2012. Vol.3, No.7, 513-517
Published Online July 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 513
The Relationship between Portuguese Adolescent Perception of
Parental Styles, Social Support, and School Behaviour
José Castro Silva, José Morgado, João Maroco
UIPCDE, ISPA-IU, Lisbon , Portugal
Received February 1st, 2012; r evised March 3rd, 2012; accepted April 4th, 2012
The present article describes preliminary results of a study that aims to analyse the relationship among
Portuguese adolescent perception of parental styles, social support received from family and peers and
their school behaviour. Participants were 537 adolescents aged between 14 and 16. The “Parental Author-
ity Questionnaire”, the “Perceived Social Support-Friends Scale” and “Perceived Social Support-Family
Scale” were used to measure adolescent perceptions. Overall, Portuguese adolescents perceive their par-
ents as using predominantly a democratic parental style. Associations between school behaviour and pa-
rental styles show that “well-behaved” adolescents perceive their parents as less permissive. On the other
hand, adolescents who misbehave perceive their parents as more permissive and authoritarian. As regards
the relationship between perceived school behaviour and social support, adolescents recognise receiving
greater support from peers than from family, and adolescents who “often behave badly” are those who re-
fer to receiving less social support, either from the family or peers.
Keywords: Parenting Styles; Social Support; Adolescence
In modern school communities classroom misbehavior seems
to be a recurring concern of professionals, often appearing as-
sociated with school failure, dropouts and social exclusion.
Traditionally, talk about the causality of misbehavior refers to
individual and family factors as strong contributory factors to
school behavior. Therefore seems pertinent to enhance the
study of the existing relationships between family dynamics
and adolescent behavior. Likewise, there is no empirical evi-
dence on the relationship between the perception of Portuguese
adolescents about parenting styles, social support and their
behavior in school settings.
As a first major objective, we aim to verify whether Portu-
guese adolescent school behavior relates to, and in what way,
their perception of parental styles. On the other hand, consider-
ing individual adjustments that occur in adolescence, we estab-
lished as a second goal to study whether Portuguese adolescent
school behavior relates to their perception of social support
from their family and friends. In addition to these two major
objectives, we aim to look at what impact gender and the level
of schooling of the parents may have on Portuguese adolescent
perceptions of parental styles, social support received from
family and social support received from peers.
Parental Styles
The study of the styles of education used by families and the
impact on children has increased greatly since the work devel-
oped in the 1960s by Baumrind, which supports the definition
of a model accommodating four parental styles (Baumrind,
1967) based on different combinations of two basic dimensions,
control and affection.
Darling and Steinberg (1993) define parental style as corre-
sponding to the emotional atmosphere in which parents raise
children, and it is also characterized by the dimensions of re-
sponsiveness and demands (Baumrind, 1991). Thus, and in
agreement with several authors (e.g. Alcón, 2002; Baumrind,
1991; Cole & Cole, 2001; Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman,
Robert, & Fraleigh, 1987, Matta, 2001; Palacios, 2000;
Schaffer, 1996), we can highlight the authoritarian, permissive,
democratic and rejecting/negligent styles. Due to methodologi-
cal reasons and prevalence, we did not consider the last style. It
is important to note that the literature identifies other models
for analyzing parental styles, including the theoretical perspec-
tive developed by Steinberg which also includes four different
styles: authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent and uninvolved
(Durbin, D. L., Darling, N., Steinberg, L., & Brown, B. B.,
Briefly, data from several studies show that children edu-
cated within an authoritarian parental style appear to show
lower levels of autonomy and social responsibility (Alcón,
2002; Dornbusch et al., 1987), use of more aggressive behavior,
lower self-esteem and lower social competence (Alcón, 2002;
Palacios, 2000) and present a tendency to organize their be-
havior on the basis of a punishment and reward system (Alcón,
2002; Matta, 2001).
Children educated by parents within a permissive style are
less autonomous and present a lower level of social responsibil-
ity (Dornbusch et al., 1987; Palacios, 2000; Cole & Cole, 2001)
and low assertiveness (Alcón, 2002).
In general, children educated by parents using a democratic
style reveal better emotional and socio-cognitive skills (Alcón,
2002; Baumrind, 1973; Matta, 2001; Morris, Silk, Steinberg,
Myers, & Robinson, 2007; Palacios, 2000; Steinberg, 2001). In
accordance with Yeh and Lempers (2004), a democratic paren-
tal style, particularly in adolescence, enhances the individual’s
abilities to manage negative or threatening experiences, sig-
nificant events and relationships with partners effectively.
