Parenting styles are a broad classification of techniques used by parents to deal with their children. A broad range of parenting styles have been identified and although there is some controversy regarding their validity, there is no doubt that there exists a significant number of them. Some of these styles may be referred to as behavioral styles, whereas others may be described as individualistic or eclectic. One of the most widely used parenting styles is the authoritarian parenting style. It is named after the German psychiatrist and philosopher Alfred Wagner, who defined it in his book, “The authoritarian family”. This is also referred to as the transactional parenting style.
Research into parenting styles has revealed that this style can actually promote independence among children. An important outcome from this research was the conclusion that authoritarian parents actually use harsh and controlling behavior to get what they want from their children. However, an important finding from this research was that these children were actually better off if they had a parent with more parental control. Another important finding from this study was that children who were always disciplined followed a similar pattern of behavioral problems as did children who had more free choices. (Another interesting finding from this research was that discipline seemed to lead to more independence for children.)
In addition, this same research concluded that authoritarian parenting styles promoted high levels of stress within the home environment. There is also strong evidence that this style of parenting negatively affects children’s self-esteem and social competence. There is some evidence that these children are less socially competent than other children who are not authoritarian parents. (Another finding from this research was that children who were less disciplined were not at a greater risk of being depressed.)
Although it seems obvious that there is some relationship between this parenting style and child behavior problems, there are some other parenting styles that have been linked with increased rates of adolescent delinquency or even substance abuse or addiction. Early childhood oriented parenting style such as authoritarian parenting style will naturally discourage inappropriate behavior in an effort to ensure compliance with parental requests. This can be an effective method and may work well for some families. However, for families who are more liberal and less religious, this parenting style may have little benefit. (This is probably the most important finding from this research, in terms of preventing delinquent behaviors.)
In addition, a number of researchers believe that certain parenting styles promote more favorable child outcomes, but this is not universally true. Some researchers believe that the positive effects of strict parenting are simply the result of a greater parental control over behavior. Authoritarian parents are the opposite of this; they are authoritarian in believing that their way of parenting is best. (Social scientists regard this as the basis for the greater social control and freedom associated with this parenting style.) Although most authoritarian parents do not overtly seek to punish their children, they may use guilt as a means to control them and ensure compliance. Thus, although they discourage negative behavior, they do not necessarily promote positive child outcomes.
Another type of parenting style that appears to promote greater child outcomes is the authoritative parenting style. This parenting style involves setting firm and consistent limits on a child and communicating them to the child in a way that is consistent with cultural norms. However, this parenting style appears to have little connection to any personality characteristic or cognitive function. Authoritative parents often use this approach when they fear that their child is being manipulated or abused by another sibling.
Finally, there is a distinct parenting style that is related to both temperament and self-control. This style was described in a psychological study of preschoolers called the Family Therapy Model. Authors Marc Heckerman and John Holt emphasized that this style of parenting requires parents to set limits and to provide consequences for children’s inappropriate behavior.
The results of the research suggested that all three parenting styles had a positive impact on academic achievement in children. However, differences between the styles were too large to make a valid case that one style was actually better than the other. Also, there was significant difference between the countries involved in the study. Therefore, it appears that there is no definite single parenting style that is best for each child. However, parents who can use all three styles are likely to see greater achievement by their children.