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Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting Styles [Infographic]

Authoritative parenting and authoritarian parenting are the two most common parenting styles. Let’s compare these two parenting styles’ characteristics and effects on children.

Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritative and authoritarian sound pretty similar. These two parenting styles in psychology both imply authority. However, although their names are similar, they have completely different principles and effects on children.

Here is the difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting in characteristics.

Parental Warmth

Compared to authoritarian parents, authoritative parents are likely to be warm, nurturing, and responsive.

According to Attachment Theory, developed by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, responsive parenting creates secure attachment in the child.

Children with secure attachments are happier and healthier. Many studies confirm that compared with the children of authoritarian parents, the children of authoritative parents are indeed more content​1​.

Because authoritative parents are responsive to their children’s emotional needs, kids from authoritative families have good emotional control. They develop resilience and can recuperate quickly from setbacks.

Compared to authoritative parents, authoritarian parents are the exact opposite in terms of warmth and responsiveness. Authoritarian parents are cold and non-responsive. They view children’s sensitive emotions as a weakness and suppress them.

Authoritative mother shows care to child's study. Authoritarian mother points finger at child's study - authoritative parenting vs authoritarian parenting
Boy is motivated to do homework

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Authoritative parents allow their kids to seek autonomy and independence. Instead of tight control, they closely monitor their children’s behavior and correct them as needed.

Studies show that parental monitoring substantially reduces a child’s risk of antisocial behavior, delinquency, and drug abuse​2​. Parental monitoring is most likely to be effective and healthy when it is in a warm and supportive relationship.

Authoritative parents also involve their children in making decisions for the family. Bidirectional communication is encouraged.

On the other hand, authoritarian parents discourage independence-seeking. They do not involve children in decision-making. Kids are given orders instead of requests from their parents.


Both authoritative and authoritarian parents are strict and have high expectations of their kids.

Authoritative parents are strict and warm, while authoritarian parents are strict and cold.

Authoritative parents discuss and explain rules to their children. They are open to give-and-take discussions and will modify rules if appropriate.

Children are taught to think critically about the reasons behind each rule. Because kids with authoritative parents can speak their minds and participate in decision-making, they are more assertive and have higher self-esteem.

Authoritarian parents only allow one-way communication. They use “because I said so” as the reason for the rules.

Children are expected to blindly obey without questions. They are not allowed to have or voice their opinions. Kids are often “seen but not heard”. Children whose parents have an authoritarian parenting style can be insecure and apprehensive.


Both authoritative and authoritarian parents hold very high standards and control over the kids’ behavior.

However, authoritarian parents also impose tight psychological control over their kids. They believe that they are the authorities who are always right. Their kids need to accept their judgment and values at all times.

Authoritarian parents seem to worry about under-controlling their children. Therefore, they want to do the opposite but use the other extreme, i.e. become controlling parents to over-control their children.

Authoritarian parents rely on a child’s sense of fear toward the parents to exert psychological control.

Children whose parents use psychological control as a means of discipline are more likely to be submissive, apprehensive, and dependent. Some children fight to be free from such control resulting in externalizing behavior problems​3​.


Authoritative parents tend to use non-punitive measures such as time-in and natural consequence to discipline.

Authoritarian parents favor punitive punishment.

Interestingly enough, although authoritative parents allow children to have more freedom and autonomy, their standards are usually higher than the authoritarian parents’. They also follow through on the consequence more consistently.

Similar CharacteristicsAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
StandardsSet high standards. Expect kids to follow rules Set high standards. Expect kids to follow rules
Different CharacteristicsAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
Parental WarmthWarm, nurturing, and involved in the child’s schooling and lifeCold, non-nurturing, and less involved in the child’s schooling and life
FreedomAutonomy and independence are allowed. Bidirectional communication is encouragedDo not allow independence. One-way communication. Children’s opinions are not heard or allowed
RulesUse reasoning to explain limits. Have give-and-take discussionsUse “Because I said so” to explain limits
DisciplineVery consistent in disciplining using non-punitive measures such as inductive discipline, time-in, or natural consequence. Focus on teaching correct behaviorPunitive. Focus on punishing wrong behavior to deter future occurrences.
ControlAllow freedom within reasonable limits. Encourage autonomy and independence.Believe in total control over kids, behaviorally and psychologically. Kids are expected to obey their parents without question.

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Warm parent with happy kid, cold parent with sad kid - parents effect on child authoritarian vs authoritative parenting

Effects On Kids

Authoritative parenting results in better outcomes in children overall. The only exception is that some inconsistencies in school performance are found in other ethnic groups, such as African Americans and Asian Americans.

Having high standards and enforcing limits consistently may be the reasons why kids with authoritative parents achieve higher academic results​4​.

Another factor for high academic performance is high parental involvement in authoritative parenting. Authoritative parents tend to monitor children’s homework and volunteer in their schools. Research has found that involvement by parents is directly linked to better school performance​5​.

But authoritarian parents also have high standards and enforce limits. Some are also very involved in the child’s schooling (e.g. Tiger mom parenting). This could potentially explain why in some cultures, such as the Chinese, authoritarian parenting is associated with better grades.

However, authoritarian parents hold tight psychological control and favor punitive punishment for discipline. Despite the academic success, kids with authoritarian parents are more depressed and have more mental issues​1​.

Also See:
Parenting Styles Chart
What To Do When Parents Can’t Agree on Parenting
Good Parenting

Kids’ OutcomeAuthoritativeAuthoritarian
MoodTend to be happy and contentTend to have unhappy dispositions
Self-esteemHave high self-esteem. Are more assertive and self-reliant.Are insecure and apprehensive. Some are also submissive and dependent.
Self-RegulationGood emotional control and resilience. Recover from setbacks quickly.More likely to become hostile and regressive under pressure
RelationshipsAffiliative. Well-liked by peers.Non-affiliative. Tend not to get along with peers.
Mental Well-beingGood mental healthMore mental issues such as depression, anxiety, and drug use
Academic PerformanceHigh academic achievements. More active in school activities.Generally lower academic performance, but inconsistent results are found in some sub-population
summary of the authoritarian vs authoritative parenting comparison

Also see: How to recover from authoritarian parenting


  1. 1.
    Darling N, Steinberg L. Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin. 1993:487-496. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.113.3.487
  2. 2.
    Dishion TJ, McMahon RJ. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 1998:61-75. doi:10.1023/a:1021800432380
  3. 3.
    Lamborn SD, Mounts NS, Steinberg L, Dornbusch SM. Patterns of Competence and Adjustment among Adolescents from Authoritative, Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful Families. Child Development. October 1991:1049. doi:10.2307/1131151
  4. 4.
    Steinberg L, Lamborn S, Dornbusch S, Darling N. Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: authoritative parenting, school involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Dev. 1992;63(5):1266-1281.
  5. 5.
    Izzo CV, Weissberg RP, Kasprow WJ, Fendrich M. A Longitudinal Assessment of Teacher Perceptions of Parent Involvement in Children’s Education and School Performance. American Journal of Community Psychology. December 1999:817-839. doi:10.1023/a:1022262625984


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