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What Is Permissive Parenting?

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Question: What Is Permissive Parenting?

Based on her research with preschool-age children, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind described three major parenting styles. In later years, researchers would continue to investigate the different styles of parenting and even add a fourth major style. Permissive parenting is one of the original parenting styles described by Baumrind.

Permissive parenting is sometimes known as indulgent parenting. Parents who exhibit this style make relatively few demands upon their children. Because these parents have low expectations for self-control and maturity, they rarely discipline their children.

According to Baumrind, permissive parents "are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation."

Characteristics of the Permissive Parenting Style

Permissive parents:

  • Have few rules or standards of behavior

  • When there are rules, they are often very inconsistent

  • Are usually very nurturing and loving towards their kids

  • Often seem more like a friend, rather than a parent.

  • May use bribery such as toys, gifts and food as a means to get child to behave

The Effects of Permissive Parenting

Children raised by permissive parents:

  • Lack self-discipline

  • Sometimes have poor social skills

  • May be self-involved and demanding

  • May feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance

Understanding Permissive Parenting

In a recent study, permissive parenting was linked to underage alcohol use; teens with permissive parents were three times more likely to engage in heavy drinking. Researchers also suggest that permissive parenting is linked to other risky behaviors such as drug use and other forms of misconduct.

Because permissive parenting involves a lack of demands and expectations, children raised by parents with this style tend to grow up without a strong sense of self-discipline. They may be more unruly in school due to the lack of boundaries in the home, and may be less academically motivated than many of their peers.

Since these parents have few requirements for mature behavior, children may lack skills in social settings. While they may be good at interpersonal communication, they lack other important skills such as sharing.


Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Bahr, S. J. & Hoffmann, J. P. (2010). Parenting style, religiosity, peers, and adolescent heavy drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71, 539-543.

Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

Santrock, J.W. (2007). A topical approach to life-span development, third Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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