Authoritarian Parents: Characteristics & Effects on Children

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Psychology defines several different parenting styles that parents use when raising and disciplining their children. This lesson will define and explain the characteristics and effects of the authoritarian style of parenting.

Authoritarian Parents

Have you ever encountered a parent who you felt punished his child incredibly harshly, with no explanation? Have you met a parent who expected too much from her child and was distant or cold? Chances are, those parents are authoritarian parents. The individuals who fall into this parenting style are often very strict, expecting perfect obedience and high achievement without providing much warmth or nurturing.

This lesson will define some of the characteristics of authoritarian parenting and the effects it has on children through several scenarios. These scenarios will allow you to see what authoritarian parenting looks like in a real-world, everyday setting.

Scenario 1: Mrs. Jones

Mrs. Jones is a single mother of a young girl named Rebecca (age 10). Mrs. Jones has a very strict set of rules that Rebecca must follow without fail every day. These include what time Rebecca should wake up, what she should do when she gets home from school, and her various chores around the house. While these rules may not sound too bad, Mrs. Jones enforces them very strictly.

For example, if Rebecca forgets to wash the dishes one night, instead of reminding her, Mrs. Jones immediately punishes Rebecca by taking away privileges. Sometimes, Rebecca doesn't even know what she did wrong because her mother offers no explanation for why she is being punished. Often, these punishments are out of proportion with the rule that was broken. Rebecca is often grounded for weeks at a time for simply forgetting to put her shoes in the right place.

As a result of these rules and punishments, Rebecca is excellent at following rules, inside and out of the home. However, she also has very low self-esteem and is incredibly bothered when she breaks the smallest rule. At home, this results in strict punishment. But at school, Rebecca's teachers often struggle to calm her down when she is corrected about small things, such as talking during class.

Scenario 2: The Smiths

Mr. and Mrs. Smith are the parents of two children, Joe (age 16) and Samantha (age 12). Both of their children are incredibly successful at school and bring home high grades and good report cards. However, Mr. and Mrs. Smith very rarely congratulate or encourage their children. Instead, they often act slightly displeased and indicate to Samantha and Joe that they feel they can do better.

The Smiths' parenting style has led to their children getting excellent grades in school and doing exceedingly well. However, both Joe and Samantha often react very negatively when they do slightly less than perfect on a test or assignment. They are also incredibly shy and tend not to socialize with other students out of fear that friendships will distract them from their work.

Scenario 3: The Millers

The Millers have one son, John (age 11). John spends most of his time after school at various practices, meetings, or lessons. The Millers have John signed up for soccer, baseball, basketball, piano lessons, art lessons, and many clubs at school. His parents do not give him the option of not doing these things. They also only show pride or positivity towards John when he does well at a sport or during a piano recital.

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