Parenting Style and Youth Outcomes in the UK

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23rd Sep 2019 Young People Reference this


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Parenting Style and Youth Outcomes in the UK, Article Critique.


Chan, T. W., & Koo, A. (2011). PS and youth outcomes in the UK.European Sociological Review27(3), 385-399.



In this research article Chan and Koo wished to study Parenting style (PS) in the UK and its effects on their children by examine parent child interaction. Earlier studies stressed the importance of family background in determining how a person grows (Erikson and Goldthorpe, 1992; Hauser et al., 2000) and how the shaping of a child’s aspirations in order to attain some form of status is important (Sewell et al., 1969, 1970; Sewell and Hauser, 1980).

They wished to expand on this research by explaining how Parents cultivate these aspirations, and how PS influenced the outcome of the child. This research was driven by the need to address youth crime, truancy and negative behaviour and how parents were being blamed for their children’s actions.

First,Astone and McLanahan (1991) suggested parenting is an independent variable and that if a parent wants a child to go to university for example, supervising them and talking to them they yield more positive results but the study doesn’t explain the gap between outcomes of family’s that are intact/non-intact. Pong et al. (2005) indicate parental SES, demographics and PS (PS) have positive associations with grade averages but PS does not explain difference in ethnicity-generated differences in grades. McNeal, Jr (1999) show truancy and dropout rates are lower if parents are involved in parent teacher associations, discuss and monitor their behaviour, but negative correlations with grades achieved. Concluding it helps behaviour but not cognition. He also argues ethnicity plays a factor in outcome with more positive affects being apparent in white affluent families

There are contradictory studies on non-educational outcomes e.g. illegal/legal drug use, Barnes and

Farrell (1992), Ennett et al. (2001). One showing positive affect and one showing no affect. These studies are cited to show there is a need to use PS as a predictor of outcome across a range of variables and with good sized representative sample.

Second, the looks at psychologist Diana Baumrinds (1991) study on more than 100 preschool-age children. Using naturalistic observation, parental interviews, and research methods she identified some important dimensions of parenting. 

These dimensions include disciplinary strategies, warmth and nurture communication styles, and expectations of maturity and control. Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles. Authoritative (supportive and guiding), Authoritarian (punitive and dictatorial) and Permissive (indulgent and lacking discipline), stating the authoritative style gave optimal outcome then authoritarian then permissive. According to Ainsworth (1969), permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation”. Chan and Koo believe the study samples are small and unrepresentative and require further investigation.

They discuss how Lamborn et al(1991) showed that parental style does correlate with positive outcome in many different areas but only measures on 4 styles at the extremes of two spectrums and does not show data on those parents in between those styles.

Finally, they review how Kohn (1977) postulates that Socio-economic Status (SES) is an indicator for PS. For example middle class people are more likely to be self-directed and think for themselves because of the more complex work, people more likely to have reach Piagets (1977) formal operational stage possibly. Whereas working class people tend to value conforming to authority. Being a good student as viewed by others is important at working class, higher classes value intellectual curiosity more. Punitive punishment more likely at lower class for misbehaviour.

They cite other studies that show economic resources, prior confounding factors, and step children receiving less parental investment affect PS but the author points out the most relevant evidence in these studies is that PS seems to differ across family types. Astone and McLanahan (1991, p. 311) postulate that ‘the parental authority structure is weaker in single-parent or stepparent families . . . in part because single mothers often make confidants of their children’ and step parents may fell they cannot discipline a child (Biblarz and Raftery,

1999; Sandefur and Wells, 1999).

The goals of Chan and Koo were as follows. They wanted to test development psychologists theories on PS, and see if these could be identified using a national survey. Then they wanted to find what factors correlated with PS e.g. social class, Kohn (1977) and family structure (FS) Astone and McLanahan (1991). Last they wanted to test if PS is indicative of youth outcomes if several areas such as subjective well-being (SWB). They Postulate that if PS is a mediating factor in family life authoritative PS should yield the optimal outcome.


The data used for analysis was from the youth panel of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). It began in 1991 and had 10,300 individuals from 5300 homes from 250 areas of GB. All household members 16 plus are interviewed annually and from 1994 all those between 11-14 and interviewed separately about a range of topics such as their aspirations, life plans and also on their relationship with their parents

The youth panel questions are pre-recorded and listened to the youth on a personal radio and they fill in a questionnaire with answers only. This reduces the effect of extraneous variables such as parental observation and direction.

The author concentrates on 1456, 15 year olds interviewed between 1994 and 2001. They concentrate on 6 questions that use a Likert scale to indicate the style of parenting and the relationship. These results of each question were further grouped together to make coding easier because of the size of the sample. The questions seems relevant, appropriate and valid and allow the author to draw inferences from them. The BHPS is a respected body and the sample is exceptional.


