Authoritarian parents whose child-rearing style can be summed up as "it's my way or the highway" are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures than authoritative parents who listen to their children and gain their respect and trust, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.
"When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do. This is an important attribute for any authority figure to possess, as the parent does not have to rely on a system of rewards and punishments to control behavior, and the child is more likely to follow the rules when the parent is not physically present," said Rick Trinkner, a doctoral candidate at UNH and the lead researcher.
This is the first study to look at whether parenting styles influence adolescents' beliefs about the legitimacy of parent authority and if those perceptions affect delinquent behavior. The results are presented in the February issue of the Journal of Adolescence in the article "Don't trust anyone over 30: Parental legitimacy as a mediator between parenting style and changes in delinquent behavior over time."
The research was conducted by UNH researchers Trinkner; Ellen Cohn, professor of psychology; Cesar Rebellon, associate professor of sociology; and Karen Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology.
The researchers relied on data from the New Hampshire Youth Study, an ongoing, longitudinal survey of middle school and high school students examining the psychological, sociological, developmental, and legal factors that influence adolescent delinquency. Analyses reported are based on data collected over an 18-month period beginning in the fall of 2007.
"While it is generally agreed that authoritative parenting is more effective than authoritarian and permissive styles, little is known about why some...