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" Parental authority " : What do we know about the construct?



The issue of “parental authority” has been the focus of social interest for many generations, however, in recent times, in light of the increasing violence and other abnormal phenomena among children and adolescents, it is gaining greater attention from the public. Due to the opacity around the concept’s essence, the goal of this article is to establish detailed and profound conceptualization for the construct of parental authority, while relying on relevant theoretical and empirical literature. Analysis of the concept has shown that it is a bi-dimensional theoretical construct (power and legitimacy), with its dimensions sharing four main aspects: (a) parental power: parental demandingness, and parental potential influence on the child’s behavior, (b) legitimate parental authority: the parent’s right to demand, and the child’s obligation to obey. Parental authority is expressed under parent-child conflict (disagreement), while its extant varies according to child’s age and the specific context in which it appears.
International Journal of Educational Research and Development Vol. 2(9), pp. 211-219, October 2013
Available online at
ISSN 2327-316X ©2013 Academe Research Journals
Parental authority”: What do we know about the
Yosi Yaffe
Osishkin St. 38/7, Kiryat Motzkin, Israel. E-mail:
Accepted 20 September, 2013
The issue of “parental authority” has been the focus of social interest for many generations, however,
in recent times, in light of the increasing violence and other abnormal phenomena among children and
adolescents, it is gaining greater attention from the public. Due to the opacity around the concepts
essence, the goal of this article is to establish detailed and profound conceptualization for the
construct of parental authority, while relying on relevant theoretical and empirical literature. Analysis of
the concept has shown that it is a bi-dimensional theoretical construct (power and legitimacy), with its
dimensions sharing four main aspects: (a) parental power: parental demandingness, and parental
potential influence on the child’s behavior, (b) legitimate parental authority: the parent’s right to
demand, and the child’s obligation to obey. Parental authority is expressed under parent-child conflict
(disagreement), while its extant varies according to child’s age and the specific context in which it
Key words: Parental authority, children, power, legitimacy.
Recently, many professionals and researchers use the
term parental authority. Although its theoretical
definition remains obscure and even controversial, some
researchers avoid clarifying this concept explicitly, and
tend to refer its significance as obvious. While
professionals point the weakening parental authority in
the western society as a main factor for increasing
pathological phenomena among youths, a review of the
relevant literature evokes a surprising difficulty to trace a
clear and comprehensive definition of the concept. This is
contrary to the fact that the relevant body of knowledge
offers solid frames of reference in the field of parenting,
which gained an impressive empirical support over the
course of time. Accordingly, the main goal of this article is
to establish an integrative and profound theoretical
conceptualization of parental authority, which provides an
extensive description of its essence and characteristics.
This article, however, does not attempt to produce a new
typology nor a distinctive theoretical framework beyond
the parenting styles or practices known in the literature.
The following analysis of the concept will distill the
relevant bodies of knowledge in the field of parenting, in
order to develop a strict frame of reference for the
construct of parental authority which is missing in the
A conceptualization of this construct may be profitable
for professionals as well as researchers when attempting
to define parental authority characteristics in operative
and concrete terms. It also might lay the foundations for
developing a compatible measurement tool, intended for
quantitative assessment of the construct of parental
When addressing an educated discussion regarding
authority in the familial and parental context, it is
essential to consider first the concept’s original and basic
characteristics. These foundations will largely outline the
ideological and conceptual framework of which the further
discussion on parental authority will be based upon.
Authority has been defined as the power which is
perceived as legitimate, which allows an individual to
achieve desired goals from others, sometimes against
their will. Power, which underlies authority, refers to the
probability that an actor which acts within a certain
social relationship will be able to carry out his will in spite
of the others opposition (Weber, 1968). Indeed, there is
consent among a long series of theoreticians which
studied the concept, regarding the fundamental
Yaffe 212
assumption in which authority refers to different forms of
legitimate power (Blau, 1964; French and Raven, 1959).
Yukl (1994) explains that authority is based on the
conceptions regarding the rights, commitments and fields
of responsibility associated with certain social positions
within companies, or in other social systems. It contains
the perception regarding the position of holder’s right to
affect specific aspects of the behavior of others.
Furthermore, he defines the authority owner as an
agent who possesses the right to issue an order or
specific request, while the other side obligated to comply
Originally, Weber (1968) described three types of pure
authority within the social framework, which is based on
different kinds of legitimacy sources. The rational
authority refers to control which legitimized bylaw and
rules that give authority owner the right to exercise power
within the formal institution. The traditional authority,
contrasting with rational authority, is predicated on beliefs
in ancient traditional patterns, which validate the
legitimate authority of its owner. Ultimately, the
charismatic authority is based upon a line of personality
traits attributed with a certain person, which validate and
legitimate his dictations, orders and directives.
Accordingly, the classical term of authority reflects
ones pragmatic ability to affect another’s behavior, while
the latter acknowledges his right to do so, even though it
may contradict his will or interests. Authority may be
derived from different sources, while the central ones
relate to tradition, personal charisma and law. It contains
two inherent, bilateral, elements: power and its
legitimacy. Respectively, an exhaustive and valid
definition of authority in the familial context must
encompass these two dimensions, which refer to parental
power on the one hand and its perceived legitimacy on
the other hand.
According to Smith (1971, 1977), parental authority refers
to the extent in which offspring accepts the legitimacy of
parent to control certain aspects of his/her behavior, and
it is distinguished from other parental control bases in two
ways: 1) the childs willingness to comply with parent
directions, while the last in not present to enforce them,
2) the likelihood that the child would willingly obey
parents rules, although he/she does not find them useful
or reasonable. When parents set rule or any kind of
demand which the youth is expected to follow in their
absence, his decision on whether to obey or disobey
depends on his internal standards and his conception of
parental authority (Darling et al., 2007). This is relevant in
particular when there is low probability for him/her to get
punished for breaking the rules, or under circumstances
of low parental enforcement.
