not trust their own judgement and may question their ability to make good choices.
Authoritative parenting is characterised by high levels of demand and high levels of responses. This style of parenting typically results in a close, nurturing relationship between the child and parents. This is because the parent establishes clear guidelines for their expectations and provides rational reasoning for their disciplinary actions. Furthermore, instead of harsh punishments being used as disciplinary actions, more supportive and logical approaches are taken, where the child can negotiate and communicate with their parents, leading to a healthy compromise. However, it is worth noting that although this parenting style leads to the healthiest outcomes for children, it requires a significant amount of patience and effort from both the child and parent.
Children who are reared using the authoritative method tend to be more confident, with a higher self esteem, as they are taught to be independent and have learned how to accomplish goals and tackle difficulties on their own. This also means that they typically have the ability to self-regulate, meaning they are able to manage their own emotions very effectively, which helps them cultivate better social outcomes and emotional health. On average, these children also typically perform better in school and reach a high level of academic achievement.
Permissive parenting is characterised by low levels of demand and high levels of responses. This means permissive parents are typically warm and nurturing towards their children but lack expectations, which result in rare disciplinary actions being taken and limited rules being imposed.
While this freedom can be beneficial, it also has many disadvantages: if the parent does not moderate or guide the child’s behaviour, it may lead to many unhealthy and negative habits, such as late bedtimes, a high screen time and unhealthy eating habits. It is generally seen that children raised using the permissive parenting style have normal levels of self-esteem and social skills but may have negative characteristics such as selfishness, impulsivity, and may not be able to self-regulate.
Uninvolved parenting is characterised by low levels of demand and low levels of responses. With this approach, the parent typically responds to the basic needs of the child, but stays uninvolved from the child’s life. They do not act nurturing and warm towards their child, nor do they hold any expectations towards their children, meaning they do not carry out any disciplinary actions, and communication with their child is very limited.
This usually results in children who are high in resilience and more self-sufficient than children who experienced different upbringings, as these are skills that these children must develop out of necessity in order to survive and cope. Moreover, due to the lack of guidance and excessive freedom from their parents, these children tend to have difficulty controlling their emotions and finding effective coping mechanisms, which may lead to difficulties in maintaining social relationships and academic performance.
Throughout many studies in different areas of the world, researchers have generally found the same outcomes expected of each parenting style. It has also been shown by research that authoritative parenting is consistent with the best results in children, and is regarded by psychologists and psychiatrists as the best parenting style. This is because authoritative parents use a more logical and reasonable approach, and are seen as more fair and rational, meaning that children are more likely to be obedient and follow the rules and guidance given by their parents. Due to this, rather than following rules due to the fear of harsh discipline, children follow the rules set by their parents and internalise their values, developing a strong sense of morality, which guides them to do what is right, and helps them achieve certain goals independently.
However, it is important to note that there will always be issues, inconsistencies and exceptions, as there is no perfect one-size-fits all way to measure parenting and how it may affect a child’s development, as every parent and child are different and require different ways of upbringing.