Children of Authoritarian Parents

Learning about the many parenting styles, I found it difficult to recognize where the families I surround myself in would be placed. Being an immigrant from a family whose chrono-system was affected by the Rwandan Genocide, their parenting style seem to be a mixture of traditional and authoritarian parenting. Which, in my opinion is fascinating, how my parents can instill punishments, be completely demanding, placed rules and values were the only set by them. And yet they also sometimes explained why a rule was present, “Because it is safer, we are foreigners”, “education is the only way we could make it”. I wonder if its a form of socialization to keep their children safe, humbled or to keep their culture intact because we were refugees.

These intersectionalities and our complex family history, I will consider the lives of two families that had authoritarian parents who terrified me too. From my experience interacting with them they displayed the following:

  • They needed to be unquestionably obeyed and respected by commanding me to greet them appropriately.
  • They would threaten and shame all children regardless of whose child it was.
  • They made rules that completely limited their childhood, if I wanted to hangout with them; My parents had to ask them for permission for a midday visitation within their eyesight.

After reading articles about it, they provided more concrete concepts and definitions of these observations. According to Heath Phyllis’s Chapter, Parenting Patterns and the Impact of Culture and Context, these parents were “a) keeping children in their place, b) restricting children’s autonomy” (p.31). These conditions were the reason children feared their parents and weren’t provided opportunities to express their emotions and explore their personalities. This wouldn’t be deemed a good relationship that communicates, demonstrates affection, safety, mutual trust and respect. It offers a space to learn about oneself and how to manage life’s challenges. Without these it became easy for their children to find other outlets that create negative consequences. They also explain that children of authoritarians are more likely to participate in delinquency and crime, have poor reactions to frustrations and only behave when someone is looking over their shoulder. They don’t have the ability to make decisions on their own without an authority figure and when they do, they don’t have the psycho-social maturity; a theory that Erik Erikson developed to explain how social interactions and relationships play a role in their growth and development (Erick). Depleting the ability to deal with the challenges they encounter.

img_3905A great example is George from 7th grade who is currently homeless and an alcoholic. This happened immediately after he moved away to college where he finally had the freedom away from his authoritarian father. His father a few times dragged him by the ear into our classroom and beat him in front of the class (this was outside the U.S) because he lost his place in the top five class ranking. When he was away from school and home, he always tried to keep up with his peers and explored hazardous places to gain some thrill in his life he said. But unfortunately his environment, including this parenting style caused him to become an addict and is struggling to reintegrate back into society.

Another family with three children here in the US created strict gendered rules that shamed and oppressed women to be themselves. Sara from a young age to high school, she also experienced frequent beatings and threats to the point of her having “long sleepovers” at her extended family’s house. She followed their belief that the value of a woman is her home skills and reserved beauty. Even with these strict values she was bad at cooking and despised chores. This gave her low self esteem and self worth, feeling like she couldn’t accomplish the little worth her parents wanted from her. Started fighting at school and bully others, she would skip school and disappear for days staying with her friends families. Almost failing her high school career, her extended family concerned convinced her parents to let her move in with them and go to school in their district. This helped her regroup and learned from her cousins and their parents how warmth and structure can allow her to have her own autonomy. Now a successful college student who is still creating her own values and debunking her immediate family’s expectations.

With both these children, they experienced both experience low communion and low agency, had negative consequences and didn’t know how to recover. I also think that because the children didn’t know how to ask for a more communion so the only they could change is what they do with their agency. In the second story, Sara was provided with resources and her bridging capital helped her excel passed her experiences. She was provided structure and responsiveness of her feelings, enabling her to safely explore her self autonomy. This was not easy, but even with the setback, understanding that she could make mistakes and still have the same warmth and structure later. But Joseph wasn’t provided the opportunity to experience an authoritarian parenting and authorities didn’t advocate for him. This and other factors may have made him more at risk to alcoholism.

Thinking that if there were ways to educate parents on how to examine their parenting style and how to be either traditional or authoritarian. But in theory it seems easy but also understanding the intersectionality of what makes the parents become that authoritarian.

Comment below how does a child who has authoritarian parents recognize this and reclaim their lives?



