Today, the authoritative parenting style is perceived as the golden standard for appropriate parent-chid interactions. However, in many cultures, parents may have an authoritarian approach because they want to raise their children within the culture of respect. They may prioritize different socialization goals, such as respect over emotional closeness with their children. This was true in my family-of-origin; however, today, I am using the authoritative approach with my children.
Culture influences parenting in various ways. The outcomes for children also vary. When it comes to European American children, the authoritative parenting style is linked to better academic outcomes. However, for Asian American children this is not as relevant; since the research shows that the authoritarian style of parenting also leads academic success.
However, I believe that they authoritative style of parenting is still beneficial for all children, regardless of culture. While, there may be times that we want to parent in an authoritarian way to promote particular socialization goals such as respect—I believe that Asian American children need authoritative parenting for their emotional and social development.
Background on Parenting Styles
The parenting styles emerged in the early 1960s by psychologist Diane Baumrind. Through her extensive research on parent-child relationships, she noted that parents often fell into authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive styles of parenting. Based on these different parenting styles, children also had different outcomes.
The authoritarian style is characteristic of parents who are high in control/ demandingness and low in warmth/responsiveness towards their child. Authoritarian parents want obedient children who do not ask questions. The phrase that is often used is “Because I said so…” They have a set of fixed rules and standards that children need to abide by and they may use physical punishment with children who do not listen. Parents do not reason or negotiate with their children when creating or enforcing rules. As a result, the research shows that children are not encouraged to think for themselves or to think critically (Baumrind, 1966).
On the other hand, permissive parents are low in control/demandingness and high in warmth/responsiveness towards their children. Permissive parents want to be friends with their children. They do not have consequences for when their child misbehaves and for the most part, allow their children to regulate their own activities. As a result, children do not have the opportunity to develop important skills that are needed for future success in life. Parents do not set expectations for their children, and thus, they are not giving the opportunity to practice skills such as, self control. These children are the least self-reliant, curious, and self-controlled (Baumrind, 1966).
Thus, the research points to authoritative parenting practices as the best way to parent because it leads to the best outcomes for children. It takes the best dimensions of the two parenting styles described above. The parenting style is described as high in warmth/responsiveness and high in control/demandingness. With this approach, parents provide reasonable limits for their child while also being responsive to their needs. Parents use reasoning when reinforcing rules; thus, children know the rationale behind the rules and expectations that are set for them and can exchange in a verbal give and take with their parents. Parents listen to their child’s objections and based on the situation may be flexible with what is expected of them. The research shows that children of parents who use this approach are more self-reliant, self-controlled, content, and curious about learning and exploring the environment (Baumrind, 1966). In addition, they have a happier disposition to life, well developed social skills, and better academic outcomes (Baumrind, 1966).
When Culture Intersects with Parenting Styles
However, much of the research on parent-child relationships has been conducted using Western populations. As a result, recommendations made on “best parenting practices” may not apply to families from culturally diverse backgrounds. For European Americans the authoritative parenting style is associated with closeness and emotional ties between the parent and the child, which in turn promotes better academic outcomes.
Researchers have found that the authoritative parenting style may not be as relevant to Asian American populations. The research has found that the authoritative parenting style does not matter for Asian American families in terms of educational outcomes. Many Asian American families who employ an authoritarian style of parenting have children who do well in school and have achieved academic success. Thus, some say that the authoritarian approach is not as detrimental as many may believe.
The authoritarian approach is used by parents from different cultural backgrounds because they may prioritize different socialization goals for their children. Research suggests that some Asian American parents use an authoritarian parenting style because they prioritize respect over closeness with their child. Through an authoritarian approach, these parents promote the importance of parental control, the need to work hard, to be self-disciplined and to do well in school. Thus, research suggests that it is important to look into qualities such as respecting parents when thinking about school success for Asian American children.
Why Authoritative Parenting Is Needed for Asian American Children
When looking at parenting styles and school performance, authoritative parenting is not the only parenting style that is associated with school success. However, as a parent, educator and researcher, I believe that it is important to take a look at the whole child. Researcher Desiree Qin notes that that many Asian American children deal with an adjustment/achievement paradox: Asian American children have high levels of academic achievement but low levels of psychological and social adjustment. Thus, it is important for parents to meet the emotional needs of their children. The authoritarian parenting style has also been equated with children having poor social skills, anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem. Research studies have also found that Asian American children are more likely to experience depression and thoughts of suicide due to problems that originate with their families.
While every parent may prioritize different goals for their children, it is important to remember that we need to put the academic, social, emotional, and cultural needs of our children first. The interactions that we have with our children are shaping the skills they acquire (e.g.,reasoning, negotiating, critical thinking) and who they become (e.g., self-confident, responsible, curious, social, respectful individuals).
By Amita Roy Shah, Ed.D.