Authoritarian style is one of the three original parenting styles Diana Baumrind recognized. In describing parenting styles, Baumrind identified two dimensions of parenting. The first relates to how demanding parents are. This element speaks to parents’ levels of strictness or supervision. The other dimension Baumrind acknowledged relates to how responsive parents are. In other words, highly responsive parents are ones who are accepting of and warm toward their children.
Parents who are strict and demanding yet rarely accepting and responsive are categorized as having an authoritarian parenting style. These parents often lack flexibility and offer less give-and-take or compromising with their children. On the opposite end of the spectrum is permissive parenting style, which incorporates a highly accepting technique but also lacks supervision. Authoritarian and permissive parenting styles generally are less desirable than authoritative parenting style, which utilizes a warm but firm technique in parent–child relationships. Although Baumrind initially described only three parenting styles, some literature describes a fourth commonly recognized style labeled neglectful. Neglectful parents are those who provide neither supervision nor acceptance.
Authoritarian parents tend to expect and value obedience. They have clear and rigid rules designed to limit their children’s freedom. They do not tolerate defiance, and they may employ strict punishment for rule breaking. Instead of teaching their children to make logical decisions, they teach their children to do what they say. In a sense, they want their children to be blank slates.
Although authoritarian parenting often elicits obedience from young children, research shows that several less desirable outcomes can occur when the children reach adolescence. For example, adolescents of authoritarian parents might be anxious and withdrawn because of the fear of their parents. Girls might become overly dependent on others, whereas boys might react aggressively to others. To express dislike of authoritarian parenting style, these adolescents may also enter a period of rebellion in which they learn to believe misbehavior is not wrong as long as their parents do not find out about it. This strategy hinders communication between the parents and children and undermines the importance of moral reasoning.
However, although the authoritarian parenting style paves a road to some undesirable outcomes, other correlates of authoritarian parenting style are constructive. Studies show that children of authoritarian parents have lower levels of drug or alcohol abuse than do children of permissive or neglectful parents. In addition, these children usually do fairly well academically in their later school years. This case is especially true for children from Asian American families, which tend to adopt a more authoritarian style and also tend to have high regard for academic excellence. Nonetheless, with the exception of Asian American adolescents from authoritarian homes, academic performance of adolescents in authoritarian homes usually falls a bit short of the scholastic achievement of adolescents in authoritative homes. Authoritarian parenting styles can be, but are not always, the most advantageous for the scholastic realm.
Although authoritarian parenting style has the ability to engender both positive and negative outcomes for children, research indicates that authoritative parenting is the most beneficial style for the welfare of children and for achieving rewarding parent-child relationships. This indication is especially true in societies that value change and independence. Authoritarian parenting styles work best in societies such as agrarian-industrial societies that place value on accepting one mapped-out way of achieving goals.
Some studies have argued that parenting style influences children’s levels of happiness, assertiveness, independence, and aggression even more than attachment style. Clearly, parenting style has an instrumental role in children’s development. Individuals’ parenting styles often resemble their personalities and therefore typically remain in the same category over time. However, if parents are aware of the positive effects of practicing a combination of warmth and firmness, they might be more inclined to attempt incorporating some authoritative techniques into their parenting styles and therefore increase the likelihood of healthy development for their children.
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