Understanding Parenting Styles: The Strategy and Science Behind It All

Have you ever wondered why some parents are strict disciplinarians while others are more laid-back? Or why do some parental figures hover, acting out the part of helicopter parents, while others appear more relaxed, giving their kids free rein?

a father and daughter looking at the camera playing with building blocks beside them
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

Let’s investigate different parenting styles, from positive parenting to stricter approaches, to understand the strategy and science behind them.

What Are Parenting Styles?

Parenting involves a “give and take” with various styles serving as guidelines in the complex journey of raising children with different needs and personalities from adolescence to adulthood. These styles are essentially the blueprints or frameworks parents use. They are a combination of attitudes, behaviors, and strategies that parents consciously or subconsciously adopt to guide, nurture, and discipline their children.

Origins of Parenting Styles

The concept of parenting styles originated from the pioneering work of developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s. She observed preschoolers and concluded that different types of parents showed distinct parenting styles, each with a balance of responsiveness and punishment.


Parenting styles aren’t just about misbehavior or setting strict rules. They encompass a wide range of behaviors, including:

  • Communication: How parents talk to their children, listen to them, and resolve conflicts.
  • Discipline: The methods parents use to enforce rules, address misbehavior, and teach lessons.
  • Warmth and Nurturing: The emotional environment parents create can influence a child’s self-worth. For instance, an environment lacking warmth can lead to low self-esteem in children.
  • Expectations for Maturity: How much responsibility and self-control parents expect from their children during adolescence and as they grow into adulthood.


It’s essential to understand that parenting styles are not rigid categories. Parents might lean predominantly towards one free-range parenting style but can show behaviors from others depending on the situation.

The Four Main Parenting Styles

Authoritative Parenting

This positive parenting style is often seen as the “gold standard” of parenting. Authoritative parents are warm and responsive, but they also set clear boundaries. This is not to be confused with helicopter parenting; that style isn’t a main parenting style.

Authoritarian Parenting

This style often stems from a strict upbringing, and discipline might lean more towards punishment here. These parents are all about rules and obedience.

Permissive Parenting

Children of permissive parents can feel that “anything goes.” These parents are warm and nurturing but often lack in setting boundaries or enforcing self-discipline in their children.

Uninvolved Parenting

Sadly, uninvolved parenting is characterized by a neglectful parent and a lack of responsiveness. It’s like a gardener who waters the plants but doesn’t tend to their other needs.

Why Is Understanding Parenting Styles Important?

The interactions between parents and their children during adolescence significantly influence the child’s development into adulthood. For instance, children nurtured by authoritative parents often exhibit higher self-esteem, more academic achievements, and robust social skills compared to their counterparts raised under different parenting styles, like those with a strict upbringing, leading to low self-esteem.

This understanding also promotes self-awareness among parents, allowing them to pinpoint their strengths and areas needing refinement, leading to tailored parenting strategies that cater to their child’s needs. Anticipating potential challenges becomes doable when parents know the outcomes of various parenting styles. Such knowledge can be helpful, especially when addressing issues like the inhibited self-expression seen in children of authoritarian parents.

Furthermore, by embracing and merging the positive elements from different parenting styles, parents can increase their bond with their children, much like how a chef tweaks a recipe to cater to specific tastes. For those parents who sometimes feel adrift or overwhelmed, a grasp of other parenting styles is a guiding compass, ensuring their actions align with their parenting aspirations and principles.

The Role of Genetics in Parenting and the Influence of Environment

Genetics undeniably play a foundational role in shaping our identities, from the physical attributes we exhibit to the behavioral tendencies we manifest. This genetic influence extends to parenting, where our DNA can subtly or overtly guide perceived parenting styles and predispositions.

For instance, our temperament, a trait heavily influenced by genetics, can significantly determine our reactions as parents. A naturally calm individual might approach a toddler’s tantrum with patience and understanding, while a more reactive parent might respond with heightened emotion.

Furthermore, our genetic makeup can predispose us to specific mental health issues and conditions, such as anxiety or depression. These conditions, in turn, can cast a shadow on our parenting behaviors and responses.

