The authoritative parenting style is responsive to the emotional needs of children, but also expert rules to be followed. This approach involves explaining the rationale behind rules and allows children to express their views. Parents are fair and consistent in the application of discipline while at the same time provide a warm and nurturing atmosphere.
The authoritative parenting style is one of four types of parenting styles first identified by Baumrind (1966). Over the last 60 years, the effects of parenting styles on children’s social and emotional development have been well-researched in a wide array of cultural contexts.
According to Baumrind (1971), the authoritative parent is firm but also respectful of the child’s opinion:
“She encourages verbal give and take, and shares with the child the reasoning behind her policy” (p.22).
The authoritative parenting style has been linked to children being confident with a high self-esteem. They tend to be socially and emotionally well-adjusted, enjoy trying new things and exploring, and are cooperative and friendly towards others.
Authoritative Parenting Examples
- Parents consult the child: The Smiths have monthly family meetings where everyone gets to express their views regarding chores and can make suggestions about new rules or modification of existing rules.
- Parents give reasons for their actions: When their child disobeys, the parents explain why they must be punished and how the child can avoid punishment in the future.
- Balanced and happy children: Jenny has many healthy friendships at school and enjoys working on team projects with her classmates.
- Raising inclusive leaders: Jack takes his leadership style very seriously and believes that leaders should create conditions where staff can excel and strive towards their own career ambitions.
- Respect for children’s opinions: “Children should be respected and listened to” is the philosophy in the Williams’ home.
- Parents give children a chance to explain themselves: Susan’s report card is not great, so her parents have a conversation with her about the grades. They start by asking Susan what happened and why she thinks her grades were below par.
- Parents encourage children’s unique strengths: Mr. and Mrs. McDermont have high expectations for each of their children. Although their first two children are focused on academics, their youngest child is more interested in the arts. So, the parents encourage him to take weekend classes on pottery and sculpting.
- Children grow up to be supportive leaders: Michael is well-liked by his staff because he allows them to choose them to choose their own professional development courses.
- Parents have rules but are understanding of exceptional circumstances: Tina’s curfew is 11:00 p.m. on the weekends, but one night she is 45-minutes late. When she finally arrives home, the parents discover that her friend’s mother was in an accident and needed to be taken to the hospital, In the excitement, she forgot to call home.
- Parents and children can negotiate to a reasonable extent on rules: Allen thinks that he should be allowed to practice with his band right after school instead of coming home immediately to do homework. His parents agree to change the rule as long as his grades don’t suffer.
Examples of Studies on Authoritative Parenting
1. Children Develop a Sense of Social Responsibility
Since authoritative parenting involves clear explanations of rules and the rationale for their existence, it is reasonable to see how that can facilitate a child’s ethical reasoning. By seeing a model of reasoning displayed by parents, and being allowed to ask questions and share their viewpoints, children start to build their own foundation of social responsibility.
To explore this hypothesis and others, Baumrind (1971) examined the parenting styles of 150 families who had children enrolled in 13 nursery schools. Parenting style was assessed during home visits and structured interviews. The data was then compared to children’s behavior in a nursery school as rated by trained observers. The observers evaluated the children’s behavior throughout the day and in structured situations.
The results revealed significant differences in the effects of parenting style on children’s sense of social responsibility, friendliness, and achievement motivation. As Baumrind stated, “Sons of Authoritative parents were significantly more Socially Responsible than sons of Authoritarian or Permissive parents, and somewhat more Friendly than sons of Nonconforming parents” (p. 91)
The results for daughters showed that “…daughters were positively trained to be achievement oriented, independent, and socially responsible” (p. 93).
Related Article: 7 Positive Authoritative Parenting Effects On Children
2. Low Levels of Misconduct if Both Parents have this Style
Ideally, it is probably better for the child if both parents have similar parenting styles. This creates a sense of consistency and reliability in the child’s mind and fosters a sense of stability. Children need to live in a world in which rules and discipline are somewhat predictable. Kuppens and Ceulemans (2019) examined how congruence in parenting styles effect children’s social and emotional development.
The studied included 600 Flemish families with elementary-school aged children 8-10 years old. Parenting styles on both parents was measured using a 19-item scale called the Ghent Parental Behavior Scale (Van Leeuwen & Vermulst, 2004).
This scale contained various subscales regarding parenting styles. One in particular concerned parental supportive behavior and included questions such as: “I make time to listen to my child, when he/she wants to tell me something.”
The results revealed that “…children of two positive authoritative parents demonstrated the lowest levels of conduct problems” (p. 177).
Kuppens and Ceulemans highlight that the results of their study are consistent with previous research.