The above approach (Smith, 1971) well reflects one of
the fundamental elements of authority; however by
focusing exclusively on the question of legitimacy, it does
not meet the bi-dimensional criterion which the general
definition of authority outlined. It lacks any direct
information about the other aspects of parents authority
which is related to his/her capability and willingness to
control/affect certain aspects of a child’s behavior
A long series of studies of parental authority
conceptions that has been published (Smetana et al.,
2005) also dealt with various aspects of the dimension of
legitimate authority. This body of research extensively
probed children and parentsjudgments about several
issues which are connected to parental authority, such as
the right of parent to set limits, childs obligation to obey
parents rules, authoritys duty to regulate certain actions
of the child and the perceived justification of parental
authority. The fundamental findings of these studies may
illuminate on the essence of the construct of parental
authority. The two main questions that concerned the
researchers focused on the context in which parental
authority is applied and the age effect on its legitimacy
The theoretical framework served in these studies was
derived from the domain specific model of the social-
cognitive development, which claims that there is a
conceptual differentiation between social domains in the
moral judgment of individuals (Turiel, 1983, 2002; Turiel
and Davidson, 1986). This distinction influences the way
parents and children construct and perceive parental
authority, so their conceptions on parental authority vary
across different types of the social domain (Smetana,
1988, 1995). According to the social-cognitive domain
theory, moral domain (referring to issues pertaining to
others’ welfare and rights) is conceptually distinguished
from the conventional domain. The latter pertains to
social conventions with regard to behavioral uniformities
such as a way of speaking, manners, looks, and so on -
relativistic norms underlie different kinds of social
interactions. Moral and conventional domains considered
to be distinguished from the personal domain which refer
to issues pertaining to the individual territory solely,
therefore conceived as out of social regulation and
beyond moral matters. This domain contains issues such
as privacy, preferences regarding performance and
dominance of the body (Nucci, 1981; Smetana, 1994;
Smetana et al., 2005).
Findings of the aforementioned studies consistently
show that parents and children tend to judge legitimacy of
parental authority as a function of the issue discussed.
Apparently there is a consent that parent should have the
right (that is, legitimate authority) to regulate children’s
actions in moral (for example, lying, stealing) and
conventional issues (Smetana, 1988, 1993; Smetana and
Asquith, 1994; Tisak, 1986). In a later study, children and
parents agreed about parents’ legitimate authority
regarding the prudential domain, which refers to negative
and harmful actions, such as smoking, drinking alcohol
and use of drugs (Smetana, 2000). On the other hand, it
was found that with age children consider parental
authority, particularly with respect to personal and
friendship issues, as less legitimate (Smetana, 1988,
2000; Smetana and Asquith, 1994).
Findings showing persistent reduction in parental
authority conceptions among children and youth might be
understood due to progression in moral development
during the course of early adolescent, which is
characterized by autonomic-relativistic reasoning
accompanied by the ability to consider meaning,
intentions and circumstances with respect to specific
action or situation (Piaget, 1932, 1965). Respectively,
parents authority will no longer be considered by child as
uniform as it was in former days, but as contingent in the
context of parents demand. Rules become more
dynamic in the adolescents consciousness and are no
longer treated equally for every part of his life. Whenever
parent’s control goes beyond personal domain
boundaries, adolescents ability to discern and object
gets better, due to his overall cognitive and emotional
developmental progression. Additionally, the childs
development involves experiences and social changes
with regard to child-parent relationship, which lays the
foundations of an expansion in child’s demands of
autonomy and diminution of parents control, as far as the
balance in parent-child power becomes more
Ultimately, while extending their personal domain
boundaries, adolescents gradually remove more and
more issues from parental authority to their personal
jurisdiction, within a process in which parents take part
while lagging in content and pace. While both parties
agree about limiting parental authority to non-intrusive
and non-personal issues during the transition from early
to medial adolescence, they disagree on the question:
where passes the semantically borderline of personal
domain? (Smetana, 2000). Moreover, it was found that
adolescents who attribute less legitimacy to their parents’
authority over personal issues, and believe their parents
to be intruding this domain in their lives, tend to judge
them as psychologically over-controlling (a pattern
identified with parental authoritarianism) (Smetana,
2002). This suggests that psychological control, whose
negative impact on child development is largely
discussed in the literature, may be understood in terms of
particular behavior (action/issue type) rather than solely
on the basis of overall parental practice.
Therefore, the social context directly affects child’s
perception about legitimacy of parental authority and its
underlying control manifestations, as well as his/her
grasp of his parent’s overall pattern of control. However,
issue classification as related to one domain or another
depends on one’s interpretation. This is especially
concerned with different kinds of issues which
simultaneously share a few meanings (usually defined as
Int. J. Educ. Res. Dev. 213
multifaceted by Smetana and her colleagues), so
different individuals, according to their social position (for
example, age, sex, family role), may consider the very
same issue as pertaining to different domains and
ascribe it unequal legitimacy for parental authority
(Smetana, 1988, 2005).
Further evidences reveal the moderation effect of
behavioral and social adjustment among youth on
parental authority conceptions. For instance, it was found
that adolescents who use drugs tended to consider this
action as part of their personal domain, and hence, as
beyond parental authority jurisdiction (Nucci et al., 1991(.
Consistent with that finding, Darling et al. (2008) found
behaviorally disturbed children to be less legitimacy
granting to their parents authority than normative
Taken together, the evidences suggest that parental
authority should be examined in terms of the context in
which it occurs and that various styles of parental
authority might exist next to each other (Smetana, 1995).
Accordingly, an overall and exhaustive definition of this
construct must consider various domains relevant to
parent-child authority relationship. So far, it is realized
that the domain effect on parental authority conceptions
is not exclusively an outcome of an absolute social
significance, but also a product of subjective perceptions
affected by different attribution variables. Many social
issues may be assessed under different criteria and
therefore be considered as pertaining to distinguished
domains. In this regard, parental authority is a relative
concept, in which a significant part of its values is
determined by the characteristics of the reference group.
Additional empiric course of studies led by Darling et al.
