Do you spend a lot of time saying “because I said so” to your child? If so, you might have an authoritarian parenting style.
Authoritarian parents set very strict and clear ground rules and enforce those rules consistently. They have very high standards of behavior for their children and aren’t shy about discipline when those standards aren’t met. While most experts may agree clear boundaries and consistent enforcement are positives for effective parenting, what sets authoritarian parenting apart is a lack of warmth, receptiveness and feedback.
Different Approaches to Parenting
Authoritarian parenting is one of three styles of parenting (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive) identified by psychologist Diana Baumrind in a 1967 study of parenting techniques. Baumrind based her categories on a number of parenting factors, including discipline, warmth, and expectations of maturity and control.
As defined by Baumrind, an authoritarian parent expects a lot from their child, but isn’t always great about providing guidance. If a child misbehaves, they might punish the child without making it clear what exactly the child did wrong. Conversely, when a child behaves, an authoritarian parent may not give them any indication they’re doing a good job.
Research indicates this approach to parenting can have serious negative effects when kids grow up. One study conducted by the University of Cincinnati found children raised under authoritarian practices were more likely to report symptoms of depression than those raised under more receptive, authoritative parenting.
Meanwhile, a 2015 report from Boston Children’s Hospital and Loyola University linked parental perfectionism to increased rigidity and anxiety in children. The same study found children of perfectionist parents are also more likely to experience symptoms of depression and lower levels of life satisfaction.
A More Measured Approach
While authoritarian parents may worry about being too permissive if they soften their approach, there’s another style that provides more warmth and receptiveness while still maintaining strong boundaries. The authoritative style, also identified by Baumrind, holds a lot in common with the authoritarian style: parents set firm ground rules and enforce them consistently.
However, Baumrind said authoritative parenting places a heavier emphasis on making sure kids understand why the rules are what they are and how to follow them. “Therefore,” Baumrind wrote in her study of parental technique, “[the parent] exerts firm control at points of parent-child divergence, but does not hem the child in with restrictions.” This contrasts Baumrind’s definition of authoritarian parenting — setting and enforcing rules without explaining the reasoning behind them.
For Baumrind, authoritative parenting represented the solid middle ground between authoritarian and permissive parenting. “The authoritative parent affirms the child’s present qualities, but also sets standards for future conduct,” she wrote. “She uses reason, power, and shaping by regime and reinforcement to achieve her objectives and does not base her decisions on group consensus or the individual child’s desires.”
Authoritarian Parenting — Sources
Authoritarian parenting and youth depression: Results from a national study.
The Definition of Authoritarian Parenting
Understanding affluent adolescent adjustment: The interplay of parental perfectionism, perceived parental pressure, and organized activity involvement.
What Is Authoritative Parenting?