Generally, the influence of the parental style tends to pre-
serve during adolescence (Baumrind, 1991, 2005; Glasgow et
al., 1997), in particular the level of autonomy, social behavior
and school performance (e.g., Baumrind, 1967; Bernier, Larose,
Boivin, & Soucy, 2004; Dornbusch et al., 1987; Fontaine, 1995;
Grolnick, 2003; Lamborn et al., 1991; Steinberg, L., Elmen, J.
D., & Mounts, N. S., 1989; Steinberg, L., Mounts, N. S., Lam-
born, S. D., & Dornbusch, S. M., 1991; Smetana, 1995).
Taking into account that one of the objectives of the present
research is to analyze how adolescents perceive social support
received from family and peers, some theoretical aspects relat-
ing to this issue are e x p l a i n e d below.
Social Support
Regarding the nature of the relationships established with
family and peers, as well as changes throughout their develop-
ment, individuals tend to show a different perception of social
support obtained in each group (Procidano & Hellen, 2000).
Within this framework, it is important to emphasize the impor-
tance of the adolescent’s perception of social support in chang-
ing processes as they occur during adolescence (e.g., Antunes
& Fontaine, 2004; Ciariano, Kliewer, Bonino, & Bosma, 2008).
However, we must emphasize that social support needs vary
individually (Brendt, 1989).
Also, it is pertinent to highlight the qualitative relationship
between the social support provided by family and by peers:
namely, lower perceived social support by the family will cor-
respond to the adolescent seeking more social support from
their peers (Noller, 1990) or, in a different formulation, the
quality of family social support influences the quality of the
relationships within the group of peers (Colarossi & Eccles,
On the other hand, Wills and Cleary (1996) found a close re-
lationship between disruptive school behavior and low family
social support, an association also cited in Crosnoe e Elder
(2004) and Matherne e Thomas (2001). Also, Fonseca (2002)
refers to adolescents exposed to inconsistent parental models
are less involved and actively or passively hostile. They may
participate in risk groups with behavior problems, show addic-
tive behavior and have a more fragile psychological structure.
In summary, adolescent perception of effective social support
either from family or peers plays a crucial role in the individ-
ual’s development in adolescence (Strecht, 2005).
The participants were part of a convenience sample of 258
male and 279 female Portuguese adolescents from several ur-
ban schools in Portugal. They ranged in age from 14 to 16 years
Aiming to define “School behavior”, we requested classroom
teachers to assess the participants’ behavior commonly ob-
served, as described in Table 1.
The level of the parents’ schooling was organized into three
groups, as seen in Table 2: “Basic” corresponds to school at-
tendance up to year 9; “Middle” from year 10 to 12 and,
“Higher” to the completion of higher education.
Considering the objectives of the study and its theoretical
framework, the Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) by
Buri (1991) was used as an instrument in order to assess the
“parental style” perceived by subjects, as well as the scales
“Perceived Social Support-Family Scale” (PSS-Fa) and “Per-
ceived Social Support-Friends Scale” (PSS-Fr) by Procidano e
Heller (1983) to assess perceived “social support” by partici-
pants in relationship to the family and peers.
The scales have been translated and adapted for Portuguese
studies, and their psychometric properties are acceptable, as
shown in Table 3.
In accordance with the theoretical model by Baumrind
(1967), PAQ consists of 30 items formulated in a Likert type
scale with five points distributed between “I totally agree” to “I
totally disagree” and grouped into three sub-scales correspond-
ing to parental styles: “permissive”, “democratic” and “au-
thoritarian”. Values between 10 and 50 points in each sub-scale
may be obtained and the perception of parental style is deter-
mined by using the highest sub-scale value.
The PSS-Fa and PSS-Fr consist of 20 items with three an-
swer options—“yes”, “no” and “don’t know”—and are wei-
ghted from 0 to 20 (the response “don’t know” carries a weight
of 0). Values closest to 20 suggest a high perception of social
support and values below 10 indicate a low perception of social
The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS Windows,
version 18.0) was used to analyze data. According to the nature
of the data and the objectives of the work, additional descrip-
tive statistical comparisons were carried out by using the t-test
and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA).
In general, the data show (see Table 4) that adolescents per-
ceive their parents as using predominantly “democratic”, “au-
thoritarian” or “permissive” styles and this perception displays
Table 1.
School behaviour.
Always well
behaved Reasonably well
behaved Often badly
behaved Total
239 206 92 537
Table 2.
Level of the parents’ schooling.
Basic Middle Higher
245 189 99
Table 3.
Internal consistency of i n st ruments—cronbach’s a l ph a .
Perceived Social Support-Family Scale (PSS-Fa) 0.850
Perceived Social Support-Friends Scale (PSS-Fr) 0.810
Parental Style: authoritarian 0.769
Parental Style: permissive 0.660
Parental Authority
Questionnaire (PAQ) Parental Style: democratic 0.779
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
quite similar values, although the “permissive” style presents a
slightly lower value.
