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Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs
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The Big Answer

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Parenting Styles and Adolescent Development

an article by Diana Baumrind

(our site's article review)

Baumrind looks at parenting concepts, past and present, using synthesis to reject both enmeshment—in which individuality is sacrificed for family “harmony,” and disengagement—in which family members have little effect on each other, and instead opts for a balance between individuality and connectedness. Studies show that both resistance to peer pressure and the development of self-reliance evolves from this balance, reports this author.

She says: “. . . parents’ responsiveness—that is, encouragement of independence, individuality and verbal give-and-take together with warmth and support—correlated highly with all aspects of adolescents’ competence, and with love and respect for parents. . . . Children from authoritative homes have consistently been found to be more instrumentally competent—agentic (empowering), communal, and cognitively competent than other children . . . They manifested the lowest incidence of internalizing problem behavior and also had a lower incidence of drug use than all other groups of adolescents . . . Authoritative parents are characterized by their rational, agentic style of control. Authoritative parents successfully model commitment, reciprocity between obligations and entitlements, and integration of agentic and communal qualities. . . . Adolescents from democratic [parenting style] homes compared to those from authoritative homes were not significantly less competent, prosocial, or autonomous. . . . Democratic parents are more responsive than demanding, are agentic but not officious, and set limits when necessary, although their preference is to be lenient. The slight imbalance in favor of responsiveness over demandingness did not enhance or detract from adolescent’s competence, but it did affect drug use.”

The authoritatively raised used less drugs than the democratically raised. (Of course, it’s easy to hypothesize that the most well-raised kids with democratic parents drop these experiments quickly because of their strength of character and superior social awareness and skills—but that will have to be set aside for a future study to actually verify. A second hypothesis suggests itself here and would likewise make an interesting future study: Perhaps the authoritatively raised responded to “no-drugs” demands well but once they became older were less self-controlled than their democratically raised counterparts, so they might do more drugs once they leave the nest—since there was no one around making “demands,” and/or these young adults just might stay with them longer once they tried them. Which group will use the least amount of drugs in their twenties and thirties would make a great question for a study to investigate.)

Keep in mind that the conclusions cited here by Baumrind reflect the results of over 25 years of research into parenting styles and the characteristics of kids raised in various ways. Research continues to strengthen and validate the original claims for the superiority of the authoritative (and its cousin, democratic) parenting style. Both P.E.T. and Winning Family Lifeskills are of the democratic type—more responsive than demanding, and avoidance of punishment and bribes—in other words, low-quality Second Wave power is avoided and high-quality Third Wave power—such as knowledge, relationship influence, compassion, empathy, wisdom, reciprocity, rationality, natural consequences and good conflict resolution and verbal communication habits—are employed.

There are difficulties with Baumrind's excessive use of control which many parenting experts cite. See Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs.