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The following information is from: and Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson.

Parenting Styles

“There are four basic styles of parenting. Although parents at one time or another use all the parenting styles they tend to primarily parent using one approach. The parenting styles represent a combination of two elements: parental warmth, which is comprised of parental responsiveness and affection toward the child(ren), and parental control, which is characterized by how demanding or restrictive parents are toward their child(ren).”

by: Rose Allen, Extension Educator – Family Relations; and Joan Sprain

Revised 2009 by Alisha Hardman, Research Assistant; reviewed by author (Rose Allen)

The following are short descriptions of these parenting styles:

Authoritarian – Parent exhibits/has:

  • high firmness and low kindness relationship with child (from Positive Discipline)
  • lots of rules and very rigid and may be harsh
  • fear-based approach to maintain control over child
  • disciplinarian behavior
  • minimal affection
  • high expectations for child
  • top down order and communication from parent to child
  • children who are not allowed to disagree with their parents

“Research shows that children brought up in these families seldom thrive. Either their spirits are broken and they give up, or more often, they rebel.”

Permissive or Indulgent – Parent exhibits/has:

  • high kindness and low firmness relationship with child (from Positive Discipline)
  • high affection with child
  • a child who rules the home
  • a child who gets what they want
  • few rules and seldom enforces the rules
  • more friendliness
  • feelings that sometimes the child takes advantage of parent

“Research shows that children raised with this style do not learn that there are boundaries or limits on their behavior, they do not develop respect for the rights of others, and may feel insecure. Since they have not learned to cooperate and compromise, they often have difficulty adjusting to the world outside the family.”

Unengaged, Uninvolved, or Neglectful – Parent exhibits/has:

  • low kindness and low firmness with child (from Positive Discipline)
  • a child who feels like no one cares about him/her
  • a feeling of unease or uncomfortableness with child or in role as a parent
  • minimal time with child
  • more time and focus on interests other than children or parenting, such as work
  • minimal focus on child
  • an assumption that they are not good at parenting
  • an ease of letting other parent, if available, do the job of parenting

“Research shows that children who are raised in households with parents who are uninvolved perform most poorly in all areas.”

Positive or Authoritative – Parent exhibits/has:

  • high kindness and high firmness with child (from Positive Discipline)
  • a belief that mutual respect between parent and child is very important
  • a belief that children need both love and rules
  • high expectations for child and offers guidance to help child meet these expectations
  • the viewpoint that parenting has a high value
  • a democratic approach with child: child has a voice on issues and parent has final say/vote
  • consistent behavior , being both kind and firm at the same time

Research shows that the positive parenting style produces the best outcomes for children’s health and well-being. Some of the qualities that children reared by positive parents exhibit include:

  • Positive self-concept
  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Compassion
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Self-control
  • Acceptance of self and others.


Nelson, Jane (2006). Positive Discipline. Ballantine Books.

Spera, C. (2005). A review of the relationship among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 17(2), 125-146. doi: 10.1007/s10648-005-3950-1

Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S., Darling, N., Mounts, N., Dornbusch, S. (1994). Over-time changes in adjustment and competence among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful parents. Child Development, 65(3), 754-770.

Steinberg, L. (2005). The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. Simon & Schuster.

Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487-496.

What is Your Parenting Style? — An easy-to-use tool that helps parents identify and understand their dominate parenting style.


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