Authoritarian and Authoritative Parenting Styles

by Lynn Anders

According to doctor and author Kenneth R. Ginsburg in “Building Resilience in Children and Teens,” there are three general types of parenting when it comes to discipline techniques. They are authoritarian, permissive or disengaged, and authoritative. While the permissive and disengaged parent rarely sets limits, if at all, authoritarian and authoritative parents do set limits. Those limits are set and enforced much differently between the authoritarian and the authoritative parent. One particular style has shown in multiple studies to raise kids who less often “engage in worrisome behaviors and are more likely to be resilient,” and that is the authoritative parenting style, reports Ginsburg.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parents believe their child should do exactly as they say for no other reason than they are the parents and are in charge. Strict limits and boundaries are set, with little to no room for flexibility for the child. The child is not allowed to question or debate the rules and consequences. There are high expectations in all aspects of life for the child, from grades to sports.

Authoritative Parenting

The authoritative parent creates a balance between setting strict limits or rules and letting the child make decisions herself, even if it means she will sometimes make a bad decision. These parents offer support and lend an ear to encourage positive decision making. They are willing to listen to their child’s opinion on rules and may even compromise at times. They set realistic expectations, rather than unattainable ones. They are not permissive, however. They will set strict rules that are inflexible for major decisions such as dating age, curfew and doing homework.

Children of Authoritarian Parents

Children raised by authoritarian parents will often rebel, and the teenage years can be hard for both the child and parent, with lots of fighting and rule breaking. They also have a hard time making their own decisions once they are out of the house and living on their own because they have had little practice in doing so. They may also lack self-discipline and self-control, as these skills were always handled by the parent. Psychologist Madeline Levine reports in “The Price of Privilege” that these children often have “low self-esteem, poor social skills and high rates of depression.”

Children of Authoritative Parents

Multiple studies over 40 years have demonstrated that children with authoritative parents become healthy, self-confident adults. Levine states that research has shown that these children have “better social skills, higher grates, lower rates of substance abuse and less depression than children from either permissive or authoritarian households.”


  • The Price of Privilege; Madeline Levine, Ph.D.; 2008
  • Building Resilience in Children and Teens; Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D.; 2006

About the Author

Lynn Anders has more than 15 years of professional experience working as a zookeeper, wildlife/environmental/conservation educator and in nonprofit pet rescue. Writing since 2007, her work has appeared on various websites, covering pet-related, environmental, financial and parenting topics. Anders has a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies and biology from California State University, Sacramento.

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