Also, in agreement with the data shown in Table 5, the ado-
lescents, when questioned, perceive themselves as obtaining
more social support from peers than from family.
Below are presented data in agreement with the definition of
this study’s goals (Table 6).
Concerning the relationship between adolescent school be-
havior and their perception of the parenting styles of their par-
ents, we see that:
The democratic s tyle is predominant;
The permissive style is perceived with the lowest values;
Adolescents who behave better at school perceive their
parents as less permissive;
As school behavior deteriorates, adolescents perceive their
parents as more permissive or more authoritarian.
Statistical analysis shows significant differences (Pillae’
Trace = 0.067; F (6,1032) = 5.939; p < 0.001). These differ-
ences appear in “Authoritarian style” (F (2,517) = 7.118; p =
0.001) and in “Permissive style” (F (2,517) = 9.116; p < 0.001).
With respect to the perception of “authoritarian style”, we
found differences between the group “always well-behaved”
and the other two groups with values of p = 0.002 for the group
“reasonably well behaved”, and p = 0.017 for the group “Often
badly behaved”.
When we consider the relationship between behavior at
school and perceived social support, according to the data pre-
sented in Table 7, we see that, irrespective of behavior at
school, adolescents perceive more social support from their
peers than from their fa mily.
It is also relevant to emphasize the fact that adolescents with
less positive behavior showed the lowest perception of social
Table 4.
Global data—perceived parenting styles.
Parenting style N M Sd
Authoritarian 531 30.25 6.509
Permissive 530 28.93 5.681
Democratic 520 37.04 6.194
Table 5.
Global data—perceived social s upport.
N M Sd
Family support 529 13.04 4.599
Peers support 526 14.81 3.814
Table 6.
School behavior and perceived p a renting style.
Permissive st yle Democratic style Authoritaria n s tyle
Behaviour N M Sd N M Sd N M Sd
behaved 236 27.79 5.073 23736.68 5.848 237 29.145.945
behaved 204 29.84 5.893 20437.05 6.497 202 31.296.777
behaved 90 29.86 6.204 92 37.91 6.353 92 31.396.509
support either from the family or from peers.
The data below relating to the variable “level of parent
schooling” are analyzed, and directly relate to a relationship
with the “perceived parenting styles”.
In agreement with Table 8, we can see:
“Democratic” emerges as the predominant parenting style;
Independently from the level of schooling, parents are al-
ways perceived as more authoritarian than permissive;
Parents who have only completed “basic education” are
perceived as the least “democratic”;
Parent s who have compl ete d highe r scho oling a re per ceive d
as the least permissive and authoritarian.
Statistical analysis demonstrates significant differences (Pil-
lae’ Trace = 0.026; F (6,1024) = 2.216; p = 0.039). A difference
emerges in the group that perceives “Democratic style” (F
(2,513) = 3.167; p = 0.043). Moreover, there is a significant
difference between the group “basic schooling level” and the
group “middle schooling level”, (p = 0.038).
As regards the relationship between “level of schooling” and
perceived “social support” (see Table 9), we can see that:
Adolescents, irrespective of the level of schooling of the
parents, consider that they obtain more social support from
their peers than from their family.
Adolescents whose parents are of a “higher schooling level”
admit to obtaining more social support from their family
than from their colleagues whose families have lower levels
of schooling.
Statistical analysis shows a significant difference (Pillae’
Trace = 0.013; F (4,1030) = 1.629; p = 0.165). This difference
is demonstrated in the perception of “family social support” (F
(2,515) = 2.969; p = 0.052) and between the group whose parents
Table 7.
School behavior and perceived so c i al s u p p o rt.
Family support Peers support
Behaviour NM Sd N M Sd
Always well behaved 23713.03 4.808 236 14.943.889
Reasonably well behaved20113.12 4.317 200 14.723.874
Often badly behaved 9112.89 4.691 90 14.673.500
Table 8.
Level of schooling and percei v e d p a r en t i n g s t yle.
Permissive st yle Democratic style Authori tarian style
Level of
schooling N M Sd N M Sd N M Sd
Basic 24329.206.023142 36.20 6.136 245 30.476.272
Middle 18528.865.671188 38.00 6.325 184 30.796.738
Higher 9828.224.7859937.34 5.922 98 29.376.565
Table 9.
Level of schooling and per ce iv ed so ci al s up port.
Family support Peers support
Level of schoolingN M Sd N M Sd
Basic 24312.60 4.494 238 14.553.667
Middle 18513.21 4.765 186 15.054.008
Higher 98 13.92 4.350 98 15.08 3.765
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 515
Table 10.
