Parenting Styles: A Follow-Up on Families and Love Lives

Just over a year ago, I covered how families haunt our love lives and came to the conclusion that our families indeed have an influential role in shaping how we interact with others and develop interpersonal relationships. Today, we’re going to reexamine the topic of families and our love lives, but this time with a new lens: parenting styles. 

Parenting styles are a decades-old concept first developed by Diana Baumrind in the 1970s, and is now a respected and well-studied psychological model within the sub-fields of child development and interpersonal relationships. This model identifies four parenting styles based on two dimensions: demandingness and responsiveness.

  1. Permissive: High Responsiveness, Low Demandingness → attentive to their child’s needs and wants but lax with discipline

  2. Authoritative: High Responsiveness, High Demandingness → flexible, supportive, and clear on expectations

  3. Neglectful: Low Responsiveness, Low Demandingness → often absent or uninvolved with the child’s development 

  4. Authoritarian: Low Responsiveness, High Demandingness → strict on expectations but provides less support in response to their child 

Authoritative parenting has been found to be correlated with the development of a strong parent-child relationship compared to Authoritarian parenting. In the context of attachment styles, Authoritative parenting often results in a child having little or no attachment anxiety. On the other hand, Authoritarian parenting can lead to children developing an avoidant attachment style, and participating in romantic infidelity. This could be because the lack of emotional intimacy and trust from their parents in childhood lead these people to be emotionally detached from their romantic partners later in life. 

Surprisingly, there is more literature on how parenting styles affect levels of romantic commitment, and it seems that mothers play a more influential role than fathers. The more Authoritative the mother is, the less frequent someone will engage in infidelity. Breaking it down further by dimension, it appears that mothers who are higher on Responsiveness indirectly increase relationship commitment as the child perceives their acceptance and approval of the relationship as more integral than the father’s. 

Last time, we took a high level look at families — and after diving even deeper through the theoretical model of parenting styles, there’s no doubt that it can get even more nuanced and complex. Hopefully this piece demonstrates that there can be multiple frameworks used to study one topic, and that there is certainly more out there to explore and learn about the effects families can have on our romantic relationships.