Psychologists Baumrind, Maccoby and Martin quoted the four main parenting styles based on the degree to which parents are responsive and set limits to their children.  

These four parenting styles(1) are: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Neglectful.  

Authoritative parenting is the gold standard of parenting. In contrast, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting are not that good for children. 

In this article we are going to explore permissive parenting and how it relates to children’s development.  

What is permissive parenting? 

Permissive parenting(2) (also known as indulgent parenting) refers to those parents who are affectionate, warm, and responsive towards their children but do not demand much of them.  

Permissive parents want to be their children’s friends. They avoid conflict. They do not monitor their children, nor they provide guidance and structure.  

They are very responsive to their children’s needs, to the point that they are considered to be at their children’s beck and call.  

Their discipline style is inconsistent. One day they may punish their children for misbehaving at school, whereas another day the same behaviour may go unpunished.  

Children raised by permissive parents are more likely to: 

  • Be impulsive.  

  • Not have a good academic achievement.  

  • Have lower levels of emotional competence.  

  • Show higher rates of school misconduct. 

  • Show delinquent behaviour during adolescence. 

  • Show deviant peer relations during adolescence. 

  • Show internalizing (e.g., anxiety) and externalizing behaviours (e.g., aggression). 

  • However, not everything is negative for children of permissive parents. They tend to have good self-esteem and good social skills(3)

How to know if you are a permissive parent? 

You are permissive if you tend to: 

  • Let your child figure things out by themselves. 

  • Let your child do chores whenever they feel like it.  

  • Not know where your child is or who they are out with. 

  • Let your child decide when to go to bed, how much screen time to have, or eat snacks whenever they want.  

  • Do whatever your child asks you to do. From driving them to places even if it is inconvenient for you to buying them whatever they ask for.   

  • Give in so they stop crying or complaining.  

Why do children of permissive parents struggle to regulate themselves? 

Permissive parents do not tend to set clear rules and expectations, nor do they discipline their children consistently. This means that children have fewer opportunities to practice their regulation skills(4) because they rarely experience frustration, disappointment, or anger.   

As parents, it is normal that we want to protect our children from experiencing negative events. But we must remember that they need to have opportunities to experience frustration, stress, and failure so they can learn to deal with them.   

Why is permissive parenting linked with delinquent behaviour? 

Permissive parents do not monitor their children well or not at all. Monitoring means to watch, supervise and be aware of our children’s activities. Children whose parents fail to monitor them are more likely to engage with the ‘wrong’ crowd and to engage in delinquent behaviour. Monitoring our children well is important, particularly during the teenage years(5)

The goal is to know what is going in your child’s life. If you are unsure about what monitoring your child means, think of it as: “Ask who, ask where, ask when.”  

Is it true that when parents are stressed, they become more permissive?  

Parents’ stress(6) influences their parenting. Stressed parents are more likely to become authoritarian or permissive. When you are juggling many balls, sometimes something has got to give. That may mean relaxing your parenting and becoming more permissive. For other parents, stress means that they have a shorter ‘leash’ and they become more authoritarian. 

Parents who can regulate their emotions when feeling stressed, are more likely to stay authoritative. In contrast, those parents who cannot regulate their emotions well, are more likely to become authoritarian or permissive when feeling stressed. 

This means that it is especially important for parents to be aware of their own emotional state and reflect on how it may be influencing their parenting, and their children.  

Does permissive parenting work in some cultures? 

Extensive research shows that across cultures, the style that works best is authoritative. However, it is important to remember that there are cultural differences in parenting. There is some research suggesting that in Spain(7), permissive parenting may be as good as authoritative parenting. However, it is not clear if these findings reflect real differences or if they are due to methodological differences in the research.  

I am a permissive parent: How can I become more authoritative? 

The good news for permissive parents is that you are already warm and caring, you just need to work on learning to set and keep rules and expectations. 

Here are four tips: 

  • Create a set of rules: Think of the three rules that you consider most important. Explain them to your children and establish what the consequences are if they don’t follow them. 

  • Set expectations: What are the values that you would like your children to have? Tell them what you expect of them and set expectations. 

  • Let go of fear: Sometimes parents don’t want to set rules or high expectations because they are afraid that their children will stop loving them or that they won’t like them. Children need limits.

  • Your child will never stop loving you because you set some limits and rules. They may not like you for a bit, but they will love you. We need to be our children’s parents as opposed to their friends. Our role is to guide our children and monitor them until they are ready to fly the nest.  

  • Do not try to change everything at the same time: You do not need to set up a hundred strict rules overnight. Make realistic and attainable adjustments and keep going.  

