What is Authoritative Parenting?
- A parenting style characterized by emotional warmth, high expectations and standards for behavior, consistent enforcement of rules, explanations of the reasons behind those rules, and the inclusion of children in decision making (Ormrod, 2003)
- A parenting style that encourages children's independence (but still places limits and controls on their behavior), includes extensive verbal give-and-take, and warm and nurturant interactions with the child (Santrock, 2003)
Introduction to Authoritative Parenting
Authoritative parenting is a parenting style that is mainly concerned about developing children’s autonomy and cultivating in them socially constructive behaviors. Authoritative parents ensure that their children receive adequate opportunities to practice self-reliance and exercise independent thinking. They respect children’s individuality and consider their “decisions, interests, opinions, and personalities.” They are non-intrusive, warm, loving, and accepting. Despite the considerable freedom they give, authoritative parents use reason to communicate and set clear rules, limitations, and expectations to their children. They monitor their children’s behavior well and are firm in enforcing agreed standards. But they are also flexible enough to accommodate opposing yet reasonable point of views, and are willing to adjust restrictions on equitable grounds. Authoritative parents confidently facilitate their children’s moral development. They support mature and age-appropriate behavior, and judiciously punish and correct disobedience and misconducts. They resort to physical coercion and parental power only when necessary, or when reason is not sufficient to demand compliance. During conflicts and disagreements, authoritative parents take the perspective of their children and extensively negotiate with them to arrive at a win-win situation. As adults, they also freely offer their insights as alternative solutions to the problems their children face.
Compared to the other three types of parenting - authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting -, authoritative parenting is most effective in promoting social competence in children. Authoritative parents are believed to be better teachers than the others because they do not equate self-worth with achievement, and are adept at showing valuable problem-solving and coping skills. Unlike permissive and neglectful parenting, authoritative parenting does not avoid supervision and control of children’s behavior; yet unlike authoritarian parenting (which also connotes “willingness to take charge”), authoritative parenting, albeit strict, does not lack warmth, is not harsh, and is democratic and fair to children. Authoritative parents also do not blame misbehavior to stubbornness (as do authoritarian parents); rather, they attribute disobedience with possible cognitive problems (e.g., lack of attention and forgetfulness).
Research studies generally show that authoritative parenting is associated with positive outcomes for young and older children and adolescents. Preschoolers reared with the authoritative parenting style “tend to be the most self-reliant, self-controlled, and self-assertive.” Children of authoritative parents are upbeat and generally friendly (especially boys), purposive and achievement-oriented (especially girls), are interested and curious, cooperative, and are capable of managing stress. They have high self-esteem, are adaptable, socially responsible, and quite popular with their peers. They are “better behaved, more successful and happier” than children reared with other parenting styles. Families are also “more harmonious.” Authoritative parenting also promotes positive adjustment in children of divorced and remarried families, as well as in intact families, and can even reduce antisocial behaviors and bouts of depression. Positive behaviors in children of authoritative parents are remarkably consistent even when followed into adolescence. In adolescence, these children surround themselves with helpful peers, and highly regard achievement and excellence in their activities, particularly in school and academic settings. Consequently, they usually receive higher grades than children of other parenting styles. However, this relationship between school performance and parenting style is not principally predictive for minorities and other ethnic groups, such as African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-American adolescents, where authoritarian parenting is seen to be most effective. Some psychologists say, however, that Chinese parental values “chiao shun” and “guan,” which are often implicated as authoritarian, are simply qualitatively different from the western concept of authoritative parenting, but are nonetheless “authoritative.” This means that the association between school performance and parenting style is still inconclusive.
A growing number of psychologists are welcoming the possibility that parental adoption of a certain style is not a matter of choice, but a simple reaction to children’s temperaments. Catherine Lewis believes that parents can adopt an authoritative parenting style more easily with happy and outgoing children than with those who are difficult and slow-to-warm-up. In one experimental study, Hugh Lytton found that parents using the authoritative style can quickly shift to an authoritarian style when handling a difficult child. Still, however, Diana Baumrind, the person behind the conceptualization of the four parenting styles, strongly contends that authoritative parents model socially competent behaviors that are eventually followed by their children. Other developmental psychologists also believe that children feel a sense of security (and thus function effectively) when parents are supportive, caring, warm, fair, democratic, and at the same time, strict; and that they possess internalized moral values based on rules formed with their participation.
Authoritative parents are considered by their children as very warm because they allow considerable freedom to their children to express their curiosity and explore their environment. They are also careful in setting limitations about their children's behavior. They are not permissive. Although they initially use reason and logic to encourage their children to follow the agreed rules of conduct, in circumstances when children resist such rules, these parents are willing to use power to gain compliance. As such, their children see their parents as fair and reasonable, and learn to internalize such rules as moral values. Consequently, their children do better academically than children of other parenting styles, especially in white and middle-class adolescents; although the correlation in Asian-, Hispanic-, and African-American samples is not yet established.
Research shows that parents can be taught how to practice the authoritative parenting style. During such classes, parents are taught how to set and enforce rules (and educational standards) in their children, and how to effectively confront disobedient sons and daughters. Although promising, research also shows that in dangerous neighborhoods, authoritative parenting is not as effective than the authoritarian style, thus the possible reason why the correlation of academic achievement in children of other ethnic backgrounds, particularly those belonging in lower socio-demographic classes, remains unclear.
Authoritative parents involve their children in social activities. They mold their children to exhibit mature and independent behavior, thus, they expect such kind of behavior in all circumstances. However, in instances when the child fails to live up to standards and commit mistakes, the authoritative parents talk to the child about how they can fix the problem. Because of this, authoritative parents reduce delinquent behavior. And they also achieve this by reducing their children's association with negative peers.
Authoritative parents are highly controlling, yet are also highly warm and loving. They are controlling because they do not bend their rules in favor of their children's coercion. They are controlling also because they ensure that they know who their children's friends are, what they do, and where they go. Thus, children reared in this parenting style are perceived as energetic, friendly, socially competent, and less likely to be involved in delinquent behaviors.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is this parenting style all about? What are the main characteristics?
- Is this considered the best style? If so, why? Also, can parents learn to develop this style?