Foster Child Stability: Is Authoritative or Authoritarian parenting better?

Authoritative or Authoritarian?

We had a very successful first virtual meeting on May 19,2021 between prospective foster parents and foster care professionals. Some of the parents had a lot of knowledge about foster parenting and had new questions that sparked spirited discussion. One of the questions was between authoritative and authoritarian parenting.

There is a great article on that explains the difference between authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles. We quote a nice table that summarizes the differences:

Source: , accessed May 25, 2021

While the above applies to all kinds of families the question is what is better for foster parenting?

We look at the issue from the start:

  • Question 1: Why does a child need foster care in the first place?
    • Answer 1: Because the biological family is unable to care for the child.
  • Question 2: What is needed most in a foster home?
    • Answer (strictly our take, please feel free to disagree) A sense of stability for the foster child.
  • Question 3: Let’s agree that stability is needed most. So what type of parenting between authoritative and authoritarian works better?
    • Answer 3: Let’s see what academic research has to say to this question.

A fascinating meta-analysis published in 2021 attempts an answer to the authoritative and authoritarian style for foster parents.

The article authors are Sabrina Chodura, Arnold Lohaus, Tabea Symanzik, Nina Heinrichs & Kerstin Konrad and the full text of the article is available here.

They summarised findings from 43 primary studies to identify what foster parent behavior was helpful in foster child development.

Given the surprising nature of their findings, we quote a section from their Discussion section on Parenting Styles.The italics and text color is added.

 Surprisingly, the authoritarian parenting style was also associated with higher placement stability. One could argue that the longer that the children lived in their foster family, this parenting style in foster parents might have been expressed more due to their behavior. Therefore, foster parents may think a more authoritarian style is necessary. On the other hand, authoritarian foster parents may question the continuation of fostering less than parents who exhibit other parenting styles. Furthermore, permissive parenting was—unexpectedly—associated with less externalizing and total problem behavior. An explanation may be that permissive parents do not limit externalizing and total problem behaviors as much as parents with different parenting styles. Therefore, they may report those child behaviors less. By contrast, it also may be possible that the CFC truly do show less problematic behavior when experiencing those parenting styles.

source : page 342,Sabrina Chodura, Arnold Lohaus, Tabea Symanzik, Nina Heinrichs & Kerstin Konrad (2021)

Like all careful researchers the authors do identify this as an under-researched area that needs more study. We concur with the author/s italicized observations. Because it is popularly believed that authoritative parenting is somehow better than authoritarian parenting.

Who is to decide? our dear readers might wonder. Well that is where the developed expertise of foster parenting comes in. Do consult with your social worker and other professionals familiar with your particular situation.


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