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Parenting and Trajectories of Children's Maladaptive Behaviors: A 12-year Prospective Community Study

Authoritative parenting—high on positive parenting and monitoring but low on inconsistent discipline—had the best long-term outcomes of all parenting styles.

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  • N: 1,049
  • Subject Ages: Grades 1-5 to Grades 6-12
  • SES: Working-class community
  • Eligibility: Children in the age range at recruitment
  • Location: United States, Oregon
  • Additional:
    • 86% Caucasian, 7% Hispanic, 1% Asian American, 6% mixed race/other
    • 7% of mothers and 11% of fathers had high school diploma, 71% of mothers and 66% of fathers had postsecondary education


  1. Four parenting classes were expected: Authoritative (high on positive parenting (PP)/monitoring and low on inconsistent discipline (ID)); Indulgent (high on PP and ID; low on monitoring); Authoritarian (high on monitoring; low on PP and ID); and Uninvolved (high on ID; low on PP/monitoring).
  2. Children in the authoritative class will have the lowest levels of internalizing symptoms, followed by children raised by parents in the indulgent and authoritarian classes. Uninvolved parenting would result in high internalizing symptoms and possible steep increases over time.
  3. Substance abuse and antisocial behavior will be low for all, with increases in children with parents in the indulgent and uninvolved classes.

Variables Measured, Instruments Used

  • Parent behavior - the Alabama Parenting Questionnaire with three subscales: monitoring/supervision, inconsistent discipline and positive parenting
  • Child cigarette and alcohol use - yearly questionnaire in grades 6-12
  • Child antisocial behavior and internalizing symptoms - the Child Behavior Checklist, abbreviated version




  1. Four parenting classes were defined as hypothesized.
  2. Decreases in monitoring occurred for authoritarian and authoritative parents, with steeper decreases for the authoritarian than authoritative. The indulgent classes also showed a steep decrease in monitoring as might be expected.
  3. These parenting styles were differentially related to changes in parent- and child-reported measures of children’s alcohol and cigarette use, antisocial behavior and internalizing symptoms, with the authoritative parenting class being related to the most optimal long-term development.
  4. Children of authoritative parents had better outcomes across the board, as is consistent with the literature.
  5. Some of the disadvantages of non-authoritative parenting accumulated over time.
  6. Children were twice as likely to have chemical/tobacco use if parents were uninvolved.
  7. Boys of uninvolved parents were at greater risk for antisocial behavior.
  8. There was greater prevalence of internalizing symptoms for children of authoritarian parents over time.


  • Sample is almost exclusively white.
  • Parents and children did not report on sample variables, reducing reliability.
  • The single-item quality of the child-reported measurements constitutes a weakness.