What the Research Reveals about Authoritarian Parenting Outcomes

Strict parenting
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Rules and structure are good for kids. But like almost everything in life, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Too many rules and harsh consequences can backfire and increase a child's risk of certain problems.

Strict Parenting May Lead to Aggressive Behavior

Some research suggests that children who are raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior. A 2009 study published in Aggressive Behavior found that kids with authoritarian mothers behaved increasingly aggressive over time.

When teachers were asked to rate children's behavior between the ages of 9 and 13, they reported that by age 13, the children exposed to harsh discipline became more aggressive than their peers.

School Performance May Suffer

Authoritarian parents often use shame-based discipline. A child who fails an exam may be subjected to a harsh lecture aimed at reminding him he "won't ever amount to anything in life if he doesn't improve his scores." Or, a child who forgets to do his homework may be told he should, "know better." Shaming a child can backfire as research shows children who experience shame for their misdeeds tend to perform poorly on problem-solving tasks. And children with poor problem-solving skills tend to struggle academically.

Too Many Rules My Interfere with Kids’ Social Skills

Studies across a variety of cultures have found that children raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to experience social skill deficits.

Children with strict parents tend to be less resourceful and less self-reliant than their peers.

It’s likely that high demands combined with little nurturing decreases a child’s ability to engage with other people in an assertive manner. A child who is encouraged to share his opinion at home, may struggle to express his thoughts and feelings to his friends.

Kids May Struggle with Moral Reasoning

Authoritarian parents don’t explain the underlying reasons for their household rules. When a child asks why he can’t go to his friend’s house, an authoritarian parent may say, “Because I said so,” rather than explaining why it’s not a good idea. As a result, kids don’t learn moral reasoning. They aren’t able to process why something is unsafe or how their behavior affects other people.

Authoritarian parents don’t encourage independent thinking. They usually don’t trust kids to make healthy choices on their own. Consequently, kids often say things like, “I can’t do that because my mom won’t let me,” versus, “I shouldn’t do that because it’s not safe.”

Kids May Have More Emotional Problems

Several studies have linked authoritarian parenting to childhood psychological problems. A survey of middle-aged Americans found that people who grew up with authoritarian parents were more likely to experience poor psychological adjustment. Other research studies have concluded that children who are subjected to a lot of rules and little nurturing have difficulty regulating their emotions and may be at an increased risk of depression.


Kamins M and Dweck C.1999. Person versus process praise and criticism:Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology 30(3): 835-847.

Rothrauff TC, Cooney TM, and An JS. 2009. Remembered parenting styles and adjustment in middle and late adulthood. Journals of Gerentology. 64(1):137-46.

Steinberg L, Lamborn SD, Dornbusch SM, and Darling N. 1992. Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Dev. 63(5):1266-81.

Underwood MK, Beron KJ, Rosen LH. 2009. Continuity and change in social and physical aggression from middle childhood through early adolescence. Aggress Behav. 35(5):357-75.

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