Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Are You Creating a Delinquent Teen?

“Do what I say or else?”

Does this authoritarian parenting style work to curb delinquent behavior in teens?

How do you establish authority over a teenager?

What does it take to say something with conviction, mean it and have your teen respect you?

These questions were answered in a recent study published in the February issue of The Journal of Adolescence*. The researchers looked at parenting style, teen’s perception of parental legitimacy and changes in delinquent behavior. To do so, they assessed three different parenting styles: authoritative (demanding and controlling but responsive to teen need), authoritarian (controlling and demanding but detached from teen need)  and permissive (non-demanding and non-controlling but few boundaries). What they found was this:


1) When parents take the “My way or the highway” approach to parenting (authoritarian), teens do not see those parents as legitimate and thus do not respect or listen to those parents.

2) When authoritative parenting is done by first listening to your teens, gaining their respect and trust, teens shape up.

A key point of the study was this notion of parent legitimacy. When a teen feels a parent is a legitimate authority because he or she is listened to and his or her needs are heard, the chance of trusting that parent and doing what is asked is heightened. So the take away from this study is this: Authoritative parenting styles work best because they gain the trust and cooperation of teens. Teens see those parents as legitimate authority figures and are more likely to do what those parents say. Demanding compliance with no parental legitimacy developed doesn’t work. And the permissive style had little impact on teen behavior.


Listen to your kids and show you care, but still put on the boundaries. They need parents whom they trust are looking out for their good, even when they don’t like the rules.




*Source: University of New Hampshire (2012, February 10). Controlling parents more likely to have delinquent children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved

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