Which Parenting Style is Preferred by Child Psychologists?


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As a parent of 3 kids, and someone who works with hundreds of kids every week, I am pretty familiar with kids, parents, and parenting styles. But I began to wonder which parenting style is preferred by child psychologists?

So I decided to investigate. Here’s what I found out.

Parenting expert Diana Baumrind, championed the Authoritative Parenting style. Authoritative parents discipline in a “strict, consistent, and loving” way. But we also see that some, like the “father of child psychology”, Sir Michael Llewellyn Rutter, prefer Attachment Parenting.

But there’s a lot more to say about child psychologists and preferred parenting styles, so read on!

As parents, one of the things we rely on the most is recommendations from other trusted sources. That’s the reason I created a page on my website for Top Parenting Resources (click to see my page).

I have compiled what I believe to be the absolute best parenting resources out there on a wide variety of needs. So no matter what your parenting challenge, I bet you’ll find a solution there.

Other famous child psychologists include:

  • Sigmund Freud
  • Mary Ainsworth
  • Sir Michael L. Rutter

Of course, authoritative parenting is a relatively modern concept, but it’s fair to say Freud would not be a fan of attachment parenting with his fixation on how parenting affects either the Oedipus or Electra complexes of young boys and girls.

Ainsworth lived until 1999, so she did get a good look at most of today’s parenting styles. She was a pioneer in looking at attachment parenting.

She actually identified 3 different styles of attachment parenting:

  • Secure Attachment
  • Insecure-Avoidant
  • Insecure Ambivalent

In the end, she championed Secure Attachment which focuses on “sensitive mothers” who respond appropriately to their child’s needs and moods.

Sir Michael Llewellyn Rutter is considered the “father of child psychology”.

He too was a fan of attachment parenting and his 1974 book The Qualities of Mothering is still considered groundbreaking today.

What is a child psychologist?

Child psychologists are a type of clinical psychologist.

Child psychologists get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. But their education doesn’t stop there. Then they do a one-year internship before receiving a doctorate.

Then they practice under supervision for 1 full year before they are allowed to practice on their own.

What do child psychologists do?

Child psychologists diagnose and treat kids all the way through the teen years. 

They work with children to teach coping skills related to with stresses like:

  • Divorce
  • Death
  • Family transitions
  • School challenges

Child psychologists may also work with kids with a variety of developmental issues, from learning disabilities to severe mental illness.

Thus, they often help treat kids with:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • OCD
  • Phobias, and other disorders

Going beyond most other mental health professionals, child psychologists are also experts in conducting psychological tests.

What are the 3 main parenting styles?

Diana Baumrind is considered the original champion of parenting styles in the modern age.

Specifically, she is a clinical psychologist conducted groundbreaking research in the 1960s. At the time the 2 dominant parenting styles were permissive and authoritarian.

Baumrind, however, believed there were 3 main parenting styles:

  • Authoritative – Sets clear goals & boundaries, but also allows for creative freedom
  • Authoritarian – Top down, dictatorial and fear based
  • Permissive – Parents who strive to be more friend than parent, setting few boundaries or consequences

While others have expanded on her work over the years, her original findings are still considered very relevant today. If you asked her which parenting style is preferred by child psychologists, she would likely have replied authoritarian.

Baumrind herself, however, championed authoritative.

But the authoritarian was the dominant style at the time of her work, but thankfully fewer and fewer parents practice this today.

See why in some of these Worst Authoritarian Parenting Examples (click to read my post).

What are the 4 types of parenting styles?

After Baumrind’s groundbreaking work in the 1960s, researchers Maccoby & Martin built onto the work of her parenting styles and came up with a 4th style.

They added neglectful to the other 3 parenting styles.

They believed that neglectful parents were more selfish than permissive parents.

Unlike the permissive parent who sets few boundaries but is available if needed, the neglectful parent is often mentally and/or physically unavailable to the child.

Check out more about all 4 styles and how Baumrind’s Parenting Styles (click to read my in-depth look at her beliefs) can help you be a better parent in one of the top articles on my blog.

What is attachment parenting?

We mentioned above that famous child psychologists Sir Michael Llewellyn Rutter and Mary Ainsworth championed the attachment parenting style.

So what is attachment parenting?

Attachment parenting is best defined as a philosophy which promotes attachment between parent and child.

The feeling is that attachment helps better develop empathy and sensitivity. While the philosophy tends to focus on attachment between mother & child, it is also championed by a lot of fathers too.

Some of the most common traits of attachment parenting are:

  • Bonding with mother immediately after birth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Co-sleeping
  • Babywearing (keeping the baby close in a sling wrap)

How do parenting styles affect child development?

Every style has a different impact on children.

Also, know that ALL parents make mistakes. As with any mistake, there’s no shame in making one, just repeating them or not learning from them.

That being said, when asking which parenting style is preferred by child psychologists, while they don’t always agree on the best, it’s pretty clear which styles most believe are the worst.

  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive
  • Neglectful

Authoritarian Parenting

The authoritarian parent can be more of a drill sergeant than a loving parent.

They (falsely) believe that they can force their child into obedience through fear.  They believe they are using “tough love” or “old-school values” to teach the child to be responsible.

But, ultimately, this actually pushes kids towards dangerous or inappropriate choices.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents believe their child will grow up thinking of them as their best friend.

Sadly, this is driven out of the parent’s own need to feel loved and wanted due to low self-esteem.

It negatively affects the child due to the lack of boundaries, rules, and consequences. Those, in turn, tend to lead to the child to behave inappropriately at school and growing up to be irresponsible and entitled.

Neglectful Parenting

Neglectful parents are selfish.

They consistently put their own needs before the child’s.  I’m not talking about occasionally doing that, as we’re all guilty every once in a while. 

I’m talking consistently putting the child’s needs second to their own.

Often the neglectful parent has issues with drug and alcohol abuse. The sad reality is that not only can that put the child in harm’s way, but it also often leads the child to grow up to be an addict themselves.

But there’s a lot more to say about Bad Parenting Styles, so I highly recommend you take a moment and review one of my earliest and most shared parenting posts.

Is it OK to yell at your child?

Disciplining kids is about helping them to understand how their actions affect other people.

By far the best way to discipline kids is if you have a warm and loving relationship with them.

How many times, as parents, have we found ourselves yelling at our kids to calm down or behave when we, in fact, aren’t calm or behaving well?

Beyond our words, our energy and tone convey a lot of information to kids.

Thus, hitting, yelling, and losing our cool actually has the opposite effect on our kids that what we are hoping for.

Yes, perhaps at the moment they might blindly comply out of fear. But is scaring our kids really the end goal?

So, no. While we have all had those moments where we’ve lost our cool with our kids, that’s not how we want to parent. It’s also important that we take ownership when we mess up and apologize to them.

But check out all the amazing ways to discipline a child without hitting and yelling (click to read my post).

Did we cover all your questions about which parenting style is preferred by child psychologists?

In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world of parenting styles.

We explored the most popular ones, how they differ and why you might prefer one over another.

But specifically, we explored which parenting style is preferred by child psychologists. After all, they are the experts, right?

But like all parents, we found that the “experts” don’t always agree either.

Diana Baumrind, one of the most famous modern-day parenting style experts championed authoritative parenting whereas the “father of child psychology”, Sir Michael Llewellyn Rutter, preferred attachment parenting.

But information is power and as parents, we need all the power we can get! In my house, my wife and I actually blend authoritative and attachment. So explore them and see what feels right for you and your kids.

What has been your biggest parenting challenge?

If you like this post, please follow my Parenting board on Pinterest for more great tips from myself and top parenting experts!

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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