Unpacking Authoritative Parenting: Reassessing a Multidimensional Construct

Article excerpt

This study examines the independent and joint contributions of three core dimensions of authoritative parenting-acceptance-involvement, strictnesssupervision, and psychological autonomy granting-to adolescent adjustment. A sample of 8, 700 14- to IS-year-olds completed questionnaires that included indices of authoritative parenting and a set of instruments assessing different aspects of adjustment. Behavior problems were related more strongly to behavioral control than to psychological autonomy granting. Psychosocial development and internal distress were more strongly associated with both psychological autonomy granting and acceptance-involvement than with behavioral control Academic competence demonstrated significant relations with all three parenting variables. Curvilinear and interactive relations between parenting practices and adolescent adjustment were observed, but the specific pattern varied as a function of outcome assessed.

Over the past four decades, a considerable body of research has accumulated on the relation between psychological well-being in childhood and adolescence and two fundamental aspects of parenting: control and acceptance. This literature has consistently shown that parental acceptance, inductive discipline, nonpunitive punishment practices, and consistency in childrearing are each associated with positive developmental outcomes in children (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Since the early 1970s, this constellation of practices has come to be known as authoritative parenting, one of several prototypic styles of parenting identified in the seminal studies of Diana Baumrind (1967, 1971). Children who are raised in authoritative homes score higher than their peers raised in authoritarian, indulgent, or neglectful homes on a variety of measures of competence, social development, selfperceptions, and mental health (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Several recent studies have applied Baumrind's model to explain variations in patterns of adolescent development, including academic achievement, psychosocial development, behavior problems, and psychological symptoms (e.g., Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989; Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992; Steinberg, Mounts, Lamborn, & Dornbusch, 1991), and these reports find that adolescents, like their younger counterparts, benefit from authoritative parenting. Although the strong positive effects of authoritative parenting have been more consistently reported in studies of White, rather than nonWhite, youth (see, for example, Baumrind, 1972; Chao, 1994), no large-scale systematic studies ever have indicated that nonauthoritative parenting has more beneficial effects on adolescent development than authoritative parenting, regardless of the population studied.

Despite the breadth and consistency of these findings, most empirical studies of parenting practices and adolescent outcomes continue to focus on single dimensions of the parent-child relationship considered independently. They leave unanswered several questions about the precise nature of this relationship. Three questions, in particular, define the focus of the study presented here. The first concerns the effects of parental control, a construct that continues to evolve amidst debate over its conceptualization (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994). Although the distinction between psychological control-the relative degree of emotional autonomy that parents allowand behavioral control-the level of monitoring and limit setting that parents use-was articulated more than 30 years ago (Schaefer, 1965; see also Barber et al., 1994, and Steinberg, 1990), little empirical research has focused on the differential effects of these types of control. In light of existing theories about the potential impact of parental intrusiveness (e.g., an excess of psychological control) on the development of internalizing problems and the potential impact of parental leniency (e. …


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