by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: Are there styles of parenting that are more effective than others?
The best-known research to date was based on studies of preschool children and their parents by Diana Baumrind at Berkeley. The children in the study were observed on several occasions in preschool and in their homes. The data obtained was used to rate the children in the dimensions of sociability, self-reliance, achievement, moodiness, and self-control. In evaluating the parents, Baumrind found that she could categorize each parent into one of three parenting styles: Authoritarian, Authoritative, or Permissive.
An Authoritarian parenting style is very restrictive. Parents impose many rules, rarely provide explanations for the rules, expect the child to accept their word as law, and impose harsh punishment for violation of the rules.
On the other hand, an Authoritative parenting style is less restrictive and more flexible, but still imposes rules. In this style of parenting, the parents have expectations for appropriate behaviors, provide reasons for their expectations, and will listen to a child’s point of view. However, it is expected that a child will comply with the parents’ expectations, and will use force (if necessary) and reason to make sure the child does comply.
In contrast to both Authoritarian and Authoritative parenting styles, the Permissive parenting style is warm, but has few expectations for the child. Children’s activities are rarely monitored and very little control is exercised over their behaviors.
Baumrind was able to establish an association between parenting styles and the behaviors of the children studied. The strength of her studies was that the children were followed for many years. As a result, she found that different parenting styles produced different behaviors in the children throughout their lifetime.
Baumrind found that parents who utilized an Authoritarian parenting style produced children who were fearful, apprehensive, moody, unhappy, easily annoyed, passively hostile, vulnerable to stress, aimless, sulky, and unfriendly. Permissive parenting resulted in children who were rebellious, low in self-reliance and self-control, impulsive, aggressive, domineering, aimless, and low in achievement.
In contrast, Authoritative parenting resulted in children who were self-reliant, self-controlled, cheerful and friendly, coped well with stress, cooperative with adults, curious, purposive, and achievement oriented.
The children most likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol, and high-risk behaviors were those raised by Permissive parents. The children raised by Authoritarian parents tended to comply with parents’ expectations when the parents were present, but acted out behind the backs of the parents. Children raised by Authoritative parents had the best outcomes, with the least use of addictive substance, the best grades, and the best jobs later in life.
Apparently these children internalized the values their parents were attempting to instill, rather than just obeying when they believed the cost of disobeying was too high.
Lee and Marlene Canter developed Assertive Discipline, a model of discipline that seems to capture the essence of Authoritative parenting. The model is not difficult to learn and can be implemented by most parents. (1) Stop Screaming. (2) Clearly define your expectations of your child. (3) Clearly define the consequences if your child chooses to violate your expectations. (4) ALWAYS FOLLOW THROUGH WITH CONSEQUENCES. (5) Catch your child being good and reward him or her, but not every time the child produces good behavior. Instead, reward on a variable schedule. This strengthens the good behavior and there is no expectation that a reward is coming every time good behavior is produced.
Parenting does not have to be painful, but it does require work. Plan on eighteen years of hard work. Like any other work, a job well done is very rewarding.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]