Diana Baumrind did her groundbreaking work on parenting styles in the 1960s, and her categorizations are still found in most psychology textbooks. She first came up with three styles and later added a fourth. Others have since done more work on her theory. She observed one healthy and three unhealthy styles of parenting. Through research and my own work I have expanded the categories and added six more unhealthy styles to Baumrind’s original three.
1 – Authoritative: This is Baumrind’s healthy category of parenting. Authoritative parents are firm but not harsh or aggressively punitive. They are open to negotiation. They teach their children constructive relationship and adaptation skills. They love their children and are capable of tough love if needed. Their children grow up to be well-adjusted, independent, and capable of empathy—the cornerstone of healthy relating.
2 – Authoritarian: This is the “My way or the highway” type of parenting. Authoritarian parents are dictator parents who primarily use punishment (not reward) to raise their children. Often the punishment is administered in a fit of temper. Children of authoritarian parents grow up scared, insecure, angry, and maladjusted. Often, as adults, they themselves become authoritarian parents and repeat the same pattern.
3 – Permissive: Permissive parents do not set boundaries for their children, confusing love with giving their children everything they want. They need their children to approve of them as parents, and thus unwittingly give their children power over them. Their children often become spoiled, and self-absorbed ,and entitled to get their way in life, and when they don’t get it, they have temper tantrums, as they did when they were children.
4 – Neglectful: Some parents deprive their children of any real parenting. These parents are caught up in themselves and their own worlds. Sometimes they are workaholics who don’t have time for parenting; sometimes they are busy fighting all the time and hardly aware of their children. Their children grow up without any sense of who they are or how to navigate the complexities of life. They lack self-esteem and confidence, and are quite needy.
5 – Overprotective: Parents who overprotect their children, like most parents, mean well. But they are acting out their own unconscious insecurities. They are people who are afraid of life and do not allow their children to learn from their own mistakes and develop confidence in themselves. Their children grow up full of fears and anxieties, just like their parents, and do not have the healthy coping skills to take care of themselves.
6 – Narcissistic: Narcissistic parents train their children to serve their needs. Instead of being there for their children, their children must be there for them. Their children must tell them what they want to hear (or face their wrath), and sometimes must play the roles of parent to their narcissistic parents. At other times their children must fulfill their own blighted ambitions (as with “stage parents”). Their children grow up needy and lost.
7 – Polarized: Sometimes parents are at odds with one another on how to raise their children. Hence there is a perpetual battle. One parent may be authoritarian and the other permissive. In such cases, the children learn to be manipulative, and generally side with the permissive parent and turn against the authoritarian parent. They do not learn constructive communication skills and grow up having no idea how to have a healthy relationship.
8 – Dependent: Dependent parents don’t want to let go of their children so they condition their children to be dependent on them. They make it very cozy to stay at home and guilt-trip them about wanting to leave home. Sometimes they infantilize them and make them feel that can’t make it on their own. These unfortunate children, of course, end up having dependent personalities, can’t assert themselves, and have low self-esteem.
9 – Isolated: Some parents are isolated from their neighborhood or community as well as from friends and relatives. They don’t know how to relate to people, including each other. Therefore, many isolated parents are single parents. Their children do not learn to relate and feel isolated from their parent and from others. Hence they pick up the “loner” relationship skills (or non-relationship skills) of their parents.
10 – Toxic: These are the worst kind of parents. They can be any of the above types, but in addition they present themselves as loving and normal and hide their “venom”. Tennessee Williams’ play, The Glass Menagerie, presents a case of a beauty queen mother who is convinced that she loves her daughter and is always trying to help her to get a job and meet men, but does so by subtly putting the daughter down; hence the daughter stays weak and shy. Children of toxic parents often don’t know what’s happening to them until much later. If they complain to their toxic parents they laugh, and if they complain to others, they reply, “How could you say that? All she talks about is how concerned she is about you.”