Authoritative Parenting Style: Pros, Cons, Long-Term Effects
Fact checked by Dr. Chelsea Hetherington. Hetherington is a developmental psychologist, writer, coach, and consultant.
There are many ways to be a parent. Some parents might be more demanding and have high expectations for their children. Others might be more permissive and uninvolved, letting their children engage in misbehavior without any correction or punishment. Other parents show a lot of responsiveness to their children and their needs, and some can even show so much responsiveness that they become helicopter parents.
But what is the best parenting style for kids and their well-being? Researchers have identified one specific parenting style that’s associated with some pretty great outcomes, although it’s not without its drawbacks. In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of this parenting style — authoritative parenting.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?
Many years ago, a psychology researcher named Diana Baumrind identified four parenting styles that fall along two dimensions—demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to what degree of expectations a parent places on their child, while responsiveness refers to how warm or accepting a parent is towards their child’s feelings and needs.
Parents can be high or low on either of these two dimensions of parenting, which leads to 4 possible combinations of parenting styles.
- Authoritative Parents have high demandingness and high responsiveness to their children. They set rules and boundaries with their kids, but are also responsive to their child’s feelings and needs. They allow their children to experience the consequences of their actions and also give positive reinforcement.
- Authoritarian Parents tend to be disciplinarian. They have high demandingness but don’t display a ton of responsiveness towards their kids. Authoritarian parents tend to be “my way or the highway” type parents, setting strict rules and not accounting for their child’s needs.
- Permissive Parents have high responsiveness, but low demandingness. These parents tend to let their children do whatever they want without any boundaries or rules.
- Uninvolved Parents have low responsiveness and demandingness. These parents tend to be more removed from their children’s lives and practice a “free-range” approach to child-rearing.
Authoritative Parenting vs. Permissive Parenting vs. Authoritarian Parenting
How do these different parenting styles compare to one another? Research finds that children of authoritative parents tend to be more independent and have better self-control. These children also tend to have higher self-esteem and are more likely to have better academic performance.
Children of permissive parents have a hard time learning consequences and boundaries as they get older, likely because they weren’t modeled for them earlier in their lives. These children tend to have poor self-control and have a harder time following rules and making their own decisions. They also tend to lack social skills and can be more self-centered.
Children of authoritarian parents might learn to follow the rules, but they also tend to be more unhappy and have low self-esteem. These kids suffer also experience poor social skills, but instead of being self-centered, they tend to have poorer mental health and issues with authority figures.
Children of uninvolved or neglectful parents also have poorer outcomes, including issues with mental health and substance abuse. They also have a harder time regulating their emotions and behavior.
The Pros and Cons of Authoritative Parenting
The research shows that authoritative parenting leads to the best outcomes for kids. These children learn how to make their own decisions, manage their time and emotions, and all-around tend to engage in more good behavior.
These benefits also last into the long-term, with many research studies finding that authoritative parenting puts children on a path to success.1
With all of these benefits, you might be wondering how there could be any cons of authoritative parenting. Well, much like other areas of psychology research, the research on authoritative parenting was mostly done with a homogeneous group of people — namely, white, affluent parents living in the United States.
In the years since this research was done, other researchers have looked at the impacts of parenting styles among other groups, finding some interesting results. Some studies have found that for Asian-American2 and African-American3 households, authoritarian parenting styles are actually associated with better outcomes than authoritative parenting. Authoritarian parenting might also be protective in some contexts, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, as higher levels of demandingness over responsiveness can support physical and psychological safety.
Parenting Tips for Authoritative Parenting
If you’re interested in integrating some authoritative parenting strategies, here are some things you can try with your child:
- Encourage autonomy and independence for your child, in ways that are developmentally appropriate.
- Listen to your child’s wants and needs.
- Set rules and boundaries in ways that make sense, rather than just because that’s the way you want it to be.
- Use positive discipline rather than punishment.
- Have high standards of what you expect of your child, but also have flexibility and offer support in helping them achieve those standards.
- Validate your child’s emotions and feelings.
- Let your child make choices and have agency in their lives.
1. Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S. D., Dornbusch, S. M., & Darling, N. (1992). Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: Authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Development, 63(5), 1266-1281.
2. Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond parental control and authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child Development, 65(4), 1111-1119.
3. Steinberg, L., Dornbusch, S. M., & Brown, B. B. (1992). Ethnic differences in adolescent achievement: An ecological perspective. American Psychologist, 47(6), 723.