  • Seeking professional may be advisable. Our REC Parenting therapists are ready to support you in this journey. Get in touch here. It’s never too late to become the parent you want to be.  

What about parents of neurodivergent kids? 

Unsurprisingly, parenting neurodiverse children is more stressful(8) than parenting typically developing children. Parents of neurodivergent children are more likely to face extra challenges, such as financial pressure, difficult child behaviour, health problems, and unpredictable schedules (Neece & Chan, 2017). As a result, parents of neurodiverse children find it more difficult to be authoritative(9). They are more likely to become permissive or authoritarian (Woolfson & Grant, 2006). 

What is the take-home message? 

Permissive parenting is not the best way to parent our children. Instead, try to be authoritative as much as you can. You are already a warm and caring parent. Focus on providing more guidance and structure to your child. At REC Parenting we are here to help with a wealth of resources and one-to-one support.   

Finally, remember that the perfect parent doesn’t exist! We need to try to get it right as often as we can. 

I hope you find this useful. If you have any queries or comments, drop me an email or leave a comment below. We love hearing from you! 

Much love,


Dr Ana Aznar


(1) Kuppens, S., Ceulemans, E. Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. J Child Fam Stud 28, 168–181 (2019). 

(2)Wischerth, G. A., Mulvaney, M. K., Brackett, M. A., & Perkins, D. (2016). The Adverse Influence of Permissive Parenting on Personal Growth and the Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 177(5), 185–189. 

(3) Rose, J., Roman, N., Mwaba, K., & Ismail, K. (2018). The relationship between parenting and internalizing behaviours of children: A systematic review. Early Child Development and Care, 188(10), 1468-1486. 

(4)Wischerth, G. A., Mulvaney, M. K., Brackett, M. A., & Perkins, D. (2016). The Adverse Influence of Permissive Parenting on Personal Growth and the Mediating Role of Emotional Intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 177(5), 185–189. 

(5)Hinnant, J.B., Erath, S.A., Tu, K.M. et al. Permissive Parenting, Deviant Peer Affiliations, and Delinquent Behavior in Adolescence: the Moderating Role of Sympathetic Nervous System Reactivity. J Abnorm Child Psychol 44, 1071–1081 (2016). 

(6)Aznar, A., Sowden, P., Bayless, S., Ross, K., Warhurst, A., & Pachi, D. (2021). Home-schooling during COVID-19 lockdown: Effects of coping style, home space, and everyday creativity on stress and home-schooling outcomes. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 10(4), 294–312. 

(7)Garcia, F., & Gracia, E. (2009). Is always authoritative the optimum parenting style? Evidence from Spanish families. Adolescence, 44(173), 101-131. 

(8)Neece, C.L., Chan, N. (2017). The Stress of Parenting Children with Developmental Disabilities. In: Deater-Deckard, K., Panneton, R. (eds) Parental Stress and Early Child Development. Springer, Cham. 

(9)Woolfson, L., & Grant, E. (2006). Authoritative parenting and parental stress in parents of pre‐school and older children with developmental disabilities. Child: care, health and development, 32(2), 177-184. 

The four main parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Neglectful. Which one is yours?

Psychologists Baumrid, Maccoby, and Martin rated thousands of parents and children along two dimensions: warmth and demandingness. Based on those two dimensions they concluded that each parent falls into one of the four main parenting styles. Why are parenting styles important? Because they play a role in children’s development. 

Let’s have a look at them so you can decide the type of parent you are. 

Authoritative Parenting

These parents are loving, caring, and warm. They encourage trust and intimacy. They set high expectations and clear rules. Children understand those rules and what the consequences are when they break them. Parents take into consideration their children’s opinions and feelings. Children feel safe and secure because their parents are consistent and establish clear routines. 

How does authoritative parenting influence children?

Children of authoritative parents are the ones who do best. These children tend to:

  • Be well adjusted 
  • Have good social skills
  • Do well in school
  • Have high self-esteem

Hundreds of studies show that authoritative parenting can be considered the gold standard of parenting. 

Authoritarian Parenting

These parents are demanding and cold. They expect their children to do as they are told. They set strict rules, and they tend be inflexible and rigid. They do not encourage intimacy nor trust. Parents expect children to do as they are told. 

When they discipline their children, they are harsh, use punishments and may get physical. They do not explain to the child why their behaviour was wrong. 

How does Authoritarian Parenting influence children? These children are more likely to:

  • Have poor social relations
  • Have mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Do poorly at school
  • Have lower self-esteem

Permissive Parenting

These parents are warm and responsive, but they don’t expect much from their children. They provide little guidance and direction. They want to be liked by their children, so they avoid conflict.  

