Permissiveness, Neglect, Abuse Produces Bad Behavior

Permissiveness, Neglect, Abuse Produces Bad Behavior 

Permissive parenting styles produce bad behaviors in children,  many of whom grow-up to be emotionally troubled adults. The effects of permissive parenting methods, and others, have been well-researched by psychologists and the following is a summary of findings that have held-up under continued evaluation for decades.

The Authoritative Parenting Style tends to produce the best outcomes in children.

“Authoritative parents have high expectations for achievement and maturity, but they are also warm and responsive. These parents set rules and enforce boundaries by having open discussions and using reasoning. They are affectionate and supportive and encourage independence. This parenting style is also known as Democratic Parenting Style.”

I will add that authoritative parents may incorporate moderate forms of punishment if their more cognitive, informative, logical age-appropriate reasoning and praise fails to correct important problem behaviors. When punishment is needed, these parents are more likely to use timeouts and loss of privileges as consequences for non-compliance to basic rules.

It should be noted that the technical term “punishment”, means only that a consequence for a particular behavior reduces its future frequency of occurrence. The term does not exclusively refer to using physical pain, i.e., spankings, hitting or “whoopings”, to control behavior. Authoritative parents do their best to avoid these methods and if they fail, they are likely to seek professional assistance with the problems. 

Children raised by authoritative parents tend:

  • Appear happy and content.
  • Are more independent.
  • Achieve higher academic success.
  • Develop good self-esteem.
  • Interact with peers using competent social skills.
  • Have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol and drug use.
  • Exhibit less violent tendencies.

The Authoritarian Parenting Style tends to do poorly.

“Although authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles have similar names, they have several important differences in parenting beliefs. While both parental styles demand high standards, authoritarian parents demand blind obedience using reasons such as “because I said so“. These parents use stern discipline and often employ punishment to control children’s behavior. Authoritarian parents are unresponsive to their children’s needs and are generally not nurturing.”

Parents raised by authoritarian parents tend to:

  • Appear insecure.
  • Possess lower self-esteem.
  • Exhibit more behavioral problems.
  • Perform worse academically.
  • Have poorer social skills.
  • Are more prone to mental issues.

I will add that authoritarian parents tend to use more corporal punishment (spanking, slapping, hitting, and so called “whoopings”) and/or harsh and insulting reprimands. Their discipline methods are often judged to be abusive in nature and merit a report to child protective services. To the list below, I will also add that children so raised are often aggressive/abusive to others and they frequently raise their own children using the same authoritarian style that was used on them.

The Permissive Parenting Styles also tend to do poorly.

“Permissive indulgent parents set very few rules and boundaries and they are reluctant to enforce rules. These parents are warm and indulgent but they do not like to say no or disappoint their children.”

Children of permissive parenting:

  • Cannot follow rules.
  • Have worse self-control.
  • Possess egocentric tendencies.
  • Encounter more problems in relationships and social interactions.

During my 40 years of private practice, I have found that many permissive indulgent parents have been raised that way. I have also observed that many have been raised by abusive authoritarian people and they appear to be over-compensating for that painful experience by being permissive indulgent parents. Psychologists sometimes call this common tendency, an “undoing” or a reaction-formation defense mechanism. 

The Permissive Neglectful Parenting Style tends to do even more poorly than the permissive indulgent style.

“Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards. They are indifferent to their children’s needs and uninvolved in their lives. These uninvolved parents tend to have mental issues themselves such as maternal depression, physical abuse or child neglect when they were kids.”

Children of neglectful parents:

  • Are more impulsive.
  • Cannot self-regulate emotion.
  • Encounter more delinquency and addictions problems.
  • Have more mental issues — e.g. suicidal behavior in adolescents.

Please note that the descriptions of parenting styles, within quotation marks, are taken directly from the following short excellent article. The bulleted behavioral descriptions of children raised under each parenting style are also direct quotes from this article.

Also, please understand that I have emphasized the words “tend to” when describing parenting style outcomes for developing children. I did this to accommodate the fact that there are other variables that also contribute a particular child’s development including genetics, diseases and many other broader environmental influences. There will be exceptions to the outcomes described above.

I hope you will take time to read the following short parenting article. It has valuable additional information for you to consider. A firm understanding of this research area will benefit those who are parents, grandparents, or who in other ways are in contact with children.

Finally, not only do children who grow to be adult citizens tend to perpetuate their parent’s parenting styles with their own children. They also interact with other citizens of all ages in ways that either benefit or damage them. 

Given what you have learned about mechanisms of behavioral contagion, you can understand why the parenting style research literature reviewed here is of paramount importants to America’s evolving sociocultural health and viability.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 11/18/18

Health Services Provider in Psychology

Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Indiana University South Bend







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