Laissez-faire is a French term meaning "to let people do as they please." Applied to parenting, the term refers to a permissive style in which parents avoid providing guidance and discipline, make no demands for maturity, and impose few controls on their child's behavior. Permissive parents allow their children to make their own decisions regarding matters such as mealtimes, bedtimes, and watching television. Research published in 1989 by Diana Baumrind found that children of permissive parents tend to be impulsive, disobedient, rebellious, demanding, and dependent on adults. As teens, many of these children had poor self-control, poor school performance, and a high rate of drug use. Baumrind found that the best adjusted and most academically competent children had authoritative parents who were neither too lenient nor too strict; these parents set reasonable limits for their children, were warm and responsive, and did not use harsh methods of punishment.
Baumrind, Diana. "Rearing Competent Children." In William Damon ed., Child Development Today and Tomorrow. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.
Ann D. Murray