What Are Authoritarian Parents?
Authoritarian parents are strict, endeavour to exercise strong control over their children, may use corporal punishment such as smacking, often raise their voices and shout at their offspring, and oppressively restrict their lives.
Whilst the way in which they punish their children is often unusually severe, they tend to compound the resulting ill effects by failing to explain to the child why s/he is being punished.
Furthermore, they often pay little regard to their children’s feelings and emotions.
Such parental behaviour may be relatively ‘well-meaning’ when they believe they are acting in their children’s ‘best interests’ – preparing them, as they see it, for an adult life in which they will need to be tough enough to cope with a ‘cruel, unforgiving, dog-eat-dog world’, rather like a sergeant major preparing his troops for battle by enforcing a harsh training regime. In other words, the authoritarian parent’s rule of thumb may often be ‘it’s for your own good…’
However, such parental behaviour, even when well-intentioned, can cause the child to develop numerous problems later on in adolescence and adulthood; I provide examples of these below:
1) The child may develop poor social skills.
This problem may arise as the child has grown up following his parents’ instructions in social situations rather than having been given the opportunity to learn through trial-and-error and on his/her own initiative. For example, as a child s/he may have been instructed only to speak to adults when spoken to, or to be ‘seen but not heard.’
2a) Because of the way in which authoritarian parents may condition or ‘program’ their children, they (the children) may grow up to be :
- highly conformist (i.e. acting in line with the prevailing views and attitudes of others, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong to do so)
- unthinkingly obedient (making them vulnerable to exploitation)
- excessively self-blaming (consciously or unconsciously inferring, erroneously, that they must be ‘intrinsically bad’ for having so frequently incurred such severe parental wrath).
- more than averagely susceptible to depression
2b) However, the reverse may also occur (depending, in part, upon the child’s particular temperament), namely: the child may develop into an adolescent/young adult who is highly rebellious due to the anger and resentment s/he harbours against his/her parents for their excessively controlling behaviour.
These individuals, too, may be highly self-blaming and self-critical and turn to drink/drugs in an attempt to reduce such painful emotions.
Effects On Conscience:
Research suggests that children who are harshly punished but are given no proper explanation as to why they are being punished (e.g. it is not explained to them that their behaviour has had a harmful effect on others) tend merely to learn not to get caught rather than to change their behaviour because it preys on their conscience.
In other words, they are less likely to develop a strong conscience and, if they choose to avoid doing wrong, this may be more due to reasons of expedience rather than of morality.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).