6.1 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: Can you describe authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglecting parenting styles and their characteristics?

Chapter 6


6.1   Describe Authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglecting parenting styles.

6.2   Outline characteristics of children reared in each of the identified styles of                         parenting

6.3   Develop strategies of dealing with children who have been adversely affected by            the  prevailing parenting style.


We have looked into aspects of interaction between parents and their children but there is much more that we still have to focus on as regards these interactions and their impact on children. You are agree with me that before professionals start working, they undergo some training. In fact some training is so rigorous that one who is not trained might have nothing to offer. Surprisingly, one of the most delicate jobs in which almost everyone is expected to perform exemplarily is often given little if any attention. This is parenting. It is indeed unfortunate that many people enter parenthood with little or no preparation at all but are expected to raise their children well.  In this Chapter we are going to look at four parenting styles, some of which are employed due to oblivion of their effect on children.



These may also be referred to as autocratic or dictatorial parents.  Parents in this category are insensitive of the children’s needs for expression. They characteristically have rare communication with their children. There are others who communicate with their children but the communication is significantly negative. For instance, there are parents who only talk to their children when they are reprimanding them. Most of these parents believe that children are to be seen but not to be listened to. Consequently, their communication is parent-centred and does not give the child a chance express own feelings. As a result they use precise and absolute standards of discipline to shape their children’s behaviour. These parents set rules for their children and ensure that they are followed to the letter no matter how unrealistic they could be.


Parents in this category use their position to pressure their children to adhere to their authority. They try to inculcate values such as respect for authority, work and tradition in their children by force. They do not allow dialogue or discussion of rules. These parents hardly explain rules to their children. If children seek clarification or try to make enquiries they are accused of showing disrespect. These parents use a distinctive form or language with their children. Often their communication is one way and is full of reproach, directives or commands.


Characteristics of Children Reared in This Style

Children brought up through this style show some distinctive characteristics. These include

  1. Extreme obedience. The fact that these children have been trained to follow “the sacred rules” without questioning makes them obey to the extreme. These children follow directives from whoever is in authority without raising an eye brow, even when they do not quite agree or when they are not very sure. These children are likely to be taken advantage of by authority figures even if it is to their disadvantage.
  2. They are likely to be timid. Due to harshness of their parents, these children fear that they may fail to perform to the expected level. They suffer from anxiety.
  3. They have difficulties establishing relationship with their peers. Authoritarian parents introduce their children into a hostile world. Children brought up in the style may not learn how to live in a warm relationship and may show some inferiority or be hostile when interacting with others. As a result they may not enjoy mutual relationships with others.
  4. They could be aggressive and out of control. There are cases where children brought up in this style find the situation too harsh to cope with. They become hardened and rough. Such children defy authority and can be very rough with others.
  5. They have low self-esteem. These children have not had an opportunity to be listened to by those who matter. This makes them develop a sense of worthlessness and inferiority. They view themselves as lesser people who cannot make substantive contribution. This is a very risky self perception especially at adolescence when a child could be misled by peers.
  6. They are likely to be ignorant of many facts. This could be attributed to lack of exploration opportunities. These  children are not likely to be innovative since they have to follow their parents’ directives.


Describe some intervention measures that you could employ to help a Std. Three child who shows most of the characteristics of children reared by authoritarian parents.



These are democratic parents.  They allow dialogue between them and their children.  Although they are willing to exercise control over their children they try to be understanding and rational. These parents reason with their children. They set realistic and consistent rules. They carefully explain the rules and allow some degree of independence.  There is clarity of rules and children are aware of what is expected of them.


Authoritative parents value obedience and conformity but at the same time, allow some independence and self-direction.  They expect their children to make some substantive contribution in matters concerning their lives and activities. These parents appreciate their children’s participation in decision making. The degree to which these parents expect the child to be mature and independent is high. Communication between parents and children is also high. Parents and children often share some mutual interactive moments.


Children reared through the authoritative parenting style are likely to display the following characteristics:

  1. Independence. Since they are allowed some degree of independence, these children trust their performance and freely work on their own.
  2. Adventurous. The fact that these children are given some independence makes them become innovative. Their quest to know as children is allowed to flourish. This leads them to get involved in finding out through experiments and adventure.
  3. Altruism. Children learn a lot through role modeling. Through identification, children learn to behave like their parents. Since the parents have been warm towards them, children learn to be warm towards others. They learn to give a hand just as their parents have been concerned about their welfare. These children are likely to be popular among peers.
  4. Self-confidence. As their parents appreciate their contribution, these children learn that they have something to offer. They learn to acquire self respect and consequently believe in themselves.
  5. Achievement oriented. Since these children are not pressured to perform, they set goals and pursue them. The cordial relationship that they enjoy with their parents propels them to gain mastery in their performance.


