Is Always Authoritative the Optimum Parenting Style? Evidence from Spanish Families

By Garcia, Fernando; Gracia, Enrique | Adolescence, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Is Always Authoritative the Optimum Parenting Style? Evidence from Spanish Families


Garcia, Fernando, Gracia, Enrique, Adolescence


Research conducted mainly in Anglo-Saxon contexts with European-American samples has traditionally identified authoritative parents (i.e., warm and responsive parents that provide at the same time firm control and maturity demands) as the optimal parenting style as it has been consistently associated with optimum outcomes of children and adolescents. However, studies conducted in Anglo-Saxon contexts with ethnic minority groups, as well as research carried out in other cultural contexts, cast doubt on whether the authoritative style of parenting is always associated with optimum adjustment of children and adolescents. The aim of this paper is to establish which parenting style is associated with optimum youth outcomes among adolescents of Spanish families. In order to adequately contextualize this study we first examine how parenting styles are theoretically defined. Second, we review research supporting the idea that authoritative parenting is the optimal parenting style as well as research questioning this idea. Third, we explore different theoretical ideas that may account for these inconsistencies. Finally, we draw from this background to propose our hypotheses.

A Two-dimension, Four-typology Model of Parenting Styles

Research examining relationships between parenting styles and children's outcomes largely follow a four-typology model of parental socialization styles. The four-typology or quadripartite model of parental socialization emerged from the theoretical work of Maccoby and Martin (1983), in which they reviewed Baumrind's (1967, 1971) initial tripartite model--authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting--proposing a new two-dimensional framework of parental socialization in which the dimensions, responsiveness and demandingness, were theoretically orthogonal (Darling & Steinberg, 1993, pp. 491-492; Smetana, 1995, p. 299; Steinberg, 2005, p. 71). These dimensions mirrored the traditional parenting dimensions of warmth and strictness (Sears, Maccoby, & Levin, 1957; Schaefer, 1959), as "responsiveness was often operationalized using measures of parental warmth and acceptance, while demandingness came to be defined with respect to parental firmness" (Steinberg, 2005, p. 71). The combination of the two dimensions--responsiveness (warmth) and demandingness (strictness)--defined four types of parenting styles: authoritative parents--responsive and demanding; neglectful--neither responsive nor demanding; indulgent parents--responsive but not demanding; and authoritarian parents--demanding but not responsive.

This two-dimension four-typology model of parenting was an important advance with respect to Baumrind's initial tripartite model in the sense that it divided the original "permissive" category in two, differentiating theoretically between neglectful and indulgent according to degree of responsiveness (warmth), in the same way as the distinction is drawn between authoritarian and authoritative according to degree of demandingness (strictness). As Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, and Dornbusch (1991) observed "most discussions and empirial tests of Baumrind's model ... ignore variations in warmth among families characterized by low levels of control, grouping these families together into a single category labeled "permissive" (p. 1050). According to Lamborn et al. (1991), this four-typology or quadripartite model stressed the need to consider the combination of the two parenting dimensions in the analysis of its relationships with youth outcomes. Lamborn et al. (1991) validated the four-typology model with a diverse sample of approximately 10,000 high school students in the USA. This model allowed them to examine explicitly whether within the permissive category of the three-typology model the fact that the parents were so cold with their children like the authoritarian (i.e., "neglectful permissiveness"), or on the contrary, were so emotionally involved like the authoritative parents (i. …

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