Parenting Styles and Decision Making

Every parent is first an individual with their own perception of what is right or not but one thing all parents should have in common is that every decision should be made with good intent for their child. Children and adolescents’ decision making, however, often is thought to be associated with parenting. The role of parents or parenting is very critical in decision making, particularly when considering its influence on engagement in decision making. Parenting has been found to also nurture the development of certain decisional making styles in children and adolescents (Udell et al. 2008). The work of Diane Baumrind in the 1960s created one commonly-referenced categorization of parenting styles. The four Baumrind parenting styles have distinct names and characteristics: Authoritarian or Disciplinarian, Permissive or Indulgent, Uninvolved, Authoritative.

  • Authoritarian parents are often thought of as disciplinarians. They use a strict discipline style with little negotiation possible. Punishment is common. Communication is mostly one way: from parent to child. Rules usually are not explained. Parents with this style are typically less nurturing. Expectations are high with limited flexibility.
  • Permissive or Indulgent parents mostly let their children do what they want, and offer limited guidance or direction. They are more like friends than parents. Their discipline style is the opposite of strict. They have limited or no rules and mostly let children figure problems out on their own. Communication is open but these parents let children decide for themselves rather than giving direction. Parents in this category tend to be warm and nurturing. Expectations are typically minimal or not set by these parents.
  • Uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and generally stay out of their way. Some parents may make a conscious decision to parent in this way, while others are less interested in parenting or unsure of what to do. No particular discipline style is utilized. An uninvolved parent lets a child mostly do what he wants, probably out of a lack of information or caring. Communication is limited. This group of parents offers little nurturing. There are few or no expectations of children.
  • Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set high, clear expectations. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. This style is thought to be most beneficial to children. Disciplinary rules are clear and the reasons behind them are explained. Communication is frequent and appropriate to the child’s level of understanding. Authoritative parents are nurturing. Expectations and goals are high but stated clearly. Children may have input into goals.

Individualistic societies have viewed authoritative parenting as yielding the most desirable developmental outcomes on children and adolescents, but collectivist societies differ with this view of authoritative parenting (Chao 2001; Sorkhabi 2005). Another consideration could be that approaches to parenting are often considered as being behaviors that parents display with regard to child rearing. This creates a certain context in which uniform behaviors are exhibited and thought to have the desired outcome on the development of children and adolescents (such as showing warmth, affection, and appropriate child monitoring and supervision) (Brand et al. 2009; Udell et al. 2008; Lee et al. 2006).

Few of us fit neatly into one single parenting style, but rather raise children using a combination of styles. Think of the four styles as a continuum instead of four distinct ways to parent. Ideally, we think about our children and what they need from us at specific points in time. For example, while a parent might not typically adopt an authoritarian parenting style, there might be times in a child’s life when that style is needed. Or you might know an authoritarian parent who is nurturing, contrary to the description above.

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