(2008, 2007, 2006, 2005) further illuminate the signifi-
cance of the legitimacy of parental authority dimension
with respect to consequential aspects. In their important
study from 2007 that focuses on the aspect of actual
obedience to parent among adolescents, the researchers
found that general agreement with parent and obligation
to obey best predict general obedience. Adolescents who
express global agreement with parent and willingness to
conform to his authority reported elevated level of actual
obedience. Adolescents tendency to comply with
parental demands on the background of specific issues
from their everyday lives was additionally examined.
Controlling for the general agreement with parent and
parental enforcement style, adolescents were found to
best obey when they consider the issues in which they
were asked about as part of parental authority jurisdiction
(legitimate authority), and when they expressed an
obligation to obey, in spite of their specific disagreement.
The findings establish the natural linkage between the
legitimacy dimension of parental authority and actual
obedience among children, and supporting Smith’s
(1977) stand concerning the authority merit as parental
control base. It may be concluded that actual expression
of obedience is largely dependent upon the legitimacy in
Yaffe 214
which adolescent ascribe to parental authority and his
obligation to obey, with relation to a variety of issues.
Current research also expands the understanding
regarding the nature of the discussed construct, which
according to the researcher must be conceptually
distinguished from agreement with parent. While
obedience expressions derived from agreement are
based on consent and parent-child values sharing that
may reflect a successful socialization, expressions of
obedience stem from authority reflect the adolescent’s
acknowledgment of parents right to control his behavior
as opposed to his will and attitudes (Darling et al., 2007).
In that sense, only obedience due to disagreement
constitutes a real parental authority manifestation.
Accordingly, parental authority occurs on a conflictual
basis of disagreement between both parties. Without a
conflict no authority effect is required in order to achieve
obedience. The parent-child conflict reflects the growing
contradiction during youth - between the normative
adolescent attempts to expand his/her psychologically
and behaviorally autonomous boundaries versus the
parents efforts to persist with protecting, regulating and
socializing the child (Smetana, 2002). Conflict of interests
appears, as motioned, with respect to diverse issues
containing different significance, according to the social
domain they represent in the minds of both parties. The
conflict around the network of issues is an instrument in
adolescent’s hands which enables him to challenge
prenatal authority for the purpose of gradual transfer of
conventional issues into his personal jurisdiction
(Smetana, 1995). Fair aspirations of control over
potentially personal issues among adolescents may
indicate a healthy development of successful autonomy
(Smetana et al., 2005). Moreover, with the exception of
differences between children parental authority
conceptions according to childs age, Darling et al. (2008,
2006) have identified patterns of individual differences in
legitimacy attributions to parental authority as a function
of its centrality in the adolescent consciousness.
Accordingly, three specific patterns have been identified:
(1) Parent centered adolescents who tend to consider
their parents’ authority as legitimate in most domains,
and compared it to that of their friends were also more
likely to ascribe legitimacy to their parents authority over
personal domain.
(2) Adolescent centered adolescents tend to consider
their parents’ authority as illegitimate in most domains,
especially respecting the personal domain.
(3) Shared adolescents who tend to distinguish between
domains with regard to their parents authority. While
personal issues are defined as out of parental jurisdiction,
issues pertaining to childs safety and security domains
(that is, prudential) are more likely to be considered as
legitimate for parental authority.
To summarize, a valid parental authority is partly founded
on childs endorsement of his parent legitimacy to control
and regulate his behavior, with relation to various social
contexts (domains). Two of its main conceptual aspects,
the parents right to control and the childs obligation to
obey, were consistently proven to be effective in predict-
ting consequential aspects of parent-child authority-
based relationship (actual obedience and information
disclosure to parent). Hence, taking the dimension of
legitimacy into theoretical consideration, while construc-
ting the properties of authority, seems essential in order
to establish an exhaustive conceptual framework of this
construct in the familial context of children socialization.
Power in the familial context, is defined as the potential or
actual parental ability to influence child’s behavior in
order to change it (Olson and Cromwell, 1975). The three
domains included within that construct are power
outcomes, power bases and power processes (Olson and
Cromwell, 1975; Henry et al., 1989). The first domain, the
consequential, refers to the extent of which parental
power processes and bases succeed in achieving child’s
behavioral change. The second domain, power bases,
refers to the repertoire of sources at the disposal of the
parent for the purpose of affecting child’s behavior
(Smith, 1970; Mcdonald, 1977). These sources also
relate to the potential parent abilities, of which the child
subjectively perceives himself as effective for generating
change in his own behavior.
Several aspects of parental power, mostly derived from
natural position of the parent in the family, and the bases
of power at his disposal due to that, are discussed in the
literature which reveals two central categories of parental
power bases (Henry et al., 1989; Peterson et al., 1985).
The first, force and rewarding, is a base of power (such
as parent preferential natural body size, control of family
resources, etc.), which allows parent decisive advantage
during a conflict and, particularly in early childhood, and
constitute the main basis for legitimate parental authority.
The second, parental expertise (as perceived by the
child) becomes dominant toward the advanced stages of
child’s development, as the natural parental bases of
influence become gradually replaced by others, and
power asymmetry, characterized in early childhood,
decreases (Baumrind, 1968). Baumrind (1968) noted that
during adolescence, parental authority rises and falls
more than once on the parent ability to be the significant
figure required by the growing-up child. In this part of his
life, the adolescent needs the kind of competent parent
who is capable of saying the significant things that are
important for him to hear. As far as the moral thinking and
justice conception of the adolescent increases, the
parental base of power becomes more and more
dependent on his ability to anchor his demands on
reasonable and acceptable arguments and rely on his
best knowledge and experience.
So far, the two aspects of parental power which are
profoundly linked with each other, and positively related
to authority possessed by parent, were examined. The
conflict outcomes which constitute direct indication of
the extent of parental power (or authority) lean on natural
power bases such as coercive power (that is, force) and
rewarding. Additional base, parental expertise, is closely
related to legitimate conceptions of parental authority in
In terms of moral developments, this metamorphosis of
power bases during adolescence may reflect the ongoing
transfer from hetronomic to autonomic moral style,
characterized by evolvement of relativistic and
equalitarian thinking (Piaget, 1965). These moral
characteristics must lead the child to seek reasonable
justification for rules or laws, beyond the parents natural
right to set them or control resources. It is most plausible
therefore that the reliability of the parent as authorized
source of knowledge would affect childs judgment
regarding the rule validity and whether or not to comply
with it (consequential aspect of power).