Describe two practical  situations when authoritative style of parenting  might not work



Have you ever met some parents who are like slaves to their children? These are referred to as permissive parents.  These parents allow children to have their way whatever it takes. They give them whatever they ask for. They are accepting and non-evaluating resources for their children. Parents using the style hardly exert power or control over their children.  They pay little or no attention at all to their children’s behaviour. For instance, a child may ask for an item that the parents cannot afford and the parent go to an extent of borrowing such money to please the child.


Permissive parents set few regulations if any on their children. They hardly assign them household responsibilities. The style may emanate from a sense of helplessness   in bringing up children. The parents could employ the style as a way of reacting against their strict parents. The style could also be as a result of adapting a philosophy that emphasize on pampering children.

Characteristics of children reared in this style include:

  1. Aggressiveness. This is particularly common among children whose parents show no concern about aggressiveness at home. Such children are not likely to know that it is wrong to be aggressive.
  2. Immaturity. The fact that the parents have not allowed these children to face challenges and solve them on their own makes them remain childish especially in matters regarding to social interaction in peer relationships.
  3. Avoiding responsibility. Since their parents have not accustomed them to playing distinct roles at home, these children are not likely to readily take responsibility. For example, they avoid duties at school.
  4. Lack self-confidence. As they interact with others, they are ridiculed for their crude behaviour. They feel embarrassed by their own behaviour and this leads to loss of self confidence.
  5. Indecisiveness. Children with low self confidence are not likely to trust their judgment. This makes them incapable of making own decisions. Children with this characteristic are likely to rely on others judgment even when it is misleading.
  6. Anxiety. Since they are uncertain about their behaviour and the consequences, these children are likely to be habitually anxious.
  7. Egocentricism. Since the parents have always provided whatever they need, children in this category are likely to be full of themselves. They may therefore become too demanding and inconsiderate.
  8. Lack  of self-control. These children have not been prepared to operate within limits. They are used to getting their way, which is not possible in normal social interaction settings. This makes them encounter much frustration.
  9. A feeling of guilt. Since these children do not intentionally display the uncultured behaviour, they often feel very bad for the mistakes they make. As they mature they blame their parents for having failed in their parenting roles.

Activity 6.3

Describe a case of permissive parenting that you have witnessed and the consequences that followed.


These are the most uninvolved parents. They are selfish and show little interest if any in their children’s activities. They are often unaware of their children’s whereabouts or their welfare. These parents are mainly concerned about their own immediate needs and convenient. They fail to teach their children attributes necessary for an effective social life.


Child neglect is a relatively new phenomenon particularly in the African traditional setting. In the past, children belonged to the extended family and there were available channels through which their needs were met. But owing to the patterns of life in the contemporary society, nuclear families live by themselves.  Ideally, parents in this set up are supposed to play all the roles that the extended family members played. However, many parents are pre-occupied with economic activities and hardly find time to understand their children’s needs. Some may even lose touch with the physical needs of today’s child.


Neglect has overwhelming effects on the affected child. Studies purport that neglect has cumulative malignant effects as the child grows.  This means that the effects become more intense with age. It has been established that neglect at infancy causes developmental delay. Studies further argue that neglect at the child’s initial developmental stage may cause brain damage. In addition, neglect exposes children to many other kinds of abuse.  Children reared in the neglecting style may portray characteristics such as:

  1. Showing disturbance in relationships with peers and adults. Since the child lacked a warm relationship in the formative years, he or she may not feel comfortable in a relating with others.
  2. Presence of anti-social behaviour. Children are subjected to fending for themselves and lack guidance. They may thus be involved in vices such as truancy at school or other forms of juvenile delinquency.
  3. Lack of self-confidence and low self- esteem. The children may think that they have some inadequacies that make their parents abandon them. They might keep wondering whatever could be wrong with them and hence lose confidence and a sense of self worth.
  4. They are likely to be moody and disobedient. Due to emotional imbalances that are associated with neglect and insecurity, these children may not afford to be consistent in their interactions with others.
  5. Lack of a sense of direction. These children have received little or no guidance at all and may be engaged in trial and error practice.
  6. Poor performance at school. Factors such as truancy, absenteeism and involvement in vices divert the energy that could be directed to academics. Children who feel neglected may day-dream in class hence fail to learn in class.



Accepting , Understanding, Responsive, Child-Centred Rejecting, Unresponsive an parent Centred
Demanding and controlling Authoritative parents Authoritarian parents
Undemanding and non-controlling Permissive parents Neglecting parents


Bee, H. & Boyd, D.(1996). The developing child. USA: Allyn & Bacon

Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren and Soderman(1993). Guiding Children’s Social Development. USA: South-Western Publishing Company

Mweru, M. (2005). Sibling teaching among the agikuyu of Kenya.Marburg: Tectum Verlag.

Santrock W. J., (1992). Life -span Development. USA: Wm. C. Brown.


Testing Exercise6

  1.  Highlight the four common parenting styles.
  2. Describe the probable characteristics of children reared by:
  3.   a) Authoritarian parents
  4.   b) Authoritative parents
  5.   c) Permissive parents
  6.   d) Neglecting parents



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