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Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting Styles [Infographic]

Authoritative parenting and authoritarian parenting are the two most common parenting styles. Let’s compare these two parenting styles’ characteristics and effects on children.

Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritative and authoritarian sound pretty similar. These two parenting styles in psychology both imply authority. However, although their names are similar, they have completely different principles and effects on children.

Here is the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting in characteristics.

Authoritative mother shows care to child's study. Authoritarian mother points finger at child's study - authoritative vs authoritarian

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Parental Warmth

Compared with authoritarian parents, authoritative parents are likely to be warm, nurturing and responsive.

According to Attachment Theory, developed by psychologist, Mary Ainsworth in 1970s, responsive parenting creates secure attachment in the child. Children with secure attachment are happier and healthier. Many studies confirm that compared with the children of authoritarian parents, the children of authoritative parents are indeed more content​1​.

Because authoritative parents are responsive to their children’s emotional needs, kids from authoritative families have good emotional control. They develop resilience and can recuperate quickly from setbacks.

Compared to authoritative parents, authoritarian parents are the exact opposite in terms of warmth and responsiveness. Authoritarian parents are cold and non-responsive. They view children’s sensitive emotion as weakness and suppress it.

Freedom

Authoritative parents allow their kids to seek autonomy and independence. Instead of tight control, they closely monitor their children’s behavior and correct them as needed. Studies show that parental monitoring substantially reduce a child’s risk in antisocial behavior, delinquency and drug abuse​2​. Parental monitoring is most likely to be effective and healthy when it is in a warm and supportive relationship.

Authoritative parents also involve their children in making decisions for the family. Bidirectional communication are encouraged.

On the other hand, authoritarian parents discourage independence seeking. They do not involve children in decision making. Kids are given orders instead of requests from the parents.

Rules

Both authoritative and authoritarian parents are strict and have high expectation of their kids.

Authoritative parents are strict and warm, while authoritarian parents are strict and cold.

Authoritative parents discuss and explain rules to their children. They are open to give-and-take discussion and will modify rules if appropriate. Children are taught to think critically about the reasons behind each rule. Because kids with authoritative parents can speak their mind and participate in decision making, they are more assertive and have higher self-esteem.

Authoritarian parents only allows one-way communication. They use “because I said so” as the reason for rules. Children are expected to blindly obey without questions. They are not allowed to have or voice their opinions. Kids are often “seen but not heard”. Children whose parents have an authoritarian parenting style can be insecure and apprehensive.

Control

Both authoritative and authoritarian parents hold very high standards and control over the kids’ behavior.

However, authoritarian parents also impose tight psychological control over their kids. They believe that they are the authorities who are always right. Their kids need to accept their judgement and values at all times.

Authoritarian parents seem to worry about under-controlling their children. Therefore, they want to do the opposite but use the other extreme, i.e. become controlling parents to over-control their children.

Authoritarian parents rely on a child’s sense of fear toward the parents to exert psychological control. Children whose parents use psychological control as a means of discipline are more likely to be submissive, apprehensive and dependent. Some children fight to be free from such control resulting in externalizing behavior problems​3​.

Discipline

Authoritative parents tend to use non-punitive measures such as time-in and natural consequence to discipline.

Authoritarian parents favor punitive punishment.

Interestingly enough, although authoritative parents allow children to have more freedom and autonomy, their standards are usually higher  than the authoritarian parents’. They also follow through on the consequence more consistently.

Similar CharacteristicsAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
StandardsSet high standards. Expect kids to follow rules Set high standards. Expect kids to follow rules
Different CharacteristicsAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
Parental WarmthWarm, nurturing and involved in the child’s schooling and lifeCold, non-nurturing and less involved in the child’s schooling and life
FreedomAutonomy and independence are allowed. Bidirectional communication is encouragedDo not allow independence. One-way communication. Children’s opinions are not heard or allowed
RulesUse reasoning to explain limits. Have give-and-take discussionsUse “Because I said so” to explain limits
DisciplineVery consistent in disciplining using non-punitive measures such as inductive discipline, time-in or natural consequence. Focus on teaching correct behaviorPunitive. Focus on punishing wrong behavior to deter future occurrence.
ControlAllow freedom within reasonable limits. Encourage autonomy and independence.Believe in total control over kids, behaviorally and psychologically. Kids are expected to obey parents without question.
Warm parent with happy kid, cold parent with sad kid - parents effect on child

Effects On Kids

Authoritative parenting results in better outcomes in children overall. The only exception is that some inconsistencies in school performance are found in other ethnic groups, such as African Americans and Asian Americans.

Having high standards and enforcing limits consistently may be the reasons why kids with authoritative parents achieve higher academic results​4​.

Another factor for high academic performance is high parental involvement in authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents tend to monitor children’s homework and volunteer in their schools. Research has found that involvement by parents is directly linked to better school performance​5​.

But authoritarian parents also have high standards and enforce limits. Some are also very involved in the child’s schooling (e.g. Tiger mom parenting). This could potentially explain why in some cultures, such as the Chinese, authoritarian parenting is associated with better grades.

However, authoritarian parents hold tight psychological control and favor punitive punishment for discipline. Despite the academic success, kids with authoritarian parents are more depressed and have more mental issues​1​.

Kids’ OutcomeAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
MoodTend to be happy and contentTend to have unhappy dispositions
Self-esteemHave high self-esteem. Are more assertive and self-reliant.Are insecure and apprehensive. Some are also submissive and dependent.
Self-RegulationGood emotional control and resilient. Recover from setback quickly.More likely to become hostile and regressive under pressure
RelationshipsAffiliative. Well liked by peers.Non-affiliative. Tend not to get along with peers.
Mental Well-beingGood mental healthMore mental issues such as depression, anxiety and drug use
Academic PerformanceHigh academic achievements. More active in school activities.Generally lower academic performance, but inconsistent results are found in some sub-population
Authoritative vs authoritarian infographic

References

  1. 1.
    Darling N, Steinberg L. Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin. 1993:487-496. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.113.3.487
  2. 2.
    Dishion TJ, McMahon RJ. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 1998:61-75. doi:10.1023/a:1021800432380
  3. 3.
    Lamborn SD, Mounts NS, Steinberg L, Dornbusch SM. Patterns of Competence and Adjustment among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families. Child Development. October 1991:1049. doi:10.2307/1131151
  4. 4.
    Steinberg L, Lamborn S, Dornbusch S, Darling N. Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Dev. 1992;63(5):1266-1281. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1446552.
  5. 5.
    Izzo CV, Weissberg RP, Kasprow WJ, Fendrich M. A Longitudinal Assessment of Teacher Perceptions of Parent Involvement in Children’s Education and School Performance. American Journal of Community Psychology. December 1999:817-839. doi:10.1023/a:1022262625984
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