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Parenting Styles and Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

Many aspects of parenting have been studied by researchers and some have been covered by the popular media. The following categories were identified by developmental psychologists to describe different parenting styles:1

  • Authoritative: Authoritative parents are characterized by having high expectations for their children, while providing warmth and support. Central to authoritative parenting is having an open style of communication between the parent and child.

  • Authoritarian: Authoritarian parents (“strict parents”) are characterized by having high expectations, while offering little support. The structure and rules provided by authoritarian parents can be helpful for adolescents, but should be balanced with support and open communication.

  • Permissive: Permissive parents (“indulgent parents”) are responsive to their adolescents and often very nurturing, but are not demanding. These parents rarely set rules or rules are inconsistent, and this lack of structure can be challenging for adolescents.

  • Uninvolved/Neglectful: Neglectful parents are those who are unable to meet the emotional and physical needs of their children. Children in these families may have a harder time developing trust and forming relationships with other people.

Authoritative parenting, an approach that combines warmth and support with appropriate discipline and guidance, has been associated with the healthiest outcomes for adolescents,2 including lower rates of substance use, violence, and risky sexual behaviors as well as improved diet and increased physical activity.3

The ability of parents to successfully engage in authoritative parenting requires strong communication skills and the ability to set appropriate behavioral limits. While some parents may face parenting challenges because of financial strain, marital conflict, or other stressors, all parents and caring adults can learn and practice these skills.


1 Hughes, E. (2013, December 10). Types of parenting styles and how to identify yours [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://my.vanderbilt.edu/developmentalpsychologyblog/2013/12/types-of-parenting-styles-and-how-to-identify-yours/
2 Longmore, M. A., Manning, W. D., & Giordano, P. C. (2012). Parent-child relationships in adolescence. In M. A. Fine & F. D. Fincham (Eds.), Handbook of family theories: A content-based approach (pp.28-50). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
3 Newman, K., Harrison, L., Dashiff, C., & Davies, S. (2008). Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem, Janeiro-Fevereiro, 16(1), 142-50.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on March 25, 2019