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Parenting styles contribute to a child’s development. Which ones of these four evidence-based parenting styles describe you best?

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Have you ever wondered why our children behave the way they do? Why are some children more confident to face life challenges head-on than others? What makes a child more prone to depression, anxiety, and other externalizing problem behaviors, e.g. delinquency and drug use? What is the best way to raise a well-rounded child?

While there are many factors, it is unequivocal that parenting style plays a significant role in a child’s development, mental well-being, and overall life satisfaction.

What is Parenting Style?

Coined by the works of developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind (the 1960s) and Maccoby and Martin (1980s), There are a total of four (4) different types of parenting styles. Each parenting style encompasses two dimensions:

Demandingness (expectations) refers to the degree to which parents set limits, control their child’s behavior and make maturity demands.

Responsiveness (Involvement) refers to the degree to which parents are attuned to their child’s emotional and developmental needs. It also includes parents’ warmth, reciprocity, communication, and attachment.

The four different types of parenting styles are based on the degrees of parents’ demandingness and responsiveness toward their child.

Figure adapted from Giovanna Mascheroni
  1. Authoritative

(high demandingness, high responsiveness)

The authoritative parenting style is thought to be beneficial for the child’s development. The authoritative parents provide disciplinary rules that are clear with a rational explanation. They can be demanding but at the same time, they are warm, nurturing, and responsive to their child’s needs. Open communication is highly encouraged in this relationship where children are allowed to share their thoughts and opinions openly without the fear of being judged or punished.

  1. Authoritarian

(high demandingness, low responsiveness)

The most strict parenting style that places high expectations on their children with little flexibility and responsiveness. Children have to follow strict “checklists” set by the parents and are often left with little room for exploration. The parents are generally not warm and nurturing. Open communication is generally not an option and it is usually the “because I said so” one-way parent to child communication. Children with this type of parenting often grow up feeling lost or aimless as their lives are often dictated by authoritative figures.

  1. Permissive 

(low demandingness, high responsiveness)

Permissive parenting overindulges their child. It is the opposite of strict parenting. The parents often say yes to their child’s demands. They avoid confrontation and emotionally stressful conversations with their child. While this parenting style is warm and nurturing, they hardly provide guidance and the child tends to live a life based on what they think is right. As the child grows up, they may not be well in coping with conflict or manage their emotions well.

  1. Neglectful/Uninvolved

(low responsiveness, low demandingness)

Parents with this parenting style rarely involve themselves in their child’s growth and development. They show little nurturance, little communication, and little to no guidance. The child has often left “adulting” themselves. As a result, they often grow up feeling detached emotionally from others and themselves.

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Which is the most common Parenting Style?

Studies have shown that parents who adopt an authoritative style bring the most positive parenting effect on their child’s overall development and their mental wellbeing. There are fewer reported internalizing symptoms, externalizing problems, better academic performance, self-esteem, psychological flexibility, and life satisfaction. ¹ ² ³ ⁴ 

Similar to many global types of research, studies in Malaysia have shown that children raised by authoritative parents are more confident, self-reliant, optimistic, and less likely to experience mental distress, depression, or anxiety. ⁵ It is also found they are more competent in establishing positive and healthy relationships with peers leading to better school performance and fewer drug use issues.

While authoritative parenting is highly commemorated, in reality, parents often adopt one or more of these parenting styles depending on the situation.

To date, the authoritarian parenting style is more commonly adopted by the major ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese, and Indian) in Malaysia. They do not see it as an unfavorable parenting style as it promotes interdependence that is thriving well in a collectivist culture. ⁶

However, it is still important to know when to switch from authoritarian to other parenting styles. Setting high expectations on children with little warmth and nurture are found to pose a negative influence on the children’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. ⁷ It also poses a higher risk of depression, anxiety, sense of inadequacy, a risk to self and others including suicide. 

While children with permissive parents reported having higher self-esteem similarly to children with authoritative parents, they are reported to have a higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. ⁸ This is because they are not very well versed with interpersonal communication and managing difficult emotions. Nevertheless, parents may consider applying permissive parenting in certain circumstances such as when a child is recovering from sickness.

Neglectful parenting is often associated with parents who are busy with their own lives and issues. Oftentimes, the act of neglect may not be intentional but children with neglectful parents tend to have poorer school performance and self-esteem. Furthermore, they often find it difficult to make decisions on their own and open up their emotions to others. 

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

Being a parent is not an easy task as it requires a significant amount of involvement and responsiveness to encourage healthy child development. Furthermore, parents should not only focus on their child’s needs but also it is vital for parents to pay attention to themselves – to stay mindful of their personal beliefs, culture, upbringing, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors so that they do not bring in their personal unresolved baggage or unhealthy parenting style into their parent-child relationship.

For instance, if you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental distress, it is essential to seek help. Past studies have reported that children with parents who have mental distress or problems are more likely to experience mental health problems as well and the impact could be lifelong. ⁹

So, if you need to vent your problems to someone who would not impose their unsolicited advice to you or, if you are curious to learn more about yourself, kindly Make an appointment today to see one of our Board-Certified Counsellors or Clinical Psychologists. If you are not sure what to expect from our psychotherapy session, check out our article on How to Prepare for a Therapy Session.


[1] Peng, B., Hu, N., Yu, H., Xiao, H., & Luo, J. (2021). Parenting Style and Adolescent Mental Health: The Chain Mediating Effects of Self-Esteem and Psychological Inflexibility. Frontiers In Psychology, 12.

[2] Pinquart, M. (2015). Associations of Parenting Styles and Dimensions with Academic Achievement in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 28(3), 475-493.

[3] Pinquart, M. (2016). Associations of Parenting Dimensions and Styles with Internalizing Symptoms in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis. Marriage & Family Review, 53(7), 613-640.

[4] Pinquart, M. (2017). Associations of parenting dimensions and styles with externalizing problems of children and adolescents: An updated meta-analysis. Developmental Psychology, 53(5), 873-932.

[5] Abdul Aziz, D., & Mohammad Ali, S. (2020). Parenting Styles, Peer Relationship and Mental Health. Journal Of Critical Reviews, 7(7), 1539-1545. 

[6] Checa, P., & Abundis-Gutierrez, A. (2018). Parenting Styles, Academic Achievement and the Influence of Culture. Psychology And Psychotherapy:Research Study, 1(4).

[7] Noordin, I., Idris, I., Hod, R., Muhammad, N., Mohd Yusoff, H., Anuar, N., & Mohd Ghazali, Q. (2020). Do Parenting Style and Adolescents’ Self-esteem Contribute to Mental Health Problems among Young Adolescents in Malaysia? An Adolescents’ Perspective. IIUM Medical Journal Malaysia, 19(2).

[8] Ho, M., Lavinia, C., & Ooi, P. (2019). Perceived parenting styles and self-esteem among university students in a collectivist culture, Malaysia. Perceived Parenting Styles And Self-Esteem Among University Students In A Collectivist Culture, Malaysia, 1(2), 98-110. Retrieved 15 November 2021, from.

[9] Sahril, N., Ahmad, N., Idris, I., Sooryanarayana, R., & Abd Razak, M. (2021). Factors Associated with Mental Health Problems among Malaysian Children: A Large Population-Based Study. Children, 8(2), 119.

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