There Is a Right and a Wrong Way to Parent - Part two By David Bredehoft

A common assumption is that an overindulgent parent and a permissive parent are the same, but what about an authoritarian parent? Are there connections linking authoritarian and authoritative parents and ones who overindulge?

To test this assumption, Bredehoft (2013) examined the relationships between parental overindulgence patterns and three parentingstyles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Six hundred and nine parents (47.8 percent mothers, 52.2 percent fathers) completed an online questionnaire consisting of demographic data—Overindulgence: Parental Overindulgence Assessment Scale (Bredehoft & Walcheski, 2005), a 30-item, author-developed, Likert-style inventory—and two normed and validated psychological inventories: the Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire PSDQ (Robinson, Mandleco, Olsen, & Hart, 1995), and the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale PSCS (Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978).

As predicted, the more parents overindulged their children...

  • The more likely they were to be authoritarian.
  • The more likely they were to be permissive.
  • The less likely they were to be authoritative.

Overindulgence and the Authoritarian Parent

We found the following statistically significant results.

Parents who overindulge their children...

...are significantly more likely to use authoritarian parenting styles, such as:

  • Spanking a child
  • Taking privileges away without explanation
  • Putting a child off somewhere alone
  • Physical punishment

...are significantly more likely to use verbal hostility and non-reasoning punitive strategies when interacting with their children, such as:

  • Slapping a child
  • Threatening punishment without justification
  • Grabbing a child

Bredehoft, Mennicke, Potter & Clarke (1998) posited the argument that Baumrind's "permissive parent" was not identical to the "overindulgent parent" by suggesting that not all overindulgent parents are permissive. This study provides empirical evidence supporting this assertion by demonstrating that overindulgent parents can be both permissive and authoritarian, or both. 

Overindulgence and the Permissive Parent

We found the following statistically significant results.

Parents who overindulge their children...

...are significantly more likely to use permissive parenting styles, such as:

  • Lack of follow-through
  • Giving into a child when she/he causes a commotion
  • Stating the punishment, but not carrying it out
  • Ignoring misbehavior
  • Looking the other way when their child does something he/she shouldn't
  • Lacking parental self-confidence
  • Finding it difficult to discipline
  • Spoiling a child

Overindulgence and the Authoritative Parent

We found the following statistically significant results.

Parents who DO NOT overindulge their children:

  • Use warmth/involvement.
  • Encourage the child to share why he/she is troubled.
  • Praise the child for appropriate behavior.
  • Use democratic participation.
  • Respect the child's thoughts and opinions.
  • Spend warm and intimate times together.
  • Use reasoning or induction.
  • Talk about the reasons for rules.
  • Encourage the child to think about the consequences of her/his behavior.

Additional Findings

  • Contrary to the findings of Bredehoft et al. (1998), this study found fathers to be more overindulgent than mothers.
  • Compared to mothers, fathers were more overindulgent than mothers overall (total overindulgence), as well as on sub-scale scores of too much and soft structure.
  • Younger parents were significantly more overindulgent than older parents.
  • Younger fathers were significantly more overindulgent than older fathers.
  • Younger mothers were significantly more overindulgent than their older counterparts.
  • We found no significant difference between high- and low-income parents on overindulgence.

Practice Aloha: Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude

© 2020 David J. Bredehoft


Bredehoft, D. J. (2013). Empirical connections between parental overindulgence patterns, parenting styles, and parent sense of competence. Executive Summary: Study 9. Retrieved from:

Bredehoft, D. J., & Walcheski, M. J. (2005). OVERINDULGENCE: Parental Overindulgence Assessment Scale. 

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;