Are you interested in learning what researchers have discovered is the correlation between different parenting styles & the self-esteem of your child? If so, I’m going to summarize 5 conclusions I learned from reading multiple scientific studies that looked at the relationship between parenting styles & self-esteem.
This is the 5th article in my Parenting Style series. If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ve learned about the 4 different parenting styles, seen examples from the movies and learned my tips on how to effectively raise high expectation kids.
If you’d prefer to watch a video, then read a blog post, check out:
In this article, I’m diving deep into what research has found about the impact of parenting style on a child’s self-esteem, including what scientists have concluded is the best parenting style to increase children’s confidence.
By the end of this article, you’ll have more data on what parenting style works best for you.
My name is Iftikhar, and I’m the editor of seed2stem.com, a parenting blog focusing on helping parents raise STEM Mindset kids. Let us get started!
Why focus on Self-Esteem?
The first question you are maybe asking is why am I focusing on self-esteem? Well, a child’s self-assessment of their own worth is one of the most basic needs of humans. After necessary requirements such as food, shelter, safety, and love are fulfilled, what drives humans is the desire to be recognized, improve status and be respected. Because self-esteem is how we value ourselves, having high self-esteem is a requirement to thriving in life.
High self-esteem gives us the confidence to take risks, innovate, create, and learn from our mistakes without letting the fear of humiliation or rejection overwhelm you. Children with healthy self-esteem stand up for their values, are persistent in reaching goals, act responsibly and take accountability for actions.
Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”
So as parents, one of our jobs is to help our child increase their self-worth & confidence. One of the ways we passively do this, either positively or negatively, is by our parenting style.
So let's see what I learned from analyzing multiple research projects that have looked at the impact of parenting style on a child’s self-esteem.
1st Takeaway – Most studies conclude that authoritative parenting produces the best result
Many studies have found that authoritative parenting leads to the higher self-esteem in kids.
Back in 1994, Professor Steinberg validated the 4 parenting types concept established by Baumrind. He also concluded that children of authoritative parents were more accomplished in academic, social & emotional capabilities. Other research done by Grusec in 1994 and Pomerantz in 2005 made the same conclusions.
If you’ve read my blog post – 9 Steps to Being a High Expectation Parent – You’ll know that I’m a fan of authoritative parenting, so this first takeaway isn’t a surprise, but more of a validation.
2nd Takeaway – Permissive parenting also rates very high for children’s self-esteem
Now this a surprise. If you focus on just self-esteem, then permissive parenting, in which parents let their kids make all their own decisions, regularly results in the highest levels of self-esteem, even beating out authoritative parenting.
Many studies have come to this conclusion including a 3-year survey by Martinez & Garcia between 2007 & 2010 where they asked over 1200 11-15-year-old Brazillian adolescents questions that allowed the researchers to determine each child’s self-esteem score. These results suggest that authoritative parenting is not associated with the optimal self-esteem in Brazil
3rd Takeaway – Authoritarian parenting consistently found to hurt children’s self-esteem
Now one universally scientific fact is that authoritarian parenting, the parenting style where parents have high expectations, but also give their children little control or decision-making power, is the worst parenting style for increasing self-esteem in children. Parents practicing authoritarian parenting style often have a goal to keep their child safe and believe they are doing the best thing for their child, but their parenting style is so strict and controlling, that instead of protecting the child, the parent unwittingly destroys the child’s self-esteem and decision-making skills. This has been scientifically proven in numerous studies from a 2017 study by Dr. Tripathi & Jadon to a survey by DeHart, Pelham & Tennen in 2006.
Now you are maybe reading this and think I’m stating the obvious here. Is it really surprising to anyone that authoritarian parenting has such a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem? I’d argue maybe it is….otherwise, how do you explain the Tiger Mom concept popularized by Yale Professor, Amy Chua in her 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. Professor Chua argues that Western parenting is too nurturing and focused on children’s individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, healthy work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future. If you take a look at some of the reviews on Amazon.com, clearly the Tiger Mom is picking up followers. And you can’t argue with the fact that both of Professor Chua’s daughters seem to be on track for future success, with both studying at Harvard.
So yes there are many examples where Authoritarian parenting has produced wonders, but the science says the probabilities are that children of Authoritarian Parenting are at risk to suffer from higher levels of depression and lower self-esteem. In the 2017 study, the researchers concluded by saying: “Strict parents destroyed their child’s abilities to cope with the world; destroyed their child’s ability to rationalize and handle the situations, making them feel inferior, insecure and worthless.”
Before I get to the last two takeaways, I want to ask you, the audience, a question. Where do you stand on the “Tiger Mom” philosophy? Have you seen examples where this concept works? If so, leave a comment below.
4th Takeaway – Authoritative parenting may not be the best approach at all times of a child’s upbringing
While there have been some studies on parenting styles & self-esteem, no research has looked at parenting styles over an extended range of time. So Professor Lucy Driscoll decided to study the relationship between the four primary parenting styles & self-esteem from early childhood to early adulthood. The study sampled 183 participants at the ages of 6, 11, 14 and then between 18 & 21.
While the study was very clear that Tiger Mom parenting had the lowest self-esteem scores at all age groups, the data was not conclusive which type of parenting style was best at all times. These results show that between the ages of 14 and current age, as parenting styles became less restrictive, self-esteem got higher.
This intuitively makes sense. Kids want more freedom as they get older, and so the data suggests that older kids self-esteem improves under permissive parenting as it gives them the freedom to make their own choices.
Note that while this study is advocating that permissive parenting leads to the higher self-esteem in teenagers and college students, I’m still not convinced it’s the right parenting style. While a permissive parent is likely to encourage individuality & creativity, they are also likely to allow experimentation, which is why teenagers of permissive parents are more likely to indulge in drugs & alcohol.
5th Takeaway – Inconsistent parenting can really confuse kids self esteem
The last takeaway from the Driscoll study is changing your parenting style continually is confusing for kids, and may lead to inconsistent parenting may lead to lower self-esteem. So try to be more consistent!!
So let's summarize
1. Most Studies conclude that authoritative Parenting Produces The Best Result
2. Permissive Parenting also rates very high for Children’s self-esteem
3. Authoritarian Parenting is consistently found to hurt Children’s self-esteem
4. Authoritative Parenting May Not Be The Best Approach At All Times Of A Child’s Upbringing
5. Inconsistent Parenting Can Really Confuse Kids Self Esteem
Now that you know Authoritative parenting is consistently found to lead to high levels of self-esteem, I’m sure your next question is practical actions should a parent take?
So I created a 1-page checklist on how to start to be an authoritative parent. While research shows this parenting style is the most effective in raising successful children, it’s also the hardest to implement. So, download the checklist for free, by joining our mailing list.
What do you think of the 4 takeaways? What do you consider about the conclusions that permissive parenting may lead to higher self-esteem in kids? Is that higher self-esteem and empowerment worth the risk of your child making bad long-term decisions? Comment below.
If you are interested in joining a community of parents who are trying to be the best parents they can be, then request to join the seed2stem Facebook group, and we’ll do our best to help you.
See you next Thursday.