Parenting is an incredibly rewarding albeit frequently challenging experience.
Unfortunately issues from ‘over-parenting’ — where parents dominate their children’s life with the meddling often extending into adolescence and continuing until college entry — transcend geographic boundaries.
Parents exert this control over their offspring for numerous reasons. And, to be fair, the behavior can be beneficial at times if the attention is some sort of parental guidance or rule-based boundary establishment.
However, studies in Western countries have determined that obtrusive parenting can often inflict psychological damage to children.
Experts have wondered if this parenting style is consistently detrimental or if the effect may not be as strong in East Asian countries. That is, does the Eastern culture create more acceptance or tolerance among children of their parents’ behavior?
In a new report in Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychologists review evidence comparing the effects of parental control in the United States and China.
Traditionally, research on the effects of parental control has been guided by the premise that too much parental interference will damage a child’s psychological development – that is, make them feel as if they lack control over their lives.
This outcome may be particularly pronounced in the West, where autonomy and independence are emphasized.
Longitudinal studies have indicated that parental control in both Western and East Asian countries can have similar results on children from those regions.
For example, as children are entering adolescence, the more parents make decisions for them regarding personal issues, the more the child’s emotional suffering will be affected two years later — the size of this effect was similar in the United States and China.
However, there may be some contexts in which the effect of parental control is stronger in the West than in East Asian countries.
In Western countries, parents tend to decrease control more than Chinese parents do as children go through adolescence; Western children expect this decrease in supervision and therefore, their psychological functioning may be dependent on the extent to which parents decrease their control over them.
In addition, the negative effects of parental control over children’s academic learning may be stronger in the West than in East Asia. In East Asian countries, there is a very strong moral aspect associated with learning and an education has much greater financial impact than in the West.
For these reasons, when it comes to academics, East Asian children may be more accepting of excessive parental involvement.
Recent studies investigating the question of parental control in the West and in East Asian countries suggest that extreme meddling by parents can have negative effects on their children’s psychological development in both of those regions, although the effects may not be uniform.
The authors conclude their report by noting, “Recommendations that parents limit their intrusiveness in children’s lives are likely to be useful both in the West and in East Asia.”