An authoritative parenting style is linked to positive developmental outcomes in children: “Our ﬁndings conﬁrm this pattern for the children having parents who employ an authoritative parenting style, but children with parents both using a positive authoritative parenting style even showed less conduct problems” (p. 177).
3. Correlation with High Grade Point Averages
Children with authoritative parents tend to have higher cumulative grade point averages, and this is consistent across different cultures. The study below explains.
Although psychologists want to devise theories that can be applied to human beings as a whole, there is good reason to believe that this is not the case (see Science Daily). For example, Western and Eastern cultures can have different definitions of “best parenting practices.” Therefore, how can we be confident that the findings of Baumrind’s research, which was conducted in southern California, apply to cultures in countries on the other side of the planet?
Tanvir et al. (2016) were able to address this cross-cultural issue by conducting a study on parenting styles and academic achievement at The Islamia University of Bahawalpur in Pakistan.
Eighty university students (ages 17-22 years old) responded to the Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ; Buri, 1991) regarding the parenting styles of their mother and father. Data for the students’ CGPA were also collected.
The results of the study revealed “…that there is a significant positive relationship between authoritative parenting style of parents and academic achievement of children” (p. 37).
Although this relationship was not statistically significant for the effects of the mother’s parenting style, “This study proves that authoritative parenting style of father is best for improving academic achievements (CGPA)” (p. 37).
This study replicates research in Western culture and adds a cultural insight regarding the differing roles of mothers and fathers.
4. Children Tend to Be Happier
Throughout the school years, children spend nearly as much time interacting with their teachers as they do with their parents. Hence, a teacher’s discipline style may have similar effects on children’s behavior as the parenting styles of parents.
This hypothesis was tested by Baker et al. (2009). The study included nearly 700 students in 3rd through 5th grade enrolled in at-risk elementary schools. Students’ behavior was measured by the Behavior Assessment System for Children, which is a 148-item measure of both problem and adaptive behaviors filled out by teachers.
Students identified the teaching style of their teachers by responding to the Classroom Life Instrument (Johnson et al., 1983). This scale includes items such as “My teacher cares about me” and “My teacher likes to help me learn.”
The results confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis, that “Among elementary-aged students, authoritative teaching was positively associated with three of the four school adjustment criterion variables” (p. 377).
5. High College Achievement
Higher grades for children of authoritative parents can be traced through college.
Most studies on parenting styles and children’s development have focused on the early school age years. However, how long do the effects of parenting actually last? Although it seems plausible that parenting strategies that a child is exposed to for the first 18 years of life would have lasting effects, this assumption should be put to the test.
This is exactly what the study by Turner et al. (2009) accomplished. Participants were 264 undergraduate students. They responded to several questionnaires that assess: parenting styles, academic motivation, self-efficacy, and CGPA.
Results “indicated that authoritative parenting significantly predicted students’ academic performance” (p. 342-343).
The findings of this study extend our understanding of the long-term effects of parenting styles. As the authors put it, “The results of this study demonstrate that parental influence plays an important role in young adults’ academic performance even during a time of transition to life away from home” (p. 344).
The authoritative parenting style is characterized by high expectations, consistent discipline, and a warm and nurturing environment. Parents are prone to listen to the opinions of their children and let them know that their views are valued and respected.
There have been decades of research on authoritative parenting which have demonstrated remarkedly similar patterns. Children raised in these environments tend to be socially and emotionally well-adjusted, have high self-esteem, and show independence and achievement motivation.
Some of these findings have been conceptually replicated in other countries, including Pakistan and Belgium.
Baker, J. A., Clark, T. P., Crowl, A., & Carlson, J. S. (2009). The influence of authoritative teaching on children’s school adjustment: Are children with behavioural problems differentially affected? School Psychology International, 30, 374-382. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034309106945
Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of authoritative parental control on child behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.
Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monographs, 4, 1-103.
Buri J. R. (1991). Parental authority questionnaire. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(1), 110–119. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa5701_13
Henrich, J., Heine, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T. and Anderson, D. (1983) Social Interdependence and Classroom Climate. Journal of Psychology, 114, 135–42.
Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(1), 168–181. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1242-x
Tanvir, M., Khurram, F., Khizer, U., & Fayyaz, S. (2016). Parenting style and its effects on academic achievement of children. International SAMANM Journal of Business and Social Sciences, 4(1), 30-42.
Turner, E., Chandler, M., & Heffer, R. (2009). The influence of parenting styles, achievement motivation, and self-efficacy on academic performance in college students. Journal of College Student Development, 50(3), 337-346. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0073
Van Leeuwen, K. G., & Vermulst, A. (2004). Some psychometric properties of the Ghent Parental Behavior Scale. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 20, 283–298. https://doi.org/10.1027/1015-57220.127.116.113