5 Negative Authoritarian Parenting Effects

Authoritarian parenting refers to a type of raising children where the parent is highly demanding and has low responsiveness to the child’s emotional needs. They tend to be strict and instil fear in the child.

One of the key aspects of authoritarian parenting is that the parents don’t feel the need to explain to their children the reasons behind the rules they set. The child therefore doesn’t get to learn the moral and ethical reaons underpinning the rules the parents set. Furthermore, the child is not allowed to ask questions of the authority figure.

Scholars have found that authoritarian parenting has several negative effects on children. Some negative effects of authoritarian parenting include low self-esteem in the child and inhibited ability to use moral reasoning.

Authoritarian Parenting Definition

Below are several scholarly definitions of authoritarian parenting:

  • “[Authoritarian parenting involves] high levels of hostility, coercion, and psychological control, and low levels of warmth and acceptance” (Shaw & Starr, 2019, p. 3509)
  • “Authoritarian parents set strict guidelines for their children, while displaying minimal warmth and responsiveness. These parents establish stringent limits on children’s active exploration and, instead, encourage obedience toward parental authority.” (Liu et al, 2018, p. 4061)
  • “[Authoritarian parenting can be simply defined as] high demandingness and low responsiveness.” (Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019)
  • “Authoritarian parenting style is an adult-centered pattern characterized by a clear set of rules and expectations that are expected to be obeyed and achieved with no explanation.” (Checa & Abundis-Gutierrez, 2018, p. 1)

Explanation of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting is one of four parenting styles proposed by Baumring (1971).

The four parenting styles are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful. They can be mapped onto a chart with two axes: levels of demandingness and levels of responsiveness:

parenting styles

Here that image is as a table:

Parenting StyleDemandingnessResponsivenessDefinition
Authoritarian ParentingHighLowA parent who is strict, weilds unquestioned power, and is unemotional.
Authoritative ParentingHighHighA parent who has high expectations but is also compassionate and reasons with their child.
Neglectful ParentingLowLowA parent who does not care much for their child’s wellbeing and doesn’t have any expectations for the child.
Permissive ParentingLowHighA parent who lets their child get away with anything and does not place rules in place. They often cave to the child’s demands and give them whatever they want.

Related articles:

Authoritarian Parenting Characteristics

  • Strict rules that are not clearly explained
  • Expectations that authority is not questioned
  • A focus on traditionalism, and in particular, following rules for the sake of tradition
  • Disproportionate negative punishment compared to positive praise
  • Punitive discipline for even minor transgressions
  • Lack of guidance on critical thinking over moral issues
  • Lack of children’s agency or allowance for children to ‘make up their own mind with all the facts’

5 Authoritarian Parenting Effects

1. Struggling with Moral Reasoning

Baumrind (1971), a seminal scholar of parenting, has argued that authoritarian discipline can stunt moral reasoning because it fails to provide a rationale underpinning rewards and punishments.

Lack of explanation or justification for rewards and punishment can result in blind obedience to authority. Children are not encouraged to question the right or wrong of a situation. Instead, they are taught not to think ethically.

As Baumrind argues in his study of 150 families, children of authoritarian parents are “not as socially responsible” as children of the related (but different) authoritative parenting style. This was because the authoritative parents encouraged “independence and verbal exchange” (Baumrind, 1971, p. 96) when interacting with their children.

 As a result, “frequent use of negative reinforcement [that is] not accompanied by use of reason to give legitimacy to their directives” is ineffective in helping children to develop “socially responsible behavior” (Baumrind, 1971, p. 96).

2. Behavioral issues

A study by Kuppens and Ceulemans (2019) studied 600 Flemish children whose parents were classified into the four parenting styles. Their study found that children of authoritarian parents had higher than average behavioral issues.

The researchers found that:

“Children of authoritarian parents demonstrated more negative (i.e., hyperactivity, conduct problems, emotional symptoms) and less positive (i.e., prosocial behavior) child outcomes compared to children whose parents belonged to another parenting style” (p. 175).

Similarly, other scholars have found that authoritarian parenting correlates with aggression, delinquent behaviors, and anxiety (Williams et al. 2009; Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).

