“Parental sensitivity is the most influential dimension of parenting... It lays the foundation on which future experience will build.” (Jay Belsky)
Parents differ along two broad child rearing dimensions: parental acceptance/responsiveness and parental demandingness/control. The former describes the amount of responsiveness and affection that a parent displays toward a child while the latter describes how restrictive and demanding parents are. When considered together these two dimensions yield four patterns of patterning.
Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive pattern in which adults expect strict obedience from the children and rely on power rather than reason to elicit compliance. Authoritative parenting is a democratic style of parenting in which parents make reasonable demands of their children and provide rationales for complying with the limits that are set. They recognize and respect their children’s perspectives. Permissive parenting occurs when parents make few demands of their children and rarely attempt to control their behavior. Uninvolved parenting is the least successful approach where parents remain unaccepting, undemanding and unresponsive.
Among these four different parenting styles, authoritative parenting is consistently associated with positive social, emotional and intellectual outcomes. Demands that come from a warm, accepting parent and appear to be fair and reasonable rather than arbitrary and dictatorial are more likely to elicit compliance. There are realistic expectations and the child is allowed some autonomy on how best to comply with these standards. The children recognize that their parents believe them to be capable and self-reliant. This in turn leads to the growth of self-reliance, achievement motivation and high self-esteem in childhood. It also provides the kind of support adolescents need to feel safe about exploring various ideologies to create their personal identity.
The objective is to lay the groundwork during childhood in the hopes that they will grow to become happy, successful adults.