Uninvolved Parenting

Characteristics, Effects, and Causes

Uninvolved parenting
Uninvolved parents often ignore or neglect their kids. Jamie Grill / Tetra images / Getty Images

During the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different parenting styles based on her research with preschool-age children: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive parenting. In later years, researchers added a fourth style known as uninvolved parenting.

Uninvolved parenting, sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, is a style characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child's needs.

Uninvolved parents make few to no demands of their children and they are often indifferent, dismissive, or even completely neglectful.

These parents have little emotional involvement with their kids. While they provide for basic needs like food and shelter, they are uninvolved in their children's lives. The degree of involvement may vary considerably. Some uninvolved parents may be relatively hands-off with their kids, but may still have some basic limits such as curfews. Others may be downright neglectful or even reject their children outright.

Characteristics of Uninvolved Parents

Uninvolved parents tend to have these characteristics:

  • They're emotionally distant from their children
  • They offer little or no supervision
  • They show little warmth, love, and affection towards their children
  • They have few or no expectations or demands for behavior
  • They don't attend school events and parent-teacher conferences
  • They may intentionally avoid their children
  • They're often too overwhelmed by their own problems to deal with their children

Effects of Uninvolved Parenting on Kids

Children raised by uninvolved parents tend to suffer from these effects:

  • They must learn to provide for themselves
  • They fear becoming dependent on other people
  • They're often emotionally withdrawn
  • They tend to exhibit more delinquency during adolescence
  • They feel fear, anxiety, or stress due to the lack of family support
  • They have an increased risk of substance abuse

Consequences of Uninvolved Parenting

Researchers associate parenting styles with a range of child outcomes in areas such as social skills and academic performance. The children of uninvolved parents generally perform poorly in nearly every area of life. These children tend to display deficits in cognition, attachment, emotional skills, and social skills.

Due to the lack of emotional responsiveness and love from their caretakers, children raised by uninvolved parents may have difficulty forming attachments later in life. The complete lack of boundaries in the home makes it difficult to learn appropriate behaviors and limits in school and other social situations, which is why children with uninvolved parents are more likely to misbehave.

Causes of Uninvolved Parenting

Parents who exhibit an uninvolved parenting style were often themselves raised by uninvolved and dismissive parents. As adults, they may find themselves repeating the same patterns they were raised with. Other parents who display this style may simply be so caught up in their busy lives that they find it easier to take a hands-off approach to dealing with their children.

In some cases, parents may be so wrapped up in their own problems (i.e., being overworked, coping with depression, struggling with substance abuse) that they actually fail to see how uninvolved they are with their children or are simply unable to provide the emotional support their children need.

Sources:

Bahr SJ, Hoffmann JP.  Parenting Style, Religiosity, Peers, and Adolescent Heavy DrinkingJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. July 1, 2010;71(4):539-543.

Baumrind D. Child-Care Practices Anteceding Three Patterns of Preschool Behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs. February 1967;75:43-88.

Baumrind D.  The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. Journal of Early Adolescence. 1991;11(1):56-95.

Hancock Hoskins D. Consequences of Parenting on Adolescent Outcomes. Societies. 2014;4:506–531; doi:10.3390/soc4030506.