Controlling Parenting Linked with Delinquent Behavior

Brad M. Griffin | Feb 20, 2012

We have great respect for what our friends at HomeWord are doing to help families. In HomeWords culture brief this week, they point to a recent study from the University of New Hampshire on parenting styles and delinquency among adolescents.

The primary insight from the study is that more controlling authoritarian parents are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures than authoritative parents who listen to their children and gain their respect and trust. While other studies have explored parenting styles and various outcomes, this is apparently the first study to look specifically at how parenting style influences the adolescents belief about parental authority (Is my parent a legitimate authority figure?) and whether those beliefs are correlated with delinquent behavior. In this case, they were.

Similar to authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting is fairly high-demand and high-control, giving children clear boundaries and keeping them. But unlike the emotional coolness of authoritarian parenting, in the authoritative style rule-keeping is coupled with relational warmth and conversation. Authoritative parents listen to their childrens feedback on rules and explain the rationale for boundaries or discipline. According to the studys findings:

The style that parents used to rear their children had a direct influence on whether those children perceived their parents as legitimate authority figures. Adolescents who perceived parents as legitimate were then less likely to engage in delinquent behavior Conversely, authoritarian parents have the opposite effect in that they actually reduce the likelihood of their children perceiving their authority as legitimate.

As a parent, I understand the temptation to go the route of Because I said so in response to push-back from kids on boundaries. And let me tell you, I often dont have the energy or patience to explain every limit I set or answer every question I get in response. But this research is a good reminder that in more ways than one, parenting with both authority and emotional connection tends to pay off in the long haul.

Its also a reminder that as parents we need more than research to help us parent well; we need communities around us to support us, remind us, listen to our struggles, and help parent our children alongside us.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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