Our cognitive abilities, from intelligence to problem-solving skills, are also rooted in genetics and can shape how we tackle challenges, teach our children, and communicate with them. Interestingly, some studies even suggest that certain parenting behaviors might be inherited. A natural warmth and nurturing parent might have inherited this trait from previous generations.

However, it’s crucial to understand that genetics don’t operate in a vacuum. The environment in which we live and our experiences can influence the expression of our genetic traits. This dance between genes and environment, known as the gene-environment interaction, implies that certain genetic predispositions might manifest differently depending on one’s surroundings and life experiences.

While genetics provide the foundation, the environment molds and refines the structure. Our upbringing, for instance, casts a long shadow over our parenting styles. An individual raised in a strict household might either mirror that approach with their children or, in contrast, adopt a more lenient, permissive style.

Cultural norms further shape our parenting philosophies. In certain cultures, there might be a strong emphasis on family cohesion and respect for elders. In contrast, individualistic cultures might champion values like independence and self-expression.

Our social networks, comprising friends, family, and the broader community, also play a pivotal role in influencing our parenting beliefs and practices. The advice we receive, our societal expectations, and even peer pressure can modify our parenting approach.

Our exposure to knowledge through parenting books, seminars, parenting blogs, or classes can introduce us to varied parenting philosophies, subsequently influencing our approach.

Personal experiences, especially profound ones like trauma, can leave a lasting mark on our parenting style. For instance, a parent who faced bullying in their youth might be hyper-vigilant about their child’s social interactions.

Lastly, economic factors, often overlooked, play a significant role in parenting. The stresses of financial instability can lead to different parenting styles and choices compared to those made in more economically stable situations.

The Impact of Parenting Styles on Child Development

Emotional Development

Parent-child interactions serve as the cornerstone for a child’s emotional development. These interactions, influenced by parenting styles, are pivotal in shaping a child’s emotional intelligence.

For instance, consider the authoritative, authoritarian parenting style, characterized by a harmonious blend of warmth and discipline. Such an approach often nurtures emotionally resilient children. This resilience equips them to handle life’s ups and downs with grace and adaptability.

Also, authoritative parents’ consistent support and understanding help children develop empathy. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is a vital emotional skill. It allows children to form deep connections with others and navigate social situations with sensitivity.

Social Development

Children adopt social behaviors and norms that are heavily influenced by their immediate family environment. As primary caregivers, parents play a crucial role in teaching children how to interact with the world around them. This doesn’t just apply to their interactions outside the home but also to their relationships with their siblings. Building positive sibling relationships can be crucial to a child’s social development and understanding of familial bonds.

For instance, children raised in authoritarian households with strict rules and top-down communication might find assertiveness challenging. Often subdued at home, their voices might struggle to find expression in broader social settings. On the other hand, children from permissive households, where boundaries are fluid and discipline is lax, might face challenges understanding social boundaries. They might inadvertently overstep limits, leading to potential conflicts with peers.

Cognitive Development

Parenting styles can have profound implications for a child’s cognitive growth, especially in areas related to academic success. The authoritative parenting style, known for its emphasis on encouragement and open communication, creates an environment conducive to learning. Children raised in such households often develop a genuine love for learning. This passion is not just limited to academic pursuits but extends to a broader curiosity about the world.

The consistent support and constructive feedback authoritative parents provide empower children to approach challenges with a growth mindset. This mindset, characterized by the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed, often leads to higher academic achievements and a lifelong love for learning.

Tips for Adapting Your Parenting Style

  • Self-awareness: Reflect on your style and its impact on your child
  • Seek Feedback: Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective can offer invaluable insights
  • Education: Read up on different parenting styles and their outcomes
  • Seek Support: Parenting is a journey, and seeking help along the way is okay

Strategy Behind Parenting Styles

Parenting is both an art and a science. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, understanding different parenting styles can offer valuable insights into your child’s life and development. Remember, the ultimate goal is to raise happy, healthy, and well-adjusted individuals. So, which parenting playbook will you choose?

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

Krystal DeVille

Krystal DeVille is an avid believer in the power of education, particularly in STEM fields. She is a dedicated homeschool mom to three amazing children and the founder ofSTEM Education Guide. Her mission is to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics accessible to everyone by providing resources for teachers, parents, and students alike.

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