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The Effects of Having Strict Parents on Teenagers

by Beth Greenwood

Parenting style -- the ways in which parents set limits, enforce rules, give affection and teach or support their teens -- can be very different from one family to another. Some parents are extremely permissive and set few limits, while others enforce strict rules and punish teens for even minor infractions. Although strict parenting may have some beneficial effects, if it is not balanced with warmth and affection, it can be harmful to teens in other ways.

Behavior Problems

According to Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and author of “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids,” strict parenting can actually create behavior problems. Markham says the strict parent deprives children of the opportunity to learn self-discipline, because all control and decisions come from the parent. In fact, the kids reject the limits because the parents don’t take their feelings into account. If punitive discipline is used, the teen is also more likely to be rebellious, angry or depressed, become overweight or become an excellent liar.

Authoritarian Parenting

Gwen Dewar, an anthropologist who writes about the science of parenting, uses the term authoritarian parenting rather than strict parenting. Authoritarian parenting was first described by psychologist Diana Baumrind, according to Cornell University, who identified four styles of parenting: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and uninvolved. Dewar says children raised by authoritarian parents tend to be relatively well-behaved, but are less resourceful, likely to achieve less in school, have poorer social skills and lower self-esteem. On a positive note, Dewar says studies show teens raised by strict parents are less likely to use alcohol and drugs or drive without a seat belt. However, she notes that most of the research comes from the teens’ self-reports of their behavior and may not be reliable, as teens raised by authoritarian parents might be less willing to confess to bad behavior.

Sexual Behavior and Alcohol

Strict parenting can influence adolescent sexual behavior, according to FamilyFacts.org, a conservative parenting website. Adolescents who were more closely monitored by their parents were about 30 percent less likely to be sexually active than teens whose parents were less watchful during the pre-adolescent period. Parental style can also affect teens’ decisions about drinking and the amount they consume, according to a December 2010 article on National Public Radio. Parents who are overly strict -- so strict that they leave no decisions up to their teen -- are more likely to raise teens who binge drink, although parental strictness didn’t affect whether the teens tried alcohol.

Culture and Ethnicity

Culture and ethnicity may play a role in the effect strict parenting has on teens. Amy Chua, a Yale professor and author of “Battle Hymn of the Chinese Mother,” recounts that her Chinese immigrant parents were extremely strict. Although strict parenting worked for Chua and her oldest daughter, her younger daughter rebelled and Chua had to change her style. Dewar says strict parents from European-American homes raised children who were more likely to be depressed, while Spanish and Brazilian adolescents had lower self-esteem than those from homes with authoritative parents. German teens with authoritarian parents were more likely to be anxious. In some studies of adolescents in America and the Middle East, however, there is no evidence of emotional problems from strict parenting, according to Dewar.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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