8 Characteristics of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting

Verywell / Hugo Lin

Authoritarian parenting is a parenting 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 nurturing. Mistakes tend to be punished harshly. When feedback does occur, it is often negative. Yelling and corporal punishment are also common in the authoritarian style.

During the 1960s, developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind described three different types of parenting styles based on her research with preschool-age children. One of these three 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 use punishment rather than discipline. They are not willing or able to explain the reasoning behind their rules.

Characteristics of Authoritarian Parents

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 focuses on adherence to authority. Instead of rewarding positive behavior, the authoritarian parent only provides feedback in the form of punishments for misbehavior.

Demanding, But Not Responsive

Authoritarian parents have lots of rules and may even micromanage almost every aspect of their children's lives and behaviors, at home and in public. Additionally, they also have many unwritten rules that kids are expected to follow—even though children receive little to no explicit instruction about these "rules." Instead, children are simply expected to know that these rules exist.

Little Warmth or Nurturing

Parents with this style often seem cold, aloof, and harsh. They are more likely to nag or yell at their children than offer encouragement and praise. They value discipline over fun and expect that children should be seen and not heard.

Little Explanation for Punishments

Parents with this style usually have no problem resorting to corporal punishment, which often involves spanking. Rather than relying on positive reinforcement, they react swiftly and harshly when the rules are broken.

Few Choices for Children

Authoritarian parents don't give children choices or options. Parents set the rules and have a "my way or the highway" approach to discipline. There is little room for negotiation and they rarely allow their children to make their own choices.

Impatient With Misbehavior

Authoritarian parents expect their children to simply know better than to engage in undesirable behaviors. They lack the patience for explaining why their children should avoid certain behaviors and expend little energy talking about feelings.


Authoritarian parents don't trust their children to make good choices. Parents with this style do not give their children much freedom to demonstrate that they can display good behavior. Rather than letting kids make decisions on their own and face natural consequences for those choices, authoritarian parents hover over their kids in order to ensure that they don't make mistakes.

Unwilling to Negotiate

Authoritarian parents don't believe in gray areas. Situations are viewed as black and white and there is little to no room for compromise. Kids don't get a say or a vote when it comes to setting rules or making decisions.


Authoritarian parents can be highly critical and may use shame as a tactic to force children into following the rules, using phrases such as "Why do you always do that?," "How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?," or "Why can't you do anything right?" Rather than looking for ways to build their children's self-esteem, these parents often believe that shaming will motivate children to do better.

Effects on Children

Parenting styles have been associated with a variety of child outcomes including social skills and academic performance. The children of authoritarian parents may:

  • Associate obedience and success with love
  • Display more aggressive behavior outside the home
  • Act fearful or overly shy around others
  • Have lower self-esteem
  • Have difficulty in social situations due to a lack of social competence
  • Conform easily, yet also suffer from depression and anxiety
  • Struggle with self-control because they are rarely able to make choices and experience natural consequences

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 or authority figure is not around to monitor behavior.

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

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A Word From Verywell

While an authoritarian approach might be effective in certain situations that require strict adherence to the rules, it can have negative consequences when overused as an approach to parenting. If you notice that your parenting style tends to be more authoritarian, consider looking for ways that you can begin incorporating a more authoritative style into your daily interactions with your children.

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Article Sources
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  2. Sooriya P. Parenting Style. Ashok Yakkaldevi; 2017.

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