What Is Authoritarian Parenting?

Authoritarian Parenting
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Authoritarian parenting is a style characterized by high demands and low responsiveness. Parents with an authoritarian style have very high expectations of their children, yet provide very little in the way of feedback and nurturance. Mistakes tend to be punished harshly. When feedback does occur, it is often negative. Yelling and corporal punishment are also commonly seen with the authoritarian style.

A Brief History of Authoritarian Parenting

During the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different types of parenting styles based on her researcher with preschool-age children. One of the main parenting styles identified by Baumrind is known as the authoritarian parenting style.

Authoritarian parents have high expectations of their children and have very strict rules that they expect to be followed unconditionally. According to Baumrind, these parents "are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation."

People with this parenting style often utilize punishment rather than discipline, but are not willing or able to explain the reasoning behind their rules.

Characteristics of the Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents:

  • Have strict rules and expectations.
  • Very demanding, but not responsive.
  • Don't express much warmth or nurturing.
  • Utilize punishments with little or no explanation.
  • Don't give children choices or options.

Baumrind believed that one of the major roles that parents play in a child's life is to socialize them to the values and expectations of their culture. How parents accomplish this, however, can vary dramatically based upon the amount of control they attempt to exert over their children.

The authoritarian approach represents the most controlling style. Rather than valuing self-control and teaching children to manage their own behaviors, the authoritarian parent is focused on adherence to authority. Instead of rewarding positive behaviors, the authoritarian parent only provide feedback in form of punishments for misbehavior.

The Effects of Authoritarian Parenting

Parenting styles have been associated with a variety of child outcomes including social skills and academic performance.

The children of authoritarian parents:

  • Tend to associate obedience and success with love.
  • Some children display more aggressive behavior outside the home.
  • Others may act fearful or overly shy around others.
  • Often have lower self-esteem.
  • Have difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence.
  • Children raised by authoritarian parents tend to conform easily, yet may also suffer from depression and anxiety.

Understanding Authoritarian Parenting

Because authoritarian parents expect absolute obedience, children raised in such settings are typically very good at following rules.

However, they may lack self-discipline. Unlike children raised by authoritative parents, children raised by authoritarian parents are not encouraged to explore and act independently, so they never really learn how to set their own limits and personal standards. This can ultimately lead to problems when the parental figure is not around to monitor behavior.

While developmental experts agree that rules and boundaries are important for children to have, most believe that authoritarian parenting is too punitive and lacks the warmth, unconditional love and nurturance that children need.


Baumrind, D. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child. Behavior. Child Development, 37(4), 887-907.

Baumrind, D. (1967). Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 75, 43-88.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Maccoby, E.E. (1992). The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Developmental Psychology, 28, 1006-1017.

Santrock, J.W. (2007). A Topical Approach to Life-span Development, Third Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Stassen Berger, K. (2011). The Developing Person Through the Lifespan. New York: Worth Publishers.

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