Uninvolved Parenting

Characteristics, Effects, and Causes

Dad on phone while sitting at table with son
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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.

The Major Parenting Styles

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.

So what does the uninvolved parenting style look like at a glance? These parents have little emotional involvement with their kids. While they provide for basic needs like food and shelter, they are, for the most part, uninvolved in their children's lives.

The exact 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. Kids might be given the bare minimum they need for survivial, such as shelter, nourishment, and clothing, yet little or nothing in the way of guidance or affection.

Characteristics

In order to better understand what uninvolved parenting consists of, it can be helpful to look at some of the key characteristics of this parenting style.

Uninvolved parents tend to engage in the following patterns of behavior:

  • 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

Baumrind characterized her parenting styles in terms of two key dimensions: parental responsiveness and parental demandingness. Uninvolved parents are low on both of these dimensions. They do not respond well to the needs of their children and provide little affection, support, or love. They also make very few demands of their children. They rarely set rules and do not offer guidance or expectations for behavior.

Effects on Kids

So what sort of impact does being raised by uninvolved parents have on kids? Children raised by uninvolved parents tend to experience a number of different effects.

Some outcomes linked to uninvolved parenting include:

  • Children must learn to provide for themselves
  • Kids may fear becoming dependent on other people
  • Kids are 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

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

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.

A Word From Verywell

It is clear from looking at the consequences of this type of child-rearing that the uninvolved parenting style is far from ideal. In order to raise confident children who are emotionally healthy and resilient, children need support, warmth, love, appropriate discipline, structure, and guidance from adults that they trust.

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