Parenting and obsessive compulsive symptoms: Implications of authoritarian parenting

Kiara R. Timpano, Meghan E. Keough, Brittain Mahaffey, Norman B. Schmidt, Jonathan Abramowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Cognitive behavioral theories of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have hypothesized a central role of social learning in the development of OCD. Research indicates that learning via key developmental relationships, such as parent-child interactions, may account for the emergence and maintenance of OC symptoms in adulthood. Baumrind identified three parental authority prototypes or styles, including permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian, that differ on the two dimensions of nurture and behavioral control. Permissive parents allow their children to do as they wish with little discipline, whereas authoritative parents implement reasonable guidelines while still providing a warm and nurturing environment. The third style, authoritarian, represents parenting that is rigid and values strict adherence to rules with lower levels of nurturing. To date, there has been no study examining these parenting styles and OCD symptomatology. The current investigation examined the relationships between parenting styles, obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms, and OC-related dysfunctional beliefs (i.e., "obsessive beliefs") in a nonclinical sample ( N = 227). Participants completed measures of these constructs, as well as a measure of general mood and anxiety symptoms. Results indicated that the authoritarian parenting style was significantly associated with both OC symptoms and OC beliefs (e.g., beliefs about the importance of thoughts and personal responsibility), even after controlling for general distress. Analyses also revealed that OC beliefs act as a partial mediator of the relationship between parenting style and OC symptoms. Findings are discussed in light of the implications for future research, particularly that pertaining to risk for OCD and the development of vulnerability factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-164
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010


  • Authoritarian parenting
  • Compulsions
  • Dysfunctional beliefs
  • Obsessions
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Parenting styles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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