Child, Parenting

Democratic style of upbringing – characteristics and effects

Democratic style of upbringing

Different educational styles are defined in psychology and pedagogy. The definitions are usually used to examine the influence of educational methods and the behavior of educators on the psychological development of children and adolescents.
In reality, pure parenting styles hardly ever occur today, but there is usually a mixture. However, while the upbringing of children was more authoritarian up to the 1970s, many educators, teachers and parents today tend towards a democratic style of upbringing.

The Democratic Parenting Style – What is it?

According to a definition by the sociologist and parenting style researcher Glen Elder, the democratic parenting style is characterized by the fact that children are consistently seen as equal partners. You are encouraged to act independently and on your own responsibility.
Parents and educators only have an advisory role. Important decisions are made together. For example in the family council .

Kurt Lewin’s definition of democratic parenting

In the USA in the 1940s, the social psychologist Kurt Lewin and his team conducted various experiments on educator behavior in connection with the completion of tasks in a recreational group. He coined the terms democratic, authoritarian and laissez-faire upbringing style, which are still used today in research on upbringing styles and in the study of leadership styles in business.

Lewin and his team laid down fixed rules for each experiment, according to which the educators had to behave. The behavior of the group members provided information about the influence of the corresponding parenting style. In particular, the educator and group behavior were examined according to the following aspects:

  • Who is the decision maker?
  • Who determines the procedures and techniques in task execution?
  • How are the tasks distributed?
  • How does the educator behave while completing the tasks?


In a democratic education, who makes the decisions and sets the rules?

A democratic style of upbringing provides that all rules and decisions are discussed in the group and that each group member is heard. The group leader supports the discussion and supports the decision making. He is part of the group and has the same powers as all group members.

Who determines the procedures and the techniques used to carry out the tasks?

The group members decide together on the work goal and in the joint discussion determine which steps should be taken to achieve it. They discuss the necessary procedures and techniques, whereby the group leader can make alternative suggestions from which to choose.

What is the distribution of tasks?

The group leader stays out of the distribution of tasks. Group members are free to choose who they want to work with.

How does the educator behave while completing the tasks?

Since the group leader is part of the group, he/she behaves in the same way as all other members of the group when completing tasks. If he expresses praise or criticism, he is as objective as possible and based on facts.

Democratic style of upbringing in the family

Without knowing it, many modern mothers and fathers today tend towards a democratic style of parenting.
They set the direction, but involve the children in decisions and support them in their development. “Parents treat their children more as partners. Education has become more democratic and, unlike in the past, the focus is on the child in most families,” stated Alexandra Helfrich, headmistress in Krailling, Upper Bavaria, in July 2016 in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Nevertheless, elements from other parenting styles can also flow into everyday life, because the behavior of the parents is shaped to a large extent by the experiences they have had in the past. “Half of all parents adopt the parenting style of their own childhood,” says educational advisor Julia Klamke according to an article in the Sächsische Zeitung of March 30, 2020. However, there is a good chance that children who are brought up democratically will continue this parenting style as adults .

What are the effects of the democratic style of upbringing?

During the experiments on the democratic style of upbringing, Lewin and his colleagues observed friendly interactions between the group leader and group members, as well as among the latter. Interpersonal relationships were characterized by spontaneity. Decisions were relevant. The group members showed a high degree of self-responsibility.

A democratic education – Studies and publications on the subject show the consequences, for example:

  • promoted children’s creativity and constructiveness
  • mental strength in dealing with conflicts
  • A democratic parenting style ensures good self-esteem and healthy self-confidence
  • Respect for other people, but no obedience to authority

The democratic style of upbringing is used consciously or even unconsciously by most parents today, at least to a large extent.
The pure form of a single parenting style rarely exists. Nevertheless, the democratic style has prevailed in many families. The satisfaction and emotional competence of the children usually proves the parents right.


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