Are Controlling Fathers Dangerous?
Fathers have an important influence in their children's lives, but the way they parent is a deciding factor in how well the children fare later in life. While a father should certainly use his authority to guide his children into adulthood, he shouldn't be overly rigid, restrictive and controlling because it can have a negative influence on the relationship, as well as the happiness and health of the child.
A controlling father isn't one who establishes and enforces rules in a caring and authoritative way. Instead, a controlling father is one who has unhealthy expectations and yells, screams and dominates when his child doesn't live up to those unrealistic expectations. Controlling fathers are more likely to use what they want their child to do in order to convince her to behave in a certain way. A controlling father might withhold love, special outings or other rewards if a child doesn't do exactly what he wants him to do, according to Wendy S. Grolnick, author of "The Psychology of Parental Control: How Well-Meant Parenting Backfires." 1
Controlling fathers don't make their children feel capable because they have such specific and rigid rules for how things need to get done. When a child fails to measure up, a controlling father often loses his temper, yells and says things that damage a child's self-esteem. Over time, that sends the message to a child that she's not capable, which impacts how independent she grows up to be. Loss of independence can also cause a child to become afraid to try new things because she's afraid of failure and nervous about what her father's reaction will be if she does fail. As a child gets older, she's less likely to be able to make decisions on her own either, Kansas State University reports.
When a child feels controlled by her father, she's less likely to respect his authority as a parent. According to research from the University of New Hampshire, authoritarian and controlling parents are more likely to have children who are disrespectful toward them and other adults 4. The study also suggests that children of controlling parents are more likely to show delinquent behaviors 4. Children with controlling fathers can also be distrustful of other adults in a position of authority because they don't have experience with a parent who is warm, caring and receptive to their needs.
A controlling father can negatively impact a child's school performance as she gets older. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that children with nurturing fathers are more likely to get good grades in school, as well as enjoy going to school. The opposite can be true for children with controlling fathers. These children are less likely to do well in school as they get older and less likely to be engaged in the classroom. Children with controlling fathers are more likely to be controlling toward their own children, according to a 2007 article published in the "American Journal of Psychoanalysis." These children are also more likely to experience dysfunctional relationships in other areas of their lives. Children of controlling fathers are more susceptible to depression and aggressive behavior as adults, as well, the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal reports 3.
- The Psychology of Parental Control: How Well-Meant Parenting Backfires; Wendy S. Grolnick
- Kansas State University: Dysfunctional Families: Recognizing and Overcoming Their Effects
- Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal: Cognitive and Emotional Differences Between Abusive and Non-Abusive Fathers
- University of New Hampshire: Controlling Parents More Likely to Have Delinquent Children, UNH Research Shows
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images