Potential explanations for this include children’s stunted ability to express their needs to authority figures, fear of punishment for small transgressions, and the lack of a trustworthy emotional support group.

3. Academic problems

Authoritarian parenting may have a negative impact on children’s learning. Potential reasons for this include that the style discourages critical thinking and emphasizes external rather than internal motivations for actions.

Many studies exploring the relationship between parenting styles and academic achievement find that authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful parenting styles correlate with lower academic achievement than the authoritative parenting style.

Two leading hypothesis for the relationship between authoritarian parenting and poor outcomes include:

  • Behavioral issues, which were previously noted as correlating with authoritarian parenting, may negatively impact learning.
  • Extrinsic motivators are central to this parenting style (i.e. parents use punishments extensively in their discipline rather than moral reasoning). This can spill over into education, where the children struggle to elf-regulate without reward and punishment guidelines (Thresya et al., 2018).
  • Critical thinking is discouraged in the authoritarian household (i.e. the child does not question the adult’s knowledge), which may affect learning abilities.

4. The child may externalize problems

Externalizing problems include hyperactivity, rule-breaking, and aggression. Internalizing problems include anxiety, withdrawal and depression.

One study, which looked at 1,668 Japanese, found that  “…authoritarian discipline was found to be related to externalizing problems in both boys and girls…” (p. 10).

These findings are consistent with Baumrind’s theory that authoritarian parenting may cause children to develop difficulties with authority figures.

When an authority figure does not give the child a logical moral rationale for rules, and does not give the child a sense that the rules are fair, then the child may choose to reject the rules presented.

5. Poor self-esteem

Several studies have found that a child who grew up with authoritarian parents can develop poor self-esteem (Jannah et al. 2022; Pinquart & Gerke, 2019). This may be because the authoritarian parent was overly focused on punishment for bad behavior rather than reward for positive behavior.

Baumrind’s (1971) original work on the parenting style taxonomy highlighted that authoritarian parents tend to be overly critical of their children, and can give their children a sense that they can’t do anything right.

“Authoritarian parenting is expected to lead to low self-esteem because children cannot internalize parental positive feelings towards themselves (but may instead internalize parental negative feelings associated with possible harsh parental behaviors)” (Pinquart & Gerke, 2019, p. 2018)

Similarly, Jannah et al. (2022, p. 2503) found a correlation between authoritarian parenting and low self-esteem. This led them to argue for “the importance of positive parenting and the building of adolescents’ self-esteem to avoid the risk of depression.”


Authoritarian parenting i characterized by strict parenting where rules and expectations must be unquestioningly followed, and where parents are not highly attentive to their child’s emotional needs.

The abundance of literature on this topic finds that this parenting style can be detrimental to a child’s academic and emotional development.


Checa, P., & Abundis-Gutierrez, A. (2018). Parenting styles, academic achievement and the influence of culture. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Research Study1(4), 1-3.

Jannah, K., Hastuti, D., & Riany, Y. E. (2022). Parenting style and depression among students: The mediating role of self-esteem. Psikohumaniora: Jurnal Penelitian Psikologi7(1), 39-50.

Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting styles: A closer look at a well-known concept. Journal of child and family studies28(1), 168-181.

Liu, J., Xiao, B., Hipson, W. E., Coplan, R. J., Yang, P., & Cheah, C. S. (2018). Self-regulation, learning problems, and maternal authoritarian parenting in Chinese children: A developmental cascades model. Journal of Child and Family Studies27(12), 4060-4070.

Pinquart, M., & Gerke, D. C. (2019). Associations of parenting styles with self-esteem in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Journal of Child and Family Studies28(8), 2017-2035.

Shaw, Z. A., & Starr, L. R. (2019). Intergenerational transmission of emotion dysregulation: The role of authoritarian parenting style and family chronic stress. Journal of Child and Family Studies28(12), 3508-3518.

Theresya, J., Latifah, M., & Hernawati, N. (2018). The effect of parenting style, self-efficacy, and self regulated learning on adolescents’ academic achievement. Journal of Child Development Studies3(1), 28-43.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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