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Do parenting styles matter?

Different parenting styles can have different effects on children’s outcomes How you choose to parent your children will depend on many factors, and your partner’s preferred style may differ from your own.

What are parenting styles?

In 1991, the psychologist Diana Baumrind identified four key parenting styles that are still talked about today [1]. These are:


Authoritarian parenting is a very strict kind of parenting with clear rules in place, that aren’t to be questioned by children. It’s a sort of ‘do as I say’ philosophy which can be very effective in the short term but in the long term, it can lead to children feeling less happy, less confident, and with lower self-esteem.


Authoritative parenting differs from authoritarian parenting in that rules and guidelines are balanced with warmth and caring. Children can question the rules and are offered explanations as to why they are in place. Children with this type of background tend to be more confident and socially responsible, and may be better at making decisions for themselves [1].


Permissive parenting is where parents have very few rules and allow children to set their own agenda. These parents may sometimes seem to be in a friendship role rather than a parental one. Children raised in very permissive environments may have trouble coping with stress and difficult situations when they get older [2].


This is an extreme type of parenting where parents don’t respond to their children’s needs at all. This can be incredibly damaging, leading to children with low self-esteem, a lack of self-control, and difficulty in school. Neglecting a child, which includes sustained emotional abuse, is illegal. 

Do parenting styles matter?

The way you interact with your child has an impact on how they get on in life. Your parenting style will affect your child’s behaviour, the way they process their feelings, how they do at school, and even how they develop physically. It is generally thought that authoritative parenting, where you balance structure with warmth, leads to the best outcomes for children [1].

As a parent, you will develop your own style, which may be a result of the parenting you received as a child, your life experience, your beliefs and values, and any other learning you’ve picked up along the way. It may be close to one of the above styles, or perhaps a combination of two or more of them.

In addition to the effect on your children, your choice of parenting style can also affect your overall happiness as a couple and as a family. As long as you and your partner can agree on parenting decisions, you’re likely to feel better and have better relationship quality [4].

What if my partner has a different parenting style?

It’s OK to have different parenting styles, and even to have different goals as parents. Your child can get along perfectly well as long as you work together.

One useful thing you can do is talk to your partner and try to identify both of your parenting styles. Work out your similarities and where you differ. This can help you prepare together and figure out where you might need to compromise. If you can reach a united front, your different parenting styles can be successfully managed [6].

It’s also worth remembering that a parenting style isn’t necessarily a permanent state. If you’re having a tough time, or you’ve been arguing with your partner, the impact on your feelings can affect the way you do anything, including parenting [5].

Try to be aware of how you feel, and work on resolving conflict when it comes up. With communication and compromise, the two of you will be able to give your child the best possible start in life.


[1] Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95.

[2] Benson, M. J., Buehler, C., & Gerard, J. M. (2008). Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: Spillover via Maternal Acceptance, Harshness, Inconsistency, and Intrusiveness. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 28(3), 428–454.

[3] Rinaldi, C. M., & Howe, N. (2012). Mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles and associations with toddlers’ externalizing, internalizing, and adaptive behaviors. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2), 266–273.

[4] Don, B. P., Biehle, S. N., & Mickelson, K. D. (2013). Feeling like part of a team: Perceived parenting agreement among first-time parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(8), 1121–1137.

[5] Reynolds, J., Houlston, C., Coleman, L., & Harold, G. (2014). Parental Conflict: Outcomes and interventions for children and families. Bristol: Policy Press.

[6] Chen, M., & Johnston, C. (2012). Interparent childrearing disagreement, but not dissimilarity, predicts child problems after controlling for parenting effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41(2), 189–201.

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