Authoritarian Parenting: What It Is?

When it comes to parenting, everyone has their own methods and style. These styles can usually be put into four different categories: authoritarian, authoritative, uninvolved, and permissive parenting. Each has their own characteristics and effects on the child.

The authoritarian parenting definition is that it is an extremely strict form of parenting in which the parent expects the child to follow rules that they set. These rules and regulations usually allow for very little, if any, communication or input from the child himself. The emotional climate of these households is harsh and not comforting to the child.

With high expectations and low responsiveness, authoritarian parenting is one of the three main styles of parenting. Comparatively, it is strict and does not have much warmth. The obedience and demands that come with this style have been shown to be detrimental to the development of the child.

Think of it this way – going to boot camp is a lot like being raised in this kind of household. The parents expect greatness, and hardly do any kind of rewarding when they get what they want. There is also a method of punishment that denies the child knowledge about why he is being punished.

Authoritarian parenting styles are usually used when the parents feel like they are the bosses, and that their children should obey without question. Physical consequences such as spanking are often used as punishment.


In the 1960s, a developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, described three distinct types of parenting styles. These styles were joined by a fourth somewhat recently. These four styles have been used to describe the ways that parents raise their children, and how they treat them.

Some parents give their children responsibility and expect them to do great things with it, without telling them why or even telling them about their expectations. Without this communication, it can be detrimental to the development of the parent-child relationship. Without a mutual understanding, many problems will arise within the home.


There are several universal characteristics that authoritarian parents have when it comes to parenting. These characteristics are shared, but can vary depending on the individual. They can also vary in severity depending on the parents and how they feel about certain things.

  • Strict rules and expectations
    • Expectations will be high and there will strict rules that need to be adhered to.
    • This can cause the child to have a distaste for authority and rebel when older.
  • Demanding but not responsive
    • The parents will be demanding, but not available for any talks or willing to have mutual understanding.
  • Use punishment with little or no explanation
    • Spanking suddenly without saying why or giving a time out when something out of line is said.
  • Do not express much nurturing or warmth
    • Since this style does not have much room for nurturing, parents can often be cold and unrewarding.
    • The parents will often not be available for comforting words or life advice.
  • Little praise when things are done ‘right’
    • When expectations are met, there is barely even a ‘good job’ to go along with it. Encouragement is not present and expectations are to be met regardless.

Authoritarian Parenting Examples

It can be hard to pick out some behaviors of authoritarian parents. Some actions can be seen as sensible, while others are just out there. These actions taken can be misinterpreted, but when examined clearly, there may be reasoning after all. Some examples of authoritarian parenting are as follows:

  • When a child gets a bad grade, he is punished, but when the child gets a good grade, he is not punished but neither is he encouraged.
  • Saying something that the parents do not like may result in punishment such as washing the child’s mouth out with a bar of soap.
  • Spanking a child without telling her why she is being spanked.
  • Having the child sit in silence for accidentally knocking over a cup of juice.

Authoritarian parents have several of the previous characteristics and will punish harshly. Questionnaires given by researchers have been able to show some correlation in thoughts about parenting. Some statements that an authoritarian parent might agree with are:

  • I shout or yell when my child misbehaves
  • When my child questions something I have asked them to do, my answer is like ‘because I said so’ or ‘because I want you to’
  • I explode in anger towards my kid
  • Punishment includes withholding expressions of affection

To show how drastic the difference is, the parents that are less likely to be authoritarian tend to agree with statements like:

  • I try to comfort and help my child when he is upset
  • My child feels that she can come to me when she has a problem
  • I talk to my children about plans and listen to what they have to say.


  • Self-Esteem
    • Lower self-esteem has been found in children with authoritarian parents. With the absence of positive reinforcement, they will feel as if nothing that they do will be good enough to make their parents react favorably. This can destroy self-esteem and make it hard for them to motivate themselves later in life.
  • Socialization
    • The child might have a hard time in social situations because of a lack of developed social competence.
    • Children also might exhibit more aggressive behavior outside of the home. Without knowing their own personal limits and standards, children often have trouble acting independently or exploring their options.
  • Rules
    • Children with authoritarian parents are usually very good at following rules. They may, however, have trouble making decisions for themselves. The lack of options given to them and having choices made for them will cause issues with self-exploration and self-discipline.
  • Mental Illness
    • Although children from authoritative households tend to conform easily, they are also at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. This means that the way that the parents go about dealing with punishment and reward are too similar, and their child can really suffer from profound confusion and mental illness can stem from that.


Why would anyone want their child to grow up in this kind of environment? Well, it comes down to how the parents were raised themselves. Another place where reasoning lies is the feeling that it is the only way to control children and keep them in line at all times. This is not necessarily true.

Authoritarian parents have the best intentions most of the time. However, this style of parenting has been shown to be more detrimental than beneficial to the child. The most successful way to raise children has been found to be one of mutual understanding as well as strict rules. By involving the child in his own development, you will be allowing him to grow up healthy emotionally and physically.

Overall, authoritarian parenting is a way of parenting that is not always the best course of action. It can be detrimental to the child’s development and cause issues later in life. Experts do believe that boundaries and rules are important, but so is nurturing the child with warmth and unconditional love. Without both, a deficit of some sort will form.