Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us

Destined For Greatness, You Little Scamp

• October 30, 2009 • 5:05 PM

With the right parenting, the mischievous — but not the outright evil — may be on the fast track to a leadership role.

So, your daughter has been reported late to school, played hooky from class two days already this year and scammed her younger brother out of the front seat in the car on a recent weekend outing. Is she on the road to a low-level career and possible social ostracism?

Not likely — if you practice a style of parenting termed authoritative. In fact, if you play your cards right, she may be on a career track for a leadership position.

Recent research shows that modest rule breaking is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can offer rich “teaching moments” between child and parent.

A paper that draws data from a 20-year study of twins shows that authoritative parents are less likely to raise either modest or serious rule-breakers, but the modest rule-breakers they do rear are more likely to assume leadership positions later in life than those raised through a different parenting style.

First, some definitions: Researchers identify authoritative parents as “being demanding (challenging), responsive, rational, considerate, consistent and assertive yet not restrictive.”

Maria Rotundo, one of the authors of the study, said there are many parenting styles, but one contrast to authoritative parents is found in the authoritarian parenting style, which the authors described as “controlling, lacking in warmth, support and consistency.”

Rotundo is an associate professor of human resource management and organizational behavior at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

She described modest rule-breakers as typical boundary pushers. They may deliberately break a school window or skip school without a parent’s permission. Serious rule-breakers experience official contact with the police for infractions such as theft or drug use; the study shows there is a negative correlation for them assuming leadership roles later in life, even when raised by authoritative parents.

The paper, which appeared last spring in Elsevier’s The Leadership Quarterly, drew from an ongoing longitudinal study that included regular contact with 109 pairs of identical twins and 87 pairs of fraternal twins — all boys, all born from 1961 to 1964 — and their parents over a period of 20 years. That data was collected through questionnaires, assessments and interviews beginning in 1989 within the framework of the Minnesota Twin Family Study at the University of Minnesota.

“The really interesting finding is that authoritative parenting is a more favorable parenting style,” Rotundo said.

“It has a negative relationship with any kind of rule-breaking — either modest or serious. If people [raised by an authoritative parent] engage in modest rule breaking, they tend to have more positive chances of serving in leadership roles later in life. But serious rule breaking has the opposite effect — you’re actually less likely to take roles of leadership later in life. The idea behind that is that when it’s modest rule breaking, you haven’t devoid yourself of chances or opportunity; you’ve pushed the boundaries, tested them a little bit, but not so much that you’ve given yourself no chance later on.”

So, you have a modest rule-breaker on your hands. What does an authoritative parent do?

“If you see that your children do test the rules in modest rule-breaking, you guide them through [what they did], you try to figure out their motivation and what they wanted to achieve and you work through it with them,” Rotundo said. “Potentially, you generate strategies with them – how they could have achieved their outcomes or managed themselves so that they ended up achieving what they wanted without breaking the rules.”

Rotundo, who has authored two papers using the Minnesota twins data, said this study is important because it assesses the likelihood of adults who were modest rule-breakers assuming leadership roles later in life; earlier studies have focused on the link between parenting styles and rule-breaking in children and adolescents but didn’t assess results of parenting in adulthood. The twins, first assessed in 1989 in the ongoing Minnesota study, are now in their mid-40s.

She said she was quite pleased to find a link between parenting styles and leadership roles: “That’s valuable data.

“It’s really hard for parents, because when you’re raising kids, you react to every little thing they do and are fearful and think, ‘does this mean they’re on the wrong track?’ It’s good for people to realize that if you guide kids through these things, they learn from it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

The authors of the study note in their abstract that research suggests that approximately 30 percent of the variation in leadership style and emergence is accounted for by genetic factors and the remaining variation can be attributed to environmental influences, which would include parenting styles. (Rotundo said while she is not a parent herself, “I would aspire to use the authoritative parenting style. My parents used elements of authoritative parenting when they parented my sister and me.”)

Rotundo co-authored the study with Bruce Avolio of Seattle’s Michael G. Foster School of Business and Fred Walumbwa from Arizona State University.

Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Are you on Facebook? Become our fan.

Follow us on Twitter.

Add our news to your site.

Joan Melcher
Joan Melcher is a freelance writer and editor living in Missoula, Montana. Her work ranges from travel magazine articles to stories on breaking research.

More From Joan Melcher

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.

November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.

November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”

November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.

November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America

November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.

November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.

November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.

November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.

November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”

November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.

November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.

November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.

November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.

November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.

November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.

November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.

November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.

November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.

November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….

November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Follow us

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.