Authoritarian Mothers: What Are They Like?

Despite the fact that authoritarianism is almost always associated with the father figure, the truth is that authoritarian mothers are also quite common. However, in these cases, the emotional impact can be more damaging and leave really deep emotional scars on the child.
Authoritarian Mothers: What Are They Like?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Just as there are authoritarian fathers, there are also authoritarian mothers who exercise emotional severity. Those who are in favor of the occasional smack to bring their child into line and who demand obedience without question. This type of upbringing and education always leaves both short and long-term consequences. However, in the event that it’s exercised by a woman, certain peculiarities may be added.

The importance of the parenting style in the development of children can’t be emphasized enough. The mother who opts for authoritarianism is choosing to relate to their child as their superior, communicate with them with orders, and expect obedience at all times. None of this is accidental and whoever chooses these dynamics does so for specific reasons.

In fact, the mother who uses imposition, authority, and intolerance in her daily dealings with her child has a rigid and inflexible mind. The lack of empathy, existential frustration, and the need to have everything under control almost always show feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.

woman threatening her son symbolizing authoritarian mothers

Characteristics of authoritarian mothers

Is there really a difference between authoritarian fathers and mothers? Does this imposing and severe education exercised by a woman have any particularity? It appears so. In fact, research, conducted by the University of California (USA) claims that when a child grows up in an environment ruled by an authoritarian mother, they experience greater emotional deprivation. Furthermore, a mother’s emotional coldness can be far more damaging than that exerted by an overbearing father.

In many cases, mothers are the first attachment figures in children’s lives. When this bond is defined by hyperdemand, coldness, and punishment, the consequences can be traumatic.

Let’s look at the personality profiles of authoritarian mothers and the consequences of this parenting style.

The hyperdemand that hides a feeling of frustration

Authoritarian mothers place excessive demands on their children. Many will stress that it’s good for a child to have firm rules and that certain things should be required of them. Of course, this is true to a degree, but there’s a limit.

To begin with, women who exercise authoritarianism often hide their own frustrated desires. Perhaps their life now isn’t what they aspired to in the past. Maybe they failed to achieve a particular goal, or they didn’t progress in their career the way they expected. Or maybe their relationship with their partner isn’t the happiest.

These and other dimensions often outline feelings of failure that hide behind perfectionism and educational hyper-demand:

  • The dominant mother outlines in detail how her child’s life should be.
  • The child rarely manages to reach such a high bar. This leads them to experience great anxiety and negative self-perception from an early age. No matter how hard they try, they never manage to satisfy the ideal imposed by their mothers.

They speak for their children and make decisions for them

The University of California study revealed that children of authoritarian mothers feel a constant sense of shame. This is because:

  • Their mothers decide who they can and can’t be friends with.
  • They speak for their children, and will often silence them in a conversation. They decide what their child likes and what they don’t. In fact, they plan and take charge of everything that the child should be dealing with themselves.

This means that their child ends up developing a constant feeling of shame for not having a voice or an opinion of their own.

Authoritarian mothers: manipulation and iron discipline

Authoritarian mothers don’t allow themselves or their children to make mistakes. Thus, every time they experience a failure they always look for someone to blame. For example, if they’ve had a bad day at work, they don’t hesitate in telling their children that they’re responsible because of how badly they’ve behaved or the problems they cause their mother.

Added to the manipulation is the iron will. Every activity is scheduled with rules that are so rigid they leave no room for play, enjoyment, and freedom. Thus, given these severe dynamics, it’s common for children of authoritarian mothers to develop eating disorders or even self-harm when they’re adolescents.

girl trying to stop the effect of authoritarian mothers

Emotions are a sign of weakness

Mothers who defend smacking, who think that to educate they have to impose, punish, and threaten, understand little about emotional intelligence. Indeed, as a rule, emotions have no place and are sanctioned. Furthermore, they label any expressed emotion as a trait of weakness.

The child who cries is ridiculed, the one who protests is reprimanded, and the one who shouts excessively when having fun is reprimanded because they’re making a fool of themselves. These are undoubtedly experiences that many may be familiar with. In fact, the wound still tends to hurts years later. That’s because authoritarian parenting doesn’t educate brighter people, it gives the world more insecure and unhappy beings. It’s well worth bearing in mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Coplan, Robert & Hastings, Paul & Séguin, Daniel & Moulton, Caryn. (2002). Authoritative and Authoritarian Mothers’ Parenting Goals, Attributions, and Emotions Across Different Childrearing Contexts. Parenting: Science and Practice. 2. 1-26. 10.1207/S15327922PAR0201_1.
  • Chen X, Liu M, Li B, Cen G, Chen H, Wang L. Maternal authoritative and authoritarian attitudes and mother–child interactions and relationships in urban China. International Journal of Behavioral Development. 2000;24(1):119-126. doi:10.1080/016502500383557

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.