Children with stricter mothers more likely to become alcoholics

Children with stricter mothers more likely to become alcoholics

Setting high standards is good, but not at the expense of being overly worried!

Research shows that children with stricter mothers are more likely to misuse alcohol as a coping mechanism in order to handle feelings of imperfection.

Researchers at Arizona State University surveyed 419 university students. Their answers related to parenting styles, symptoms of depression, and problems related to alcohol revealed that children whose mothers were more authoritarian were more likely to display a negative facet of perfectionism that’s known as “discrepancy”.

Discrepancy refers to feeling frustrated when you don’t reach the goals you originally set for yourself.

“There are adaptive forms of perfectionism such as higher standards and a need for orderliness and there are maladaptive forms of perfectionism such as discrepancy — the distance between the ideal self and one’s actual self,” explained Dr Julie A. Patock-Peckham, the lead author of the study and assistant research professor at Arizona State University.

Students with higher levels of discrepancy were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and increased alcohol use.

Furthermore, increased depressive symptoms were closely linked to self-medicated drinking.

Interestingly, only strict mothers led to perfectionist discrepancy in children. Strict fathers encouraged children to have high standards but didn’t have depressive symptoms.

“We can only speculate that demanded obedience by fathers operates differently than demanded obedience by mothers. It may be perceived as a form of caring by fathers to have rules for offspring even when those rules are unyielding,” the researchers commented in their analysis of the results.

Effects of being strict on kids are different for mums and dads

Children with stricter mothers more likely to become alcoholics

Dr Patock-Peckham advised her inspiration behind the study was her students whom she saw on a daily basis.

“This model is inspired by some very perfectionistic individuals who used to work in my lab. I became interested in this topic after observing some of my more technically talented students develop alcohol use disorders or relapse from alcohol addiction,” she shared.

The stress of exams and studying can lead to depression and anxiety. Dr Patock-Peckham noticed that her students didn’t cope with the pressure of doing well. 

“These students were obsessed with how others viewed them to the point of fearing any feedback regarding their writing. In psychology, scientists have to be very comfortable having their work edited and revised by others. One particular student was unable to present in front of others for fear of not doing it perfectly well.”

In fact, alcohol became a crutch to help them cope.

“These students seemed to be using alcohol to cope with their life issues at a greater rate than students who were more comfortable not being perfect all the time.”

Try authoritative parenting instead

Authoritative parenting can get a bad rep and is often confused for authoritarian parenting. The latter approach is known for being too strict on children compared to other types of parenting styles.

However, authoritative parenting can raise children who are self-controlled, independent, and happy if done correctly. Try these simple steps to set high standards for your kids that are achievable while learning their limits and feeling fulfilled in the process.

1. Listen to your little one

authoritative parenting effects

Image source: iStock

While you are the authority, learn how to give your full attention to your child.

Authoritarian parenting doesn’t welcome children’s opinions. On the other hand, authoritative parenting allows your little one to express any concerns or share creative ideas.

Giving your children attention helps them to feel acknowledged, loved, and valued.

2. Establish boundaries

Children with stricter mothers more likely to become alcoholics

Make sure your little one knows what’s expected of him/her.

Authoritative parents have clear rules that children follow. However, it’s more effective to explain why these rules exist instead of enforcing them based on your word.

So instead of asking your child to “Go to bed because it’s late”, try “Go to sleep so you can grow bigger and smarter.”

Explaining why these rules exist invites your child to collaborate and partner with you, instead of just following you without a say in the matter.

3. Show that there are consequences to actions

authoritative parenting effects

Image source: iStock

Instead of using corporal punishment and spanking your child, show that consequences naturally follow actions—good and bad.

If your little one refuses to stop playing games on the phone after you’ve asked him/her to, take away game privileges for the next day or the rest of the week.

Then you can spend the time working on how to better manage situations to avoid these maladaptive behaviours.

Ask your little one “what could you do limit your game time?”

Invite your child to come up with solutions to build his/her problem solving skills.

And when your child does something positive, offer rewards.

You can use a sticker chart to measure progress. Let your little one decide on the rewards so he/she is more motivated to achieve them.


Mothers that are strict to help their children reach higher standards can risk their kids becoming more dependent on alcohol when they grow up to cope with any perceived failure. Authoritative parenting effects instead lead to happier and more confident children. Try them out to see if they make a difference in raising your children.