Authoritarian parents whose child-rearing style can be summed up as “it’s my way or the highway” are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures than authoritative parents who listen to their children and gain their respect and trust, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

“When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do. This is an important attribute for any authority figure to possess, as the parent does not have to rely on a system of rewards and punishments to control behavior, and the child is more likely to follow the rules when the parent is not physically present,” said Rick Trinkner, a doctoral candidate at UNH and the lead researcher.

This is the first study to look at whether parenting styles influence adolescents’ beliefs about the legitimacy of parent authority and if those perceptions affect delinquent behavior. The results are presented in the February issue of the Journal of Adolescence.

“While it is generally agreed that authoritative parenting is more effective than authoritarian and permissive styles, little is known about why some parenting styles are more efficient than others. Our results showed that parental legitimacy was an important mechanism by which parenting styles affected adolescent behavior,” Trinkner said.

The researchers evaluated three parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive.

Authoritative parents are both demanding and controlling, but they are also warm and receptive to their children’s needs. They are receptive to bidirectional communication in that they explain to their children why they have established rules and also listen to their children’s opinions about those rules. Children of authoritative parents tend to be self-reliant, self-controlled, and content.

On the other hand, authoritarian parents are demanding and highly controlling, but detached and unreceptive to their children’s needs. These parents support unilateral communication where they establish rules without explanation and expect them to be obeyed without complaint or question. Authoritarian parenting produces children who are discontent, withdrawn, and distrustful.

Finally, in contrast to authoritarian parenting, permissive parents are nondemanding and noncontrolling. They tend to be warm and receptive to their children’s needs, but place few boundaries on their children. If they do establish rules, they rarely enforce them to any great extent. These parents tend to produce children who are the least self-reliant, explorative, and self-controlled out of all the parenting styles.

Source: University of New Hampshire
http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2012/feb/lw10delinquent.cfm