Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Overly Strict, Controlling Parents Risk Raising Delinquent Kids

Study Looks at Parenting Styles and Their Possible Effects on Kids’ Behaviors
By
WebMD Health News

Feb. 23, 2012 -- Many parents may think that taking a hard line with their kids will keep them on the straight and narrow, but a new study suggests this is not always the case.

Uber-strict parents who rule with a controlling, iron fist -- while not giving their children a chance to speak their mind -- are more likely to raise children who are disrespectful and engage in delinquent behaviors such as stealing, hurting others, and/or substance abuse.

“Kids don’t view them as a legitimate authority figure and are more likely to break the rules,” says researcher Rick Trinkner. He is a doctoral candidate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

The new findings appear in the Journal of Adolescence.

Trinkner and colleagues analyzed data from the New Hampshire Youth Study of middle- and high school-aged students. Students answered three questionnaires during an 18-month period. Questions concerned their parents’ discipline style, how they viewed their parents, and their history of delinquent behaviors.

There are basically three types parenting styles:

  • Authoritative parents show discipline but also some warmth.
  • Authoritarian parents show a lot of discipline and no warmth.
  • Permissive parents show a lot of warmth and no discipline.

 

Authoritative Parenting Gets Respect and Results

According to the new study, authoritarian parents are most likely to raise children who are disrespectful of parental authority and/or engage in delinquent behaviors. Being overly permissive also has its downsides. The key is to strike it somewhere in the middle, Trinkner says.

“The best approach, from my perspective, is to be an authoritative parent. This means have discipline and standards for behavior and also showing warmth and also being receptive to a child's needs.”

This starts by talking with, but not at, your child. “Allow your child to explain their concerns, anxiety, or problems with your rules, but this doesn’t mean you instantly give in,” he says.

Put another way: Children should have a voice, but not a vote. “Children should have the opportunity to explain where they are coming from,” Trinkner tells WebMD. “Listen, but let them know this is still not going to fly and tell them why.”

Susan Newman, PhD says good parenting starts early with clear boundaries and behavioral expectations. Newman is a social psychologist in Middlesex County, N.J., and author of several books, including The Case for the Only Child.

It is important to explain to teens why you are putting a rule in place, she says. “Allow your child to explain his or her mistake/error in not adhering to a rule, because not giving a child a chance to be heard will probably result in the opposite of what you are trying to teach.”

Also, admit when you might have been wrong to increase your legitimacy as a parent. “This, too, will help increase your credibility, earn your adolescent’s respect, and ideally open the door for him to come to you in the future with problems,” Newman tells WebMD.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow