- Authoritative parenting involves a teaching/learning approach that demonstrates respect and fosters emotional intelligence.
- Authoritarian parenting and authoritative parenting styles pertain to how a parent manages issues around power and control with their children.
- A recent study reveals how your parenting style impacts your child’s weight.
In recent years, psychologists have paid more attention to the way that parenting style impacts children and their social development. Parenting style refers to the way that parents interact with and respond to their children. It plays a significant role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. New research shows both short and long term effects of parenting styles.
How Parenting Styles Affect Children in the Short and Long Term
A recent study shows there is a relationship between authoritarian parenting and aggressive behavior in adolescents. A not yet published study reveals that children who are not treated warmly by their parents using an authoritarian parenting style are more likely to grow up to be overweight or obese. Parenting styles have both short and long term impact.
Short term effects of parenting styles include:
- Emotional state (how the child feels)
- Behaviors (how the child behaves at home, school and in the community–are they compliant or do they act out?)
- Interpersonal skills (how well they form relationships, communicate effectively, and resolve conflict)
- Confidence level (how willing they are to speak up, volunteer, take action)
- Level of stress and anxiety (may impact sleep, appetite and physical health)
Long term effects of parenting style include:
- Impact on self-esteem or feelings of self-worth
- Sense of empowerment or disempowerment in the world
- Level of assertiveness and decision making abilities
- Level of functioning during daily living, academics, relationships, and career
- Attachment style in relationships (secure, avoidant, anxious)
- Trauma history
- Mental health functioning
- Substance use behaviors
- Anger management and conflict resolution skills
- Interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence
- Level of honesty and authenticity in relationships
- Likelihood to recreate what is familiar in adult life (for example, children of authoritarian parenting may be more likely to marry controlling partners and work for controlling bosses. Children of authoritative parents may be more likely to cultivate mutually respectful and supportive relationships.)
The Main Differences between Authoritative and Authoritarian Parenting Styles
Authoritarian parenting and authoritative parenting styles largely pertain to how a parent manages issues around power and control in their relationship with their children. Researcher Diane Baumrind first proposed a new system for classifying parents.
Authoritarian parenting is where the parent is in charge and makes the decisions and choices. The child is expected to do what they are told simply because the parent says so. There is no room for disagreement or discussion. The parent may not consider the child’s feelings and wishes or solicit their input or opinion. Studies show that this ultimately impacts the child’s self-esteem. This particular parenting style brings up controversies on whether children of authoritarian parents are well-adjusted.
Authoritarian parenting can look:
- Combative (evidence of a power struggle between the parent and child)
- Controlling (the parent is in charge and the child is submissive)
- The child has no choices
- Orders must be followed
- The child is not involved in the discussion and their thoughts, feelings and opinions may not be considered.
Authoritative parenting is a teaching based approach where the parent facilitates a dialogue with the child about various behavioral choices and their consequences. While the parent is in charge, the child has a role in the dialogue as to why a choice might be in their best interest. The child is encouraged to share their thoughts, wishes, and opinions. They have opportunities for critical thinking and making some choices.
Authoritative parenting can look:
- Collaborative (the parent and child are working together)
- Child is given choices (which is empowering)
- There are conversations and discussions where the child becomes more informed about the risk and consequences of their choices and actions.
- There is an opportunity for the parent and child to get to know each other and for the child to get to know themselves which fosters attachment, intimacy and connection.
The Benefits of an Authoritative Parenting Style
Authoritative parenting is more of a teaching/learning approach that demonstrates respect for the child and includes more sharing of reasoning of why things are the way they are. This approach teaches more interpersonal skill sets and fosters emotional intelligence.
Authoritative parenting benefits include:
- Capacity for critical thinking
- Effective risk assessment and risk management
- Sense of self–knowing themselves (their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires)
- Better sense of independence and autonomy (less dependence)
Authoritative parenting leads to these outcomes by demonstrating respect and empathy for the child and empowering them to think critically and make informed decisions.
The Authoritarian Approach Can Be Harmful
Research shows authoritative parenting can hurt social skill development and lower empathy in adolescents.
An authoritarian approach can be harmful to kids as it can:
- Create a sense of fear of authority figures
- Cause feelings of low self-worth
- Facilitate disempowerment rather than empowerment
- Decrease ability to speak up, be assertive, and set appropriate boundaries in relationships
- Create a situation where the child feels they have to lie to do what they want
- Be traumatizing if the parent behaves in a way that is scary or abusive
- Involve emotional neglect (not considering the child’s feelings)
Tips for Adapting & Improving Your Parenting Style
- Read parenting books, blogs and articles
- Watch parenting videos, television shows or documentaries
- Listen to parenting podcasts
- Join parenting online forums
- Ask for feedback from from your partner, friends, family or even your children
- Access support from others who can help you make these changes
- Increase your self-care so that you have more patience
- Practice mindfulness (such as deep breathing and meditation) to improve your emotional intelligence
When to Seek Professional Support
A family may benefit from reaching out for professional support when:
- They preventatively and proactively want to become the best parents they can be
- The child is struggling
- The child/parent dynamic is struggling
- The child has special needs that make parenting particularly challenging
- There are untreated substance abuse or mental health issues within the family system
- The family is experiencing major life changes such as divorce, remarriage, or a new child in the family
- There are frequent arguments between the parents about parenting styles–conflict over different parenting approaches
Help can come in the form of:
- Parenting skills training
- Parenting support groups
- Individual, couples or family counseling or therapy
- Mental health or substance use treatment
Be aware of your parenting style and how it impacts your children. By understanding the different parenting styles and their impact on child development, parents can make the best decisions for their family.
It is most important for parents to provide a safe, secure, loving connection with their children. That involves empathy for their emotional experience, affirmation of their strengths and gifts, support to help them function their best, respect of their boundaries as separate human beings, and expression of loving kindness.