Gender and perceived pare nt in g st yle.
Parenting style Gender N Mean Standard deviation
Authoritarian Male
Female 258
273 30.86
29.86 6.597
Permissive Male
Female 254
276 30.05
27.90 5.704
Democratic Male
Female 256
277 37.77
36.36 5.579
Table 11.
Gender and perceived social support.
Social support Gender N Mean Standard devia tion
Family Male
Female 253
276 13.37
12.73 4.158
Peers Male
Female 252
274 13.88
15.67 3.938
have “basic level of schooling” and the group whose parents
have “higher level of schooling” (p = 0.047).
Finally, considering the data that measures the relationship
between “gender” and “parenting style” as shown in Table 10,
we can conclude that:
“Democratic” style is perceived as the most often used by
parents of both genders. However, boys perceive their par-
ents as more “democratic” than girls (t (526) = 2.663; p =
Both genders perceive their parents as more authoritarian
than permissive;
Girls perceive their parents as less permissive than boys (t
(528) = 4.434; p < 0.001).
Taking into consideration the relationship between “gender”
and perceived “social support”, the analysis of data in Table 11
allows us to emphasize some aspects.
Boys and girls admit to obtaining more support from peers
than from their family. Among girls, this difference is stati-
cally significant (t (271) = 9.942; p < 0.001).
Girls perceive themselves as receiving more support than
boys (t (503) = 5.513; p < 0.001).
Discussion and Conclusions
Considering the study’s objectives and the data analysis car-
ried out, we may conclude that, in general, the Portuguese ado-
lescent population surveyed perceives their parents as using
predominantly a democratic style. Despite its values being
close to authoritarian style, permissive style is viewed as the
least often used. According to the literature (e.g. Yeh & Lem-
pers, 2004), a democratic parental style may contribute to the
development of individual’s abilities to manage negative or
threatening experiences, significant events and relationships
with partners effectively.
Regarding social support, adolescents perceive greater sup-
port from their peers than from their family, corroborating data
gathered by Antunes and Fontaine (1994), and Gouveia Pereira,
Pedro, Amaral, Alves Martins, and Peixoto (2000).
The analysis of the relationship between perceived school
behavior and parenting styles shows that, in addition to the
predominance of the democratic style, well-behaved adoles-
cents perceive their parents as less permissive. On the other
hand, those who reveal worse behavior are those who perceive
their parents as more permissive and authoritarian. The pattern
identified, which suggests that students who misbehavior may
perceive their parents as more permissive was also observed in
studies by Lamborn et al. (1991), Darling (1999), Oliveira
(2002) and Lopes (2003). Moreover, we might also point out
that those adolescents who exhibit more disruptive behavior in
school settings and perceive their parents as being more au-
thoritarian is also mentioned by Veiga (2002), and Aquilino
and Supple (2001).
As regards the relationship between perceived school behav-
ior and social support, worth mentioning that the three groups
recognize receiving greater support by peers than family. In the
same sense, we also noted that adolescents who “often behave
badly” are those who refer to less social support, either from the
family or peers.
Considering the variable “parent level of schooling” and
analyzing their relationship with parenting styles, we concluded
that the democratic style is more highly perceived and the per-
missive style shows a lowe r value. Moreover, parents who have
a “higher level of schooling” are less often perceived as per-
missive or authoritarian, and this result is also revealed by
Dornbusch et al. (1987) and corroborates the work conducted
by Sonuga-Barke, Harrison and Hart (2000).
The relationship between perceived “level of schooling” and
social support shows that adolescents recognize more support
from their peers than from their family, and adolescents whose
parents have a “high level of schooling” are those who relate
more to social support given by the family.
Findings based on the relationship between gender and par-
enting style shows that democratic style emerges as predomi-
nant, although girls significantly have identified their parents as
less “democratic” than boys. Moreover, they perceive their
parents as significantly less permissive.
The present study supports earlier findings regarding the re-
lationship between social support and school behavior. Both
girls and boys admit having more support from their peers than
from their family, and we found a significant difference be-
tween genders in social support received from peers, namely
girls perceiving more social support. This data pattern is in
agreement with studies developed by Fletcher et al. (1995),
Helsen, Vollebergh e Meeurs (2000), Crosnoe (2001), and
Crosnoe and Elder (2004).
This study has added knowledge concerning Portuguese
adolescents’ perceptions of the relationship between parenting
styles and school behavior. However, future research is needed
in order to readjust the parenting style model adopted and in-
clude the rejecting/negligent style in the analysis of the influ-
ence of parenting styles on Portuguese adolescent’s school
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