Authoritarian parenting: Serious man frowning and looking over his glasses. Judgemental look!

 The Essence of the Strict Authoritarian Parenting Style and the Long Term Effects

Here you'll get:

• A sharp, to-the-point understanding of the authoritarian parenting style or what many people just call strict parenting. 

• A detailed analysis of the long term challenging existential, emotional, mental and social effects that children of authoritarian parents may have to face.

My list of long term effects include both the results of Diana Baumrind's 1960's study of prevalent middle class parenting styles as well as my own personal observations and subsequent analysis.

Authoritarian Parenting:
A Short Term Parenting Behavior Strategy with Serious Long Term Psychological Consequences!

Angry woman scolding with pointing finger. Most people think that strict parenting and harsh discipline lead to more well-behaved kids.

Well, they may be right!

Seen from an external behavioral point of view, kids of authoritarian families may seem polite, obedient and easy to manage. They are compliant and do as they are told!

Many parents view instant obedience as a good virtue.


Because it makes everyday life easer for them! Simple!

But strict discipline often has its price.

A high price!

If we for one moment look beyond external behavior and adjust our spotlight to what's going on on the inside of these children, we will see that the authoritarian parenting style may have severe existential and psychological consequences.

Research has shown that children of authoritarian families are more prone to suffering from low self esteem and low self-worth than children coming from authoritative or permissive parents.

In this way the short term behavioral gain of obedience is heavily outweighed by the long term psychological damage.

(Jump to these parenting articles if you wish to learn more about the personality of authoritarian parents or want to know about the authoritarians way of parenting seen in a historical light.)

Authoritarians are Adult-Centred and Conditional

Authoritarian parents do not focus on meeting the child's existential and emotional needs.

No, they are more concerned about their child living up to their adult standards, norm abiding ideas, consensus values and expectations.

The behavioral demands on the child is very high. The child is expected to behave in a 'mature' way ... more or less like a 'civilized' adult. However, despite the adult expectations, the kid is treated like an inferior. An interesting paradox, isn't it!

Within this conservative, rule orientated parenting style there is little freedom of thought, creative experimentation and independent choice making.

The means of controlling children is by force and withdrawal of affection in terms of various forms of punishments. A child may be punished for being disobedient, throwing tantrums, breaking the rules etc.

The effect of punishments is that the child will be well-behaved out of fear ... not because he or she feels like it or has understood the true meaning of a positive and caring attitude.

In this way the child learns that love and acceptance is dependent on good behavior. In this way authoritarian parenting is conditional parenting: "If I behave, I will not be punished!"

Existential Effects on Kids

The first list of effects of this strict parenting style deals with what I will call 'existential effects'.

By existential I mean the way that strict parenting affects kids' basic life attitude, basic life skills and general self image and sense of beingness.

Children of authoritarian families may develop:

Drawing of sad boy in pretty suit!
  • Low self esteem and inferiority complexes because of the feeling that they are not being 'seen' or heard. The consistent overruling makes the kids feel that their opinion doesn't matter. That they are not deemed 'worthy' of having a say in their own life.

  • Low self worth because they learn that they are only shown affection when they display good behavior. In even worse scenarios the only thing, they achieve by obeying is not being punished. In this way the kids don't feel accepted for who they are, only for what they do and then only, when they do well.

  • A lack of basic trust in people. They become suspicious of people's good intentions and affections: 'What are they trying to achieve?', they think. Because these kids are used to 'earning' love by living up to set standards and rules, they may develop the belief that people always have an egoistic agenda. That everything has a price tag.

  • No skills in listening to their intuition. They don't really know what it means to listen to your gut feeling. These tools are critical when trying to determine 'what is best for me'! Kids of authoritarian families are so used to being controlled and have very little freedom to exercise their own will that don't know what that little inner voice sounds like.

  • Passive attitude to their own role in life and hence don't take overall responsibility for their own life. Because they have learnt that everybody has their fixed place in life and role to play out, they tend to adopt a submissive attitude to leaders and authority systems.

  • Adherence to rigid tradition and fear of new experimentation. Because of their experience with wrongdoings leading to various sorts of punishments, children of authoritarian families are not prone to try out new ways to do things or be innovatively creative.

Mental Effects on Kids

The mental effects of the strict parenting style address typical thought patterns and mental flexibility.

Because of the rigid rules, little space for own opinions and punishments for straying off the set path, children of authoritarian families:

  • Learn to adopt a dualistic thought pattern. Another word for that could be oversimplified thinking or mental rigidity. They don't come to view the world and people in shades. No, the world is black and white. There's right and there's wrong. There's good and there's bad. There's no ambiguity or tolerance of different opinions! In this way children are not just children. No, children are either good or bad. Obedient or naughty!

  • Don't know what they actually like or what they don't like other than what they're being told is good or bad. Children of authoritarian families are used to preset standards and opinions which limit their free individual thinking and ability to mentally question and consequently make independent choices.

Emotional Effects on Kids

The emotional effects of the strict parenting style address inner feelings and sentiments and the skills of dealing with them.

Children of authoritarian families:

  • Learn that showing emotions is dangerous and may get you into trouble. Children of authoritarian families learn that suppressing and denying feelings make them less vulnerable and prone to being punished. They learn to put a lid on their feelings and present a cool, emotionally detached facade.

  • Learn no skills in dealing with difficult emotions and frustration. Children of authoritarian families have learnt that 'bad' feelings are not acceptable. This non-acceptance of an emotional part of their personality may lead to self resentment: "I'm a bad person when I feel angry!" The negative self image may lead to a lot of anger and / or even depression.

  • Learn that positive feelings and affections may not be 'real' (part of a behavioral agenda) or are not attributed real value (not recognized and responded to). In this way children of authoritarian parents risk becoming emotionally detached and have difficulties with close relationships later in life which require intimacy and emotional honesty and sharing.

  • Become stressed because of their having to tip toe around their parents and being a subject to a constant critical eye that always passes uncompromising judgement.

  • Risk developing self guilt and shame as a result of the punishment strategy. They come to believe that are bad people when they are punished.

Social Effects on Kids

The social effects of the authoritarian parenting strict address interpersonal relations and socializing skills.

Children of authoritarian parents:

Big kid bullying smaller kid in the school playground!
  • Learn that brute force (verbal and physical) is power and that that type of power is attractive. They get the impression that you can get whatever you want (respect, authority, obedience) if you just overpower those 'weaker' and 'inferior' to yourself! In this way strict parents unwillingly provide their children with a perfect recipe for bullying: Force through what you want and squash whatever is in your path!

  • Incorporate a fixed hierarchical behavior pattern which also leads to poor socializing skills. Children of this strict parenting style have learnt to be submissive to authorities. This also means 'inferior' people are to take orders from them. In this way, kids of authoritarian families are susceptible to more readily following peer pressure.

I hope this article on the potential effects of the authoritarian parenting style on kids was of use to you. If you want to read other parenting articles related to the same or similar topics, please feel free to follow the links below. 

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