The coded results are all clearly present with P values and declare a TYPE 1 error is not present. They were able to conclude from the results that there were three common PSs in the UK in line with Baumrind (1978, 1991). They then cross referenced the PSs with FS, SES and parental education. The bivariate analysis found authoritative parenting was most common in intact families as predicted. They found authoritative parenting more common in higher classes and permissive parenting more common in lower classes. The results for authoritarian parenting were not as clear. They found parental education had similar results to SES. The multivariate analysis show girls were less likely to have permissive parents and single parent families were less likely to be authoritative, the same was true when parents had no qualifications. In Table 6, it can be seen that, in proportional terms, authoritative parenting is more common among two-parent’s families (53 per cent) than among single-parent families (32 per cent) or step-families (40 per cent). The results were consistent with Astone and McLanahan (1991), but not with Kohn (1977).

They used PS as an independent variable and coded the results from the questions indicating SWB, Self Esteem and happiness and used means to categorize the data. Table 8 showed girls scored lower on all categories especially in self-esteem. FS and SES showed it not link to SWB. PS showed a consistent significant link with SWB with authoritative parenting having the best outcome, permissive having the worst outcome. The link between sleep worries and PS was highly significant. Youths with the other PS’s were less happy and had less self-esteem.

Next they assessed risky behaviour and PS, youths with authoritarian parents were 89% more likely to have smoked and youths with permissive parents 5 times more likely than youths with authoritative parents. In relation to education, PS and grades were in the predicted order. Permissive PS youths were 3 times more likely to be out of education by 17 and employed and 5 times more likely to be unemployed. PS, education and class were all found to be significant in student grades and should be considered as a whole consistent with that of Astone and McLanahan (1991) and Pong et al. (2005), though not with the Wisconsin model where the role of parents, in shaping aspiration, is the main factor. All data, coding methods and results are clear and visible and easily referenced for deeper analysis.


Their results were consistent with Baumrind (1991), Lamborn (1991). They also found bivariate associations between PS, FS, SES and Parental education. Authoritative parenting is more common in dual parent families and families with higher SES and tertiary education. Permissive PS was more common in single parent families, working class who were self-employed or have no qualification.

In the multi-variate analysis the link between PS and class, and that with education are no longer apparent when FS is used as the control. They indicate this sways towards Kohns thesis, that family value orientation is more important than style but the results were enough to test his claims.

The found there results allowed them to compare their results to Baumrinds study but not Maccoby and Martin (1983), they acknowledged they needed more data and a larger sample for this to make this possible and identify indulgent and neglectful styles.

They believe the PS of the time seemed to be based around FS as more working class people had more single parent families and authoritarian/permissive styles were more common.

The studies showed that PS style predicts an outcome in a range of youth variables and that social class did not show an effect on SWB and self-esteem but it was PS that matters, authoritative being the most preferred also showing lower odds of risky behaviour. Where education was concerned class and Parental education were the main deciding factors. Authoritative PS did factor but wasn’t a mediating factor. So PS is not the deciding factor in all outcomes. They conclude that the some distinctions between PS was overlooked on previous research, in which parental involvement and acceptance was elided. The research shows authoritative PS yielded optimal results, then authoritarian then permissive, but feel they have proven PS does matter.

They acknowledge there are gaps and possibly other variables at work. They would like to extend the research to get the parents view on their style and if both parents adopt the same or different styles. They also acknowledge the children’s interpretation on the PS is up for debate and in further research would like to use the BHPS to interview multiple children form the same household on multiple occasions, this would help to give more accurate codes for interpretation of latent traits.

Chan and Koo would also like to do further research on FS, their environment and support groups to see why dual parent families are more likely to have authoritative style and why Single parent families and step parent families are more likely to use a less optimal style.


The study was carried out in 2010 but I find it still relevant today, it was intuitive, designed well and used a great source of data from the BHPS. The research carried out built upon existing studies such as Kohn (1978, 1991) and helped bolster Baumrinds (1991) research among others mentioned. They identified the role that SES, Parental education and FS played in determining positive outcomes for youths in the UK which was identified as missing from Astone and McLanahan (1991) in line with Pong et al. (2005)  but not dealing with the question of ethnicity, PS and educational outcome. There is no universally “best” style of parenting,” writes author Douglas Bernstein in his book Essentials of Psychology.” (1998). So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school performance among African American or Asian American youngsters.

They aim to carry out more research in these areas. Hopefully this research would build on Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) system of human development to analyse FS, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) to assess each individual Ainsworths (1969) parental attachment studies to categorize both the youths and their parents and how this effects outcome in PS, for example an aggressive unruly child may have a permissive parent as no other style works and this would skew data. This may be a much greater task but making use of social media tools like Facebook could prove invaluable for gathering data (if legally and morally permitted).

It is possible a percentage of the participants did not take the study seriously, answered dishonestly or were not self-aware enough to accurately answer. Taking this into account I still find the data valid. The data is also ethically sourced as the parents allowed the children to take part and none of the questions should cause any harm to the participants.

The findings of the study are theoretical in nature and to have a practical use would need a political, social and cultural paradigm shift. It may help that parents be aware of these styles and it may help guide their behaviour but according situationism and Mischel (1968) the environment is the independent variable in personality and thus in PS.

The article is well written/structured with all results and methods clearly displayed with a useful notes section to expand on certain points. The results drawn from the data are unbiased and in line with previous research.


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