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Adolescents' actions vary depending on parenting style

Published on -8/11/2014, 8:55 AM

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This is the second in a series on parenting adolescents.

Q: What are the main parenting styles and their effects on adolescents?

A: In an article by Kimberly Kapko, department of policy analysis and management associate, Cornell University, the relationship between parenting styles and adolescent behavior is explained. The author based her analysis on the work of psychologist Diana Baumrind. The two aspects upon which Baumrind's theory rests are parental control and parental warmth.

The most desirable parenting style is authoritative not to be confused with authoritarian. Authoritative is warm and firm, whereas authoritarian parents are controlling and strict and punitive. Authoritative parents are warm, encourage independence in their teens while providing limits. They listen to their adolescents and take into consideration their views.

Authoritative parents discuss issues with their teens but maintain ultimate responsibility, limits and controls. Adolescents learn how to negotiate and discuss and know their opinions are important. Adolescents raised by authoritative parents are independent, responsible and socially competent.

Authoritarian parents are controlling and lack warmth. They are strict, punitive and insistent adolescents adhere totally to their directions. They use phrases such as, "Uou'll do it because I said so," and, "because I am your parent." These parents do not discuss, and family rules and standards are inflexible.

Authoritarian parents expect teens to accept unquestionably their rules and expectations. They value strict discipline, not independent behavior. Adolescents with authoritarian parents can become dependent or rebellious. Dependent teens are more submissive and tend to remain dependent longer on their parents. Rebellious teens often develop aggressive behaviors that can develop into delinquency.

The third type of parenting style is permissive. These parents are warm but undemanding. They parent by indulging their teens and expecting little or nothing. These parents believe the best way to show love to their teenagers is to give in to their wishes. They use such phrases as, "You can stay up all night if you wish," and, "you don't have to do any chores if you don't want".

Consequently, these teenagers make important decisions with no parental input. Parents believe they are resources whom their teens can ask for advice if they wish. These adolescents learn there are few boundaries or rules and the consequences are not usually serious. Such teens struggle with self-control and might have egocentric traits that interfere with the development of relationships with peers.

Another variation is the permissive parent who has reasonable expectations and rules for chores, academics, jobs and other rules but does not follow through. The children thus resemble those with permissive parents, but these parents are inconsistent. The teens learn to discount what parents say and know they eventually will let things go.

The fourth type of parents is the uninvolved parents. They are detached and distant from their teens and might border on neglectful. They keep interaction to a minimum. They are indifferent to their teenager's needs, experiences with peers or at school, and don't care about the whereabouts of their children. They do not want to be bothered, either because they are overwhelmed themselves or because they are self-centered. Another reason they might be negligent is because they have stopped trying to maintain any authority.

Research with adolescents of uninvolved parents reveals uninvolved parents are interested in their own lives but not in parenting. Adolescents with uninvolved parents resemble those with permissive parents. Teens with permissive parents also exhibit impulsive behaviors because they lack self-regulation skills.

Developmental psychology research endorses the authoritative style of parenting as optimal for adolescents. This style provides affection, support and a good balance of parental control. Teens with authoritative parents become self-reliant with a good sense of autonomy within parental guidelines. However, many parents use a mix or style although predominantly one style. For example, extending weekend curfews is more permissive but might be used by parents who usually are more authoritative.

When parents differ between themselves on parenting styles, they need to get together without the children and reach areas of agreement. Inconsistency allows manipulation opportunities from children plus unhealthy guidelines and confusion.

Parenting styles are not wholly one-sided. Children influence parents as well as parents influencing children. Behavior patterns of children might elicit different parenting behavior. For example, an uncooperative and argumentative teenager might elicit either an authoritarian or non-involved style.

Past research in developmental psychology focused on the interaction between one child and the parents. There needs to be a consideration of the adolescent outcomes related to parenting styles for all the children in order to evaluate parenting style effectiveness.

Research that studies parent-adolescent relationships is evaluating the effect of parenting styles on adolescents, the interaction between parents and teens, and the interaction with genetic factors.

* Next week's article will continue a discussion of additional aspects of parenting styles and adolescent behavior.

Judy Caprez is associate professor

of social work at Fort Hays State University. Send your questions

in care of the department

of sociology and social work.

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