The third domain included in the parental power model,
power processes, refers to parents actual attempts of
affecting and shaping the childs attitudes and behavior
(Olson and Cromwell, 1975). These processes of
influence, also known in the relevant literature as patterns
of parent control in childs socialization and overall
parenting style, constitute the mainstream frame of
reference within the theoretical and empirical discussion
regarding parental authority. The type of parental
attempts of affecting childs behavior (both derived from
the previously mentioned constructs) are vital for defining
parental authority. This is so because they represent the
potential conflict surrounding issues in which authority
manifestations occur. It can be assumed, for example,
that in the absence of consistent parental limit setting and
demandingness, there is no actual value to the way the
child perceives his parents authority. That is, while
parental authority is being passive (low demandingness),
in fact, there is no actual dilemma on the part of the child
on whether or not to comply as part of acknowledging his
parents authority. Furthermore, on the background of no
parents attempts to regulate the child’s behavior (that is,
low limit setting), it is unlikely that conflict will emerge,
and under the conditions of no conflict or disagreement
between parties, as aforesaid, parental authority is
As previously stated, aspects of parents’ behavior and
their style of educating children’s concern, according to
the above-mentioned model, to parental processes of
power (Henry et al., 1989), are occasionally discussed
under bodies of research and theory of childs sociali-
zation. Researchers have concentrated in identifying
Int. J. Educ. Res. Dev. 215
patterns of parents behavior toward children, which are
relevant to developmental aspects and adjustment of
them. Two of the most fundamental parental elements
identified in this context are parental control and parental
acceptance (Darling and Steinberg, 1993; Steinberg,
2001; Maccoby and Martin, 1983). Other parental
dimensions described within the literature are, for the
most part, stemming from these two, or overlapping them
in their meaning (Darling and Steinberg, 1993; Steinberg
et al., 1992).
Parental control, in its negative form, mainly express
patterns of excessive regulation of childs activity and
behavior, autocratic decision making, overprotection, tight
instruction on how to think and feel, etc (Barber, 1996;
Steinberg et al., 1989). The positive edge of this parental
element is characterized by granting autonomy to the
child, while setting limits and monitoring (Mattanah, 2001;
Steinberg et al., 1992). It is essential however to
distinguish between psychological and behavioral control,
since the latter reflects parental attempts directed at
regulating children’s behavior according to social norms
(Barber et al., 2005), and considered to be functional in
forming childs competence (Baumrind, 2005).
The second element represents overall parental
attitude also known as warmth and respondingness,
which contains aspects such as accepting the childs
emotions, listening and encouraging him, and so on. This
term also refers to the extent of parents emotional and
behavioral involvement in child’s life and activities
(Maccoby, 1992).
The various aspects of parental control and acceptance
have been organized into three global categories of the
overall parenting styles based on parental authority
motive: authoritative, authoritarian and permissive
(Baumrind, 1971), which has undergone revisions,
expansions and updates during the years (Maccoby and
Martin, 1983; Baumrind, 1991). The major dimension
which differentiates between these types of parenthood
refers to the extent in which parent sets limits and
directions, reasons and justifies demands and
expectations, utilizes control and power and provides
emotional support.
The Authoritative parent combines consistent discipline
and limit setting (behavioral control) along with providing
warm and emotional support, reasoning and negotiation.
Authoritative parent tends to educate his offspring upon
rational ground; he would encourage negotiation and
collaborate with child in decision making and
considerations underlying his policy. He acknowledges
his rights as an adult, but would not diminish child’s
rights, individual characters and autonomous aspirations
(Baumrind, 1968, 1971, 1978). During adolescence, a
pattern of granting “psychological autonomy” emerges,
that is shown by the extent of which parent allows and
encourages the development of self-opinions and
personality (Steinberg, 1990; Steinberg et al., 1989).
The Authoritarian parenting style is characterized with
Yaffe 216
high level of control along with low degree of support and
emotional availability. In order to carry out his doctrine,
authoritarian parent will punish and use any coercive
means at his disposal, as long as the child contradicts his
opinion and beliefs. He tends not to negotiate regarding
rules, for he sees himself the supreme authority and
believes that the child should obey him. This parent
would examine a child's behavior according to absolute
standards, he would value respect to authority and
preach to obedience and conformity (Baumrind, 1968,
1971, 1978).
The permissive parenting style is a pattern consisting of
a low level of control along with a high degree of support
and warmth. In contrast to the former styles, he would
allow the child to control and regulate his own behavior,
as much as possible, and would avoid punishment.
Permissive parent may clarify rules, yet he encourages
negotiation of decisions which are concerned with the
child (Baumrind, 1968, 1971, 1978).
Maccoby and Martin (1983) suggested an overlapping
model based on two orthogonal parental dimensions:
demandingness and responsiveness. Responsiveness
refers to the extent of coherency in parental
reinforcement with response to child’s behavior, that is,
the extent in which parent nurtures child individuality,
supports him and respond to his needs and requests.
Demandingness refers to the quantity and quality of the
parents demands, as well as, to the manner of child
monitoring and control by the parent. Its essence is in
parental educational claims, which are meant to regulate
childs behavior and socialize him according to social
norms. Parental demandingness is expressed in
behavioral control and monitoring child activities, while
confronting with him when the need arises.
Out of these two dimensions, four types of parenting
are identified which are behaviorally distinguished:
authoritative parent who is high on two dimensions;
indulgent parent who is high in responsiveness and low in
demandingness; authoritarian which is high in
demandingness and low in responsiveness; and the
uninvolved parent, who is low on both dimensions. It is
possible, therefore, to recognize the conceptual
overlapping between the two parental configurations, with
the exception of the split of Baumrinds permissive
category into two separate sub-categories, which are
varied with relation to responsiveness dimension.