Babysitting Academy. (2018). How to Avoid the Authoritarian Parenting Style – Babysitting. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Sep. 2018].

Cherry, K., & Gans, S. (n.d.). Understanding Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved September 27, 2018, from

Phyllis, H. (2017). Parenting Patterns and the Impact of Culture and Context, Parent-Child Relations: Context, Research, and Application Fourth Edition (pp. 27-51). Pearson Higher Ed USA

18 thoughts on “Children of Authoritarian Parents

  1. dolphinwrite says:

    The United States of America was created a democratic republic. That being said, I don’t believe this works completely in families. Parents represent the authorities, and if done right, are a benovolent dictatorship. With time and kids listening, growing up with good values and discipline, the ideas of democracy can become more and more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clarissa says:

      I don’t think the issue has to do with whether any country is a democracy or a dictatorship and I agree that great values and discipline in the family is great. But what I am trying to say is that it is important for all of those but there is a deficiency in the relationships in the family where isn’t a balance of both emotional availability, autonomy and structure. All forms of relationships need this but when there is no emotional availability, the child has no autonomy and rigid structure. Then one can end up like the families in my story.


      • dolphinwrite says:

        You make good points. But I also think that we will never have perfect families, and looking at the problems can help, but also looking at the positives. Some have looked back, remembering fondly the good times, but where things fell short, they determined to become better parents for the next generation. In my family, we were taken care of, but it certainly wasn’t perfect if such a thing exists. Communication, as I would have liked could have been better, but I’ve also realized that looking negatively on what could have been doesn’t do much good. Actually, it seems, all too many people have been convinced to continue looking into the past, looking for the areas which caused their emotional problems, but I can’t help wondering if all this looking into the past and bringing up stuff doesn’t actually enlarge the problems. Food for thought.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Clarissa says:

          Its understandable that we all find it easier to push behind and ignore the not so great memories of our pasts but its important to address them and learn from them. Because parenting styles, values will be learned by the next generation hence the cycle continues. Its evidence that the past does have some existence in the future. Because if it was as easy to ignore the realities of our problems, it may not happen willingly but the negative learned behavior can be pulled out from the past. I think when too many people are convinced about something that has been researched and backed by evidence. It means that where there is smoke, there’s fire.


          • dolphinwrite says:

            Again, good points. And there are those who learn from the past, then get on with their lives, improving and learning. I have noticed also that so many wallow in the past. They don’t get past it. They live there all the time. And they’re constantly having difficulties, saying their problems lie in the past, and they never appreciate what is before them. Always negative, never really living. Then there are those who love life. They know the past but don’t spend their days dwelling. They’re here, now. They’re present for their family, friends, and children. And their days are better because they’re really living. The best days are ahead of us.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Clarissa says:

            I am agreeing with you wholeheartedly but you are missing the main point of the conversation. We as adults have to unlearn bad parenting habits that we have experienced so that we raise kids who will mimic them. By doing that, we are living better lives that isn’t influenced by the past. Thanks for your contribution to the conversation though. Glad to have a others are passionate about this


  2. Shanel Dikes says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to seek out anyone with some unique ideas on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this website is something that’s wanted on the internet, somebody with a little bit originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the internet!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dolphinwrite says:

    It depends on people’s definitions. I’ve always believed the home is not a place of democracy. The parents are the parents and have the responsibility to teach their children, guiding them. I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to discuss every decision they made, or to be my best friends, even though I thought that for a time. They’re my parents. They need to be adults and responsible. Certainly, we should enjoy each others’ company, and love is also direction and stern resolve. You tell me not to cross the street, I don’t cross the street. You tell me I can’t spend the night at my friend’s home or stay out past ten, then I don’t. Of course, by showing good judgements, with time, my parents allow more and trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pat Terrence says:

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    Liked by 1 person

    • dolphinwrite says:

      Thanks, but I’m just a regular person. Listened to some thoughtful people, read a little, and had saw some good examples. Doesn’t seem so difficult to me. I don’t think we need all self-help books, though a little research can help. It’s more being around good examples.

      Liked by 1 person

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