 They do no set clear limits. They are not consistent in their discipline.  One day they may punish their child for not making the bed and the next day, the same behaviour may go unnoticed. 

How do permissive parents influence their children? These children are:

  • More likely to have emotional and behavioural problems
  • Less likely to do well at school
  • More likely to have self-regulation issues

Neglectful Parenting (also called uninvolved parenting): 

These parents are not demanding nor responsive towards their children’s needs. They are simply not interested in their children’s lives. They don’t set expectations, nor they offer guidance, support, or supervision.  They offer shelter and food but that’s about it. 

They don’t discipline their children. 

How do neglectful parenting influence children? These children are more likely to:

  • Struggle at school
  • Lack self-regulation 
  • Use drugs and alcohol
  • Engage in delinquency and antisocial behaviour 

Children of neglectful parents are the worst off. 

Let me say something before we continue. You may have noticed that I use the words ‘tend to’ or ‘are likely’ quite a lot. This is because developmental psychology research cannot say 100% that something will happen, it can say that something is likely to happen. Let’s take the example of neglectful parenting. Studies show that children of neglectful parents are very likely to do poorly in life. Does this mean that all neglected children will do badly? No. There are neglected children who do well. We cannot categorically say that all neglected children will struggle, we can only say that neglected children are more likely to struggle. 

Let’s now answer some questions that parents often ask about this topic. 

What about other parenting styles I have heard of?

You may have heard about gentle parenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, laid back parenting, reflective parenting, natural parenting, and so many others! 

The reality is that most of these parenting styles do the rounds in social media and the press but there is not much (or any) scientific research backing them. 

There is some research on intensive parenting (or helicopter parenting) suggesting that it is linked with negative outcomes for children.

Do I always have the same parenting style?

No. Your parenting style may change depending on what is happening in your life. For example, when parents are stressed maybe because they are going through a divorce or have been laid off at work, they are usually harsher with their children. So, a parent that is usually authoritative may become authoritarian. Be mindful of what is happening in your life to understand how you are behaving towards your children.

Many parents do not fit nicely into one category. They may be for example, mostly permissive with a bit of neglect. Like in everything in life, there are many shades of grey in parenting!

Do I have the same parenting style with all my children?

No. You may have different parenting styles with each of your children. This happens because parents influence their children, but children also influence their parents. Parenting is a way two-street. Imagine that you have a child that is always happy, loving, and easy. It is likely that you will be authoritative with them. Now, imagine that your other child has always been difficult, is moody, and aloof. It is likely that you will be more authoritarian with them. 

This doesn’t mean that we love one child more than the other. It means that they are different people, and we react differently to them. 

Can I change my parenting style?

Yes. Parenting styles can be changed. There are studies called ‘parenting interventions’ where parents are taught to become ‘better’ parents. I have good news: 

  •  Parents can and do change the way the parent
  • When parents become ‘better’ at parenting, their children do better 

With the right support and commitment, we can become the parent we want to be more often than not. Remember that the perfect parent doesn’t exist, and our children don’t need a perfect parent. What they need is that we get it right most of the time. 

If you want to change aspects of your parenting that you are not happy with, our REC Parenting therapists are here to support you. 

What if my partner has one parenting style and I have another?

This is a common issue but there is not a lot of research about it. The ideal situation is one where both parents (or at least one) are authoritative.

If you have two different parenting styles, remember that you and your partner want what is best for your child, even if you disagree about what the ‘best thing’ looks like. Try to find some common ground. 

Does culture influence parenting styles?

Very much so! We raise our children to fit in the society that we live in. Different societies have different values, beliefs, and traditions, so, parenting is not the same across all cultures. 

Authoritative parenting is more common in Western countries. In contrast, in collectivist countries parents tend to be more authoritarian. 

What about parenting styles for parents of neurodivergent children?

Like all children, neurodivergent children, benefit from authoritative parents. However, these parents may find more difficult to be warm and responsive towards their children because raising neurodivergent children brings its own challenges. 

It is particularly important for parents raising neurodivergent children to take care of themselves and find a support system. 

My final message?

As parents we are inundated with tips and advice. Just remember one thing: Try to be an authoritative parent as often as you can. You won’t get it always right, and that’s OK. Our children don’t need us to get it right all the time. They need us to get it right more often than not. That’s… about it. 

I hope you find this article helpful. As always, if you have any questions or comments, drop me an email.

Much love


Dr Ana Aznar

Registered in England & Wales. Company No.13460950. Registered office Salatin House, 19 Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA, United Kingdom

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