The empirical and professional evidences consistently
point on the linkage between authoritative parental
patterns and positive emotional and social adjustment
characteristics among children and adolescents.
Steinberg’s (2001) work summarizes the empirical
findings cumulated in this field and generally concluded
that adolescents who were raised in authoritative families
enjoy a prominent advantage concerning psychological
development, as compared with adolescents who were
raised in non-authoritative families. Specifically, adole-
scents of authoritative parents show better achievements
in school, report lower levels of anxiety and depression,
tend to be more independent and self-esteemed, and
additionally, they are less likely to develop antisocial
behavior and delinquency.
More contemporary findings support this and show a
consistent relationship between parental practices and
styles, and various developmental and emotional aspects
among adolescents (Heaven and Ciarrochi, 2008a, b;
Jackson et al., 2005; Laible and Carlo, 2004). A recent
study investigated the relationship between parenting
styles and several emotional variables during the late
adolescence and found additional support for the positive
effect on childrens development attributed to the
authoritative parenting qualities (Mckinney et al., 2008).
Specifically, the researchers identified a significant
relationship between perceived authoritative parenting
(regarding both parents sex), as well as parental support,
and elevated self-esteem and diminished levels of
anxiety and depression among girls. Among boys,
however, parental support was found to be significantly
related to all three emotional variables, while mothers
authoritative parenting style was associated in this group
with depression and self-esteem (according to the
expected directions). Consistent with the aforementioned
studies, permissive parenting style was not significantly
related to any emotional variable, while the authoritarian
parenting style showed typical negative effects on the
mentioned emotional variables.
Researchers attribute the positive outcomes identified
with authoritative parenting style to the unique
configuration of support and warmth, along with
behavioral control (that is, demandingness), autonomy
granting and minimal psychological control (Baumrind,
2005). Nevertheless, the role that every parental aspect
plays with relation to childs developmental outcomes is
not yet clear. Although it has been shown that
authoritative parenting traits functionally overlap with
relation to childrens adjustment variables, yet,
concerning to behavioral functioning, parental
demandingness was found to play extremely vital role
(Gray and Steinberg, 1999). It is assumed, wherefore,
that in comparison to permissive parenting style, the
authoritative parent is more effective in the context of
adolescents’ behavior functioning, due to his advantage
in setting limits, demanding and monitoring childs
behavior. In contrast to these authoritative
characteristics, it is proven that children who were raised
in permissive families tend to have more conduct
disorders, including school problems, substance use and
antisocial behavior (Lamborn et al., 1991; Dekovic et al.,
2003; Parker and Benson, 2004).
According to these findings, it can be assumed that
demandingness constitutes a crucial element within the
power processes used by authoritative parent, which is
extremely relevant for defining parental authority. For it is
unreasonable to assume actual parental influence on
child behavior (the consequential aspect of parental
power) in the absence of limits and rules available in
childs mind (derived from parental consistent
demandingness), particularly under circumstances of low
parents presence which is the most common situation
during adolescence.
Finally, a hypothetical model was proposed to bridge
between the two conceptual frameworks pertaining to
parental authority research (that is, authoritative
parenting style and conceptions of parental authority), in
the context of the positive outcomes described in the
literature regarding children’s socialization and discipline
(Darling and Steinberg, 1993). According to the model,
three aspects of legitimate parental authority mediates
between authoritative parenting and desirable
developmental and behavioral outcomes among children:
(1) children of authoritative parents tend to consider their
parental authority as legitimate and feel obligated to obey
them, (2) as a result, they internalize more intensively
their parents social and educational values and (3) thus,
they are more convenient for being socialized by the
parent. So for the most part, their autonomic decisions,
under no parental supervision, are consistent with their
internal values. The cumulative research in this field
displays much of supportive evidence for the current
model (Darling et al., 2006; Smetana and Daddis, 2002).
From the theoretical and empirical evidence concerning
the authority concept in general, and its unique meanings
in the familial contexts, it appears that the current
construct of parental authority represents a parent’s
legitimate effect on childs behavior, whenever it is
against the latters will or attitude. It is about the parents
ability to dictate, determine and change behavior in the
child, who acknowledges the parents legitimate right to
do so in spite his opposition. It is a dynamic concept
which is beyond parents style and practices, and its
extent and limits depend on child’s age and social
domain contexts in which it occurs.
For the most part, parental authority constitutes an
instrument which is used by parent to facilitate his
educational point of view toward his child, and
occasionally utilized for promising conformist behavior
from him/her. Parental authority is known as an effective
control base, which in the current context found
expression mainly in child obedience under disagreement
with parent, in particular when the latter does not attend
to enforce. Parental authority efficacy on top of other
parental control bases is enabled due to the legitimacy
attributed by a child to parents control expressions.
Generally, legitimacy extent in which child’s grants to
parent’s authority depends on the nature of issue is
relevant to parent’s demand (domain context). In this
regard, any compliance derived from agreement with the
Int. J. Educ. Res. Dev. 217
parent would not be considered as authority
manifestation, and should be differentiated from childs
acceptance of parental legitimate authority. Thus,
according to the current conception, parental authority
exists only on conflictual background of parent-child
The additional dimension of parental authority refers to
the extent of parental power. Parental power is
recognized in parent’s tendency to set limits and rules
(demandingness), and his ability to enforce them in order
to achieve obedience from the child, by implementing
various power sources which he possesses. It should be
noted that including the demandingness aspect into
parental authority definition stems from the assumption
that under no limits condition, the conflictual potential is
low and therefore does not require any authoritative
Parental authority, in that context, contains two inherent
bilateral dimensions of which distinguish it from other
forms of parental control. Its bilateral aspect is found in
parental power on the one hand (that is, enforcing control
in child’s behavior) and in the child’s willingness to accept
parents authority on the other hand, out of the latter
acknowledgment of its legitimacy.
