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The strict father model of parenting is one which places strong value on discipline as a means to survive and thrive in a harsh world.

Ideas involved in this model include:

  • That children learn through reward and punishment, as in operant conditioning.
  • That children become more self-reliant and more self-disciplined by having strict parents.
  • That the parent, particularly the father, is meant to mete out rewards for good behavior as well as punish bad behavior.

So this model of child-rearing would involve allowing a child to cry themselves to sleep. Picking up a child when it should be sleeping might foster dependence on the parents and is not a display of discipline. In his book Dare to Discipline, James Dobson advocates the strict father model. However, researchers have linked authoritarian childrearing with children who withdraw, lack spontaneity, and have lesser evidence of conscience (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

The strict father model is discussed by George Lakoff in his books, including Moral Politics and Whose Freedom?. In these books, the strict father model is contrasted with the nurturant parent model. Lakoff argues that if the metaphor of nation as family and government as parent is used, then conservative politics correspond to the strict father model. For example, conservatives think that adults should not look to the government for assistance, lest they become dependent. Likewise, economically productive behavior should be rewarded by incentives such as tax cuts.

See alsoEdit


  • Source: Maccoby, E. E., & Martin, J. A. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family: Parent-child interaction. In Handbook of Child Psychology (4th ed.), edited by P. H. Mussen, vol. 4: Socialization, personality, and social development, edited by E. M. Heatherington, 1-101. New York: Wiley.
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