The review of the literature reveals the generality of
elements incorporated under the current concept, and
provides an organized frame of reference of parental
authority characteristics. Beside the theoretical benefits
of profoundly understanding the construct, the applied
benefits for professionals should be considered, while
defining aspects in familial functioning relevant to
parental authority. While professionals tend to attribute
many pathological phenomena among adolescents to the
diminished parental authority, it is considerably important
to examine this etiological factor with relation to childrens
outcomes while distinguishing it from other sides of
parenting style which are not directly related to authority.
Only then it will be possible to have a better
understanding regarding the etiological role this specific
trait of parenting style (authority) plays. In this context,
this article’s products set the challenge of developing a
capability of measurement of the actual essence of this
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... Authority refers to the likelihood that an "actor" acting within a certain social relationship will be able to carry out his or her will despite the others' opposition (Weber, 1968). Namely, authority represents different forms and sorts of legitimate power (French & Raven, 1959;Yaffe, 2013), generally varying by the sort of power practiced and the source of legitimacy this power rests upon. Accordingly, the classical term of authority reflects one's pragmatic ability to affect another's behavior, while the latter acknowledges his or her right to do so even though it may oppose his or her will or interests (Yaffe, 2013). ...
... Namely, authority represents different forms and sorts of legitimate power (French & Raven, 1959;Yaffe, 2013), generally varying by the sort of power practiced and the source of legitimacy this power rests upon. Accordingly, the classical term of authority reflects one's pragmatic ability to affect another's behavior, while the latter acknowledges his or her right to do so even though it may oppose his or her will or interests (Yaffe, 2013). ...
... While these two conceptual frameworks of parental authority are distinguished in terms of generalizability and stability over time and contexts (as will be discuss broadly in the chapter), following the bidimensional model of parental authority (Yaffe, 2013(Yaffe, , 2017) the approach adopted here will refer to each framework as representing a different dimension of the parental authority construct (i.e., power and legitimacy). These two inherent dimensions of the classic conception of authority will be analyzed here in the familial context, encompassing parental power assertion (parenting global styles and dimensions, as predominantly derived from Baumrind's typology of types of parental authority) and its perceived legitimacy (i.e., conceptions and beliefs of parental authority, as mainly derived from domain-specific models and reflected in Smetana's and others' work). ...
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To cite this work: Yaffe, Y. (2020). Parental authority: A Contemporary Integrative-theoretical Conceptualization. In N. Roman (Ed.), A Closer Look at Parenting Styles and Practices (pp. 73-96). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. The chapter theoretically analyzes the concept of parental authority by integrating the focal frameworks from the literature on parenting. Its general paradigm anchors the parental models and forms in the fundamental construct of authority as primarily introduced by Max Weber. This theoretical construct generally defines authority in bi-dimensional terms, with power (i.e., the one’s ability to exert control over the other) and the legitimacy to exert power (i.e., the latter’s acceptance of the one’s right to control certain parts of his / her behavior). The chapter provides a preliminary review and discusses in-depth the two general leading bodies of knowledge in the field of parenting, to which the concept of parental authority is related: (a) Global parenting styles and dimensions, as predominantly derived from Baumrind’s typology of types of parental authority; (b) Situational parenting (i.e., conceptions and beliefs of parental authority), as mainly derived from domain-specific models and reflected in Smetana’s and another researchers’ work. Current approaches in the research on parenting tend to treat these two conceptual frameworks of parental authority as distinguished in terms of generalizability and stability over time and contexts (as will be discussed broadly in the chapter). Alongside this, the approach adopted in this chapter refers to each framework as pertaining to a different dimension of the parental authority construct (i.e., power and legitimacy).
... When looking at family communication in general, younger children tend to agree with parental intervention, while older children have a more complex view on the legitimacy of parental authority (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010). For an adolescent to follow parental advice, his or her willingness to comply with their directions will become increasingly important; this willingness constitutes the adolescent's acceptance of parental authority (Yaffe, 2013), which is considered an important factor in terms of child socialization (Darling et al., 2007;Kuhn, Mai Phan, & Laird, 2014). ...
... Parental authority becomes particularly relevant during adolescence, a period marked by a renegotiation of the boundaries between personal autonomy and parental authority. Therefore, the acceptance of parental authority is domain-specific, meaning that it depends on the issue that is at stake (Yaffe, 2013). Parental authority is typically more accepted when it concerns issues that are linked to health and safety (the prudential domain), social conventions, and moral concerns, while it is the least accepted when it concerns issues that are perceived as personal, such as friendships and leisure activities (Smetana, Crean, & Campione-Barr, 2005;Smetana, Metzger, Gettman, & Campione-Barr, 2006). ...
Structural equation modeling is applied to investigate how parents’ communication with their child about his or her Internet use is linked to the child’s acceptance of parental authority in the context of Internet use, and how this in turn is linked to the child’s social media behavior. This study surveyed children aged 13 to 18 and their mothers and fathers (N = 357 families) and found that acceptance of parental authority is a key factor in the effectiveness of parental mediation. It is recommended that parental mediation is studied as a dynamic process shaped by both parents and children.
... (a) parental authority and the potential impact on the child's behavior; (b) the legal authority of the parents, which means the right of the parents to request and the child's duty to obey, to submit to the demands of the parent. Parental authority manifests itself as a conflict between a parent and a child (contradiction, disagreement), but at the same time it varies depending on the child's age and the context in which it appears (Yaffe, 2013). Article 1 (2) of the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children states that the term "parental responsibility" is used in this Convention is a parental authority or other similar relationship of responsibility which determines the rights, powers and responsibilities of parents, guardians or other legal representatives in relation to the person or property of the child. ...
Conference Paper
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In the Latvian education system, the legal relationship between parents and the school is important. The child’s parents are obliged to take the child to school. It means that the State implements an education policy in line with both the findings based on educational science and that the child’s right to education is ensured at least at the basic school level. In Latvia, education law as a branch of law is an underdeveloped field. The legal relationship between children’s parents and the educational institution has been little studied from the legal science perspective. Thus, in this study, the author analyzes the role of the institute of parental responsibility in the field of education, using the methods of interpretation of general science and law – historical, grammatical and teleological methods. It is found that the special legal regulation of Latvia determines specific parental responsibilities and rights in providing education for their child. Teachers do not become substitutes for the child’s parents, but have a duty to do so as responsible and caring parent would do to their children. Parental authority does not end when the child enters the school premises, but it is limited to the extent that the educational institution fulfills its responsibilities by ensuring an educational process in accordance with the child’s interests and human rights.
... Global parenting practices are usually studied according to the model of Baumrind's parenting styles, which describe parents' influence according to the two axes of "control" (i.e., regulating child's behavior according to social norms through demandingness, limit setting, and guidance) and "acceptance" (i.e., warmth, responsiveness, and emotional involvement in child's life) (Baumrind, 1967) or the two corresponding axes of "demandingness" and "responsiveness" (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). The major aspects, which distinguish between these types of parenting, refer to the extent to which the parent sets limits and directions, reasons and justifies demands and expectations, uses control and power, and provides emotional support (Yaffe, 2013). This model usually allows the theoreticians to describe three global categories of parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive (Baumrind, 1971). ...
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Parenting style affects self-regulation in school pupils, yet its long-term influence on academic behavior is rarely studied. A pilot study was conducted on 83 teacher college students, who filled in a questionnaire measuring recollections of parenting styles (Parental Authority Questionnaire [PAQ]) and self-regulation in learning (Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire [MSLQ]). Unlike in results known about adolescents, authoritative parenting was not significantly associated with students’ present self-regulation skills, except for human resources. Authoritarian parenting was the only parenting style correlated with motivation, self-efficacy, and cognitive strategies and strongly correlated with critical thinking. These results suggest new ways of evaluating the relationship of authoritarian parenting with academic skills.
... The concept of parenting style refers to the overall attitudes and practices in children's upbringing, based on the degree of parental control and acceptance toward the child (Yaffe, 2017). The Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive (Baumrind, 1971) styles differ from each other mainly in the extent to which the parent sets rules and provides guidance, explains and justifies demands and expectations, exerts control and power, and provides emotional support (Yaffe, 2013(Yaffe, , 2017. The authoritative parent integrates consistent discipline and autonomy granting with the provision of warmth and emotional support. ...
The paper briefly reports a study comparing the parenting styles of single mothers with a matched comparison group of married mothers. The sample consisted of 91 divorced mothers (Mage = 37.56, S.D. = 8.35) against 77 married mothers (Mage = 38.70, S.D. = 8.60). Mothers in both groups have at least one adolescent child whose age ranges from 10 to 15. Single mothers scored significantly higher on the authoritarian and the authoritative scales of parenting than non-single mothers, while the formers' scores on the permissive parenting scale was significantly lower. Moreover, single mothers rated their parenting as more authoritative than authoritarian, and more authoritarian than permissive. The study's conclusion, that single mothers retain more parental authority than non-single mothers, is discussed in light of some theoretical and methodological issues.
... The concept of parenting styles refers to the extent to which the parent sets rules and provides guidance, explains and justifies demands and expectations, exerts control, and grants autonomy and emotional support (Yaffe, 2013(Yaffe, , 2017. Baumrind (1971) conceptualized three main overall types of parenting styles, which include the authoritative (consistent discipline and limit setting, autonomy granting, and emotional support), authoritarian (strict control alongside emotional distance and low acceptance), and permissive (lax control alongside emotional closeness). ...
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Physical activity contains many benefits for adolescents’ physical and mental health, and also for building healthy living routines and habits for the future. The current study examined the associations between parenting styles and adolescents’ physical activity among Israeli-Arab families of male adolescents, in seeking to boost the limited information on this most important topic. Participants consisted of 177 male Israeli-Arab adolescents (M = 13.93, SD = 1.42) with normal weight. Controlling for the participants’ age, weight, and grades in school, parenting styles explained about 30% of the variance in the participants’ reports of their physical activity, with the authoritative and authoritarian parenting inversely correlated with the latter variable. Adolescents who perceived their parents as authoritative were reportedly more physically active than their counterparts who perceived their parents as authoritarian. In common with previous studies, the findings suggest that authoritative parenting may be a cross-culturally preferable style in fostering a desired physical activity rate among adolescents.
... While the parent's potential in influencing and shaping the decadent's career preferences is well recognized, especially when it comes to teaching, only a little is known on how this motivational factor varies across families of different parenting styles. Parenting styles refer to the extent to which the parent sets rules and provides guidance, explains and justifies demands and expectations, applies control and power, and provides emotional support (Yaffe, 2013(Yaffe, , 2017). Baumrind's (1971) most influential conceptualizations of parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting) denotes types of parenting manifested by the attitudes and behaviors toward their child, and constitute a basis for a family climate. ...
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Background: The literature on pre-service education indicates that the choice to become a teacher is dependent on a number of factors: extrinsic, intrinsic, altruistic and outside influences, such as family, peers, teachers and others. This study tested the perceived influence of these variables among preservice kindergarten teachers, while specifically investigating the differential influence of the student’s parent as a function of his / her parenting style. Method: Data were collected from 141 pre-service kindergarten teacher students from teacher-trainee academic college in Northern Israel. All participants were females whose age ranges from 19 to 46 (M = 26.88, SD=5.84). Results: The rating of the factors for choosing teaching as a profession among the students in descending order was: 1. Bonding with children 2. Educational impact 3. Professional motives 4. Socioeconomic security and exploiting the personal experience 5. Agents of influence (School and parents). As for the parental effect, it was found that kindergarten teacher trainees who perceived their parents as authoritative ascribed them as having a greater influence on their professional preferences than those who perceived their parents as non-authoritative. The authoritative group also considered their parents as being more influential than their educators. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that parental influence on descendants’ teaching preferences should be considered in context of authoritative parenting which magnify the parental significance.
... Non-pathologic parenting patterns are often conceptualized as parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive), according to Baumrind's conceptualizations (see Yaffe, 2013). The transmission of overall parenting styles was studied by Campbell and Gilmore (2007) who examined the perceptions of 560 parents, fathers and mothers, about their current parenting style and their recollections about their parents' parenting style. ...
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Intergenerational transmission of parenting styles deals with the connection between patterns of parental behaviors from one generation and the generation that follows. The purpose of this study was to examine the correspondence of three major parenting styles (authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive) between two consecutive generations of educated mothers. In the current study, 111 women reported their perceptions on their own current parenting style and, retrospectively, their mothers' parenting styles. Controlling for the age of the second-generation mothers, the results showed a direct intergenerational continuation of mothers’ permissive and authoritarian parenting style, but not of the authoritative style. Mother’s permissive parenting in the first generation accounted for approximately 20% of the variance of mother’s permissive parenting in the subsequent generation, while mother’s authoritarian and authoritative parenting in the first generation accounted for about 18% of the variance in the maternal authoritarian parenting in the subsequent generation. Furthermore, it was found that second-generation mothers perceived themselves as less authoritarian and permissive than their parents, but as more authoritative. These findings suggest that more extreme parenting patterns tend to be better preserved throughout the generations. The conclusions are discussed in light of gender and socio-cultural changes in the conception of parental authority
... For the purposes of the current study, we only utilized the two following scales from the complete instrument: (1) The child's obligation to obey; (2) the parent's right to set rules. These two scales operationally define the dimension of legitimacy of parental authority (Yaffe, 2013(Yaffe, , 2017. The score in each scale constitutes the mean of the responses on all its items, while the overall authority score is obtained from a simple sum of scores on the two scales. ...
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The study examines Bedouin and Jewish adolescents’ endorsement of parental authority, in an attempt to clarify the role of culture in the context of parent–child authority relations in the family. It included 412 Jewish adolescents (213 boys; 199 girls) with age ranges from 12 to 17 ( = 14.39; SD = 1.26), and 130 Bedouin adolescents (78 boys; 50 girls; 2 participants did not report their sex) with an identical age range (M = 14.79; SD = 1.71). Participants filled in the Parental Authority Instrument (PAI; Yaffe, 2017). Development and validation of a new parental authority instrument (PAI). North American Journal of Psychology, 19, 169–194. [Google Scholar]), designed to measure the child’s perceptions of his parents’ legitimate authority regarding 28 items representing common parent–child conflicts in adolescence. The children’s age was significantly correlated with the two parental authority scales (the child’s obligation to obey and the parent’s right to set rules) only for the Jewish group. Bedouin adolescents perceived their parents’ authority as more legitimate than Jews adolescents did for most domains, particularly for the personal domain.
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A pilot study designed to examine the continuity and differences in parenting styles over two generations of parents from families of Holocaust survivors. The sample included 42 parents of second generation Holocaust survivors (age: 56.22 ± 7.08) and 44 parents as a control group (age: 53.56 ± 10.6). Using two versions of the PAQ questionnaire, parents reported on their own parenting styles and their recollections of their parents’ parenting styles during their childhood. The findings revealed that the three parenting styles in the first generation of Holocaust survivors explain about 34% of the variance of permissive parenting in the second generation. (with permissive and authoritarian parenting in the first generation as dominant predictors). In the control, normal intergenerational continuity was found between the permissive and authoritarian parenting styles. It was also found that the parents of second generation Holocaust survivors perceive themselves as less authoritarian, but more authoritative and permissive than their parents. The findings suggest that Holocaust survivors’ families hold unique characteristics of parental continuity over generations.
A social power theory of parental identification is presented, in contrast to sex-role theories of identification, which argues that the more parental power each parent is perceived to have, the higher the degree of adolescent identification with that parent. Parental power is delineated into four major dimensions for each parent: outcome-control, referent, legitimate and expert power. A self-report methodology was employed and from an availability sample (N=451), a purposive subsample (N=149) was drawn. Regression analyses support the social power theory of parental identification. However, in regard to the power dimensions for each parent, parental referent power is found to be the most salient variable, followed by parental expert and parental legitimate power. Few relationships are found for parental outcome-control power and parental identification. Furthermore, the lack of any consistent differentiation by sex is taken to indicate that perceived power is a more relevant variable for adolescents' parental identification.
On the basis of past theory and research concerning social-structural differences in acceptance of parents' wishes, it is hypothesized that the legitimacy of parents' authority will be more fully accepted by firstborn middle-class adolescents from small families than by later-born working-class adolescents from large families, and alternative theoretical interpretations of the predicted differences are developed. Questionnaire data from 1,415 tenth grade public school students and university freshmen indicate that: (a) parents' educational authority is accepted more fully in the middle than in the working class, (b) male adolescents from small families accept the father's educational and heterosexual authority more fully than male adolescents from large families, and (c) the authority of parents is accepted more fully by first-born than by later-born male adolescents. The alternative interpretations of the findings are assessed.
This study examines the independent and joint contributions of three core dimensions of authoritative parenting - acceptance-involvement, strictness-supervision, and psychological autonomy granting - to adolescent adjustment. A sample of 8,700 14- to 18-year-olds completed questionnaires that included indices of authoritative parenting and a set of instruments assessing different aspects of adjustment. Behavior problems were related more strongly to behavioral control than to psychological autonomy granting. Psychosocial development and internal distress were more strongly associated with both psychological autonomy granting and acceptance-involvement than with behavioral control. Academic competence demonstrated significant relations with all three parenting variables. Curvilinear and interactive relations between parenting practices and adolescent adjustment were observed, but the specific pattern varied as a function of outcome assessed.
A thought-provoking examination of how explanations of social and moral development inform our understandings of morality and culture. A common theme in the latter part of the twentieth century has been to lament the moral state of American society and the decline of morality among youth. A sharp turn toward an extreme form of individualism and a lack of concern for community involvement and civic participation are often blamed for the moral crisis. Turiel challenges these views, drawing on a large body of research from developmental psychology, anthropology, sociology as well as social events, political movements, and journalistic accounts of social and political struggles. Turiel shows that generation after generation has lamented the decline of society and blamed young people. Using historical accounts, he persuasively argues that such characterizations of moral decline entail stereotyping, nostalgia for times past, and a failure to recognize the moral viewpoint of those who challenge traditions.