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'Tiger Moms' May Scar Kids

‘Tiger Moms’ May Scar Kids

A new paper suggests the strict Chinese parenting style advocated in a controversial 2011 book may do more harm than good.

University of California, Riverside, researchers discovered a parenting style that advocates less support and more punitive parent techniques might lead to low self-esteem and school adjustment difficulties in children.

Moreover, the parenting style may leave children vulnerable to depression and problem behaviors.

The study, believed to be the first that provides empirical support to this idea, refutes the idea that the traditional, strict “Chinese” upbringing, which gained widespread attention in the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, is superior.

“Our research shows that Tiger Mother type of parenting, specifically controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting, is really not working in this sample of Chinese adolescents,” said Cixin Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor at University of California Riverside’s Graduate School of Education.

“It also shows that it is important for Chinese parents, who tend to be less emotionally expressive and use less praise in parenting, to show their approval, love, and support for their children.”

The paper was published in the Journal of Family Issues. It is based on data from a youth survey in Hangzhou, China. The sample included 589 middle and high school children.

The survey asked the children about their perceptions of the behavior of their mothers and fathers, as well as their self-esteem, school adjustment, depression, and problem behavior.

Previous research has shown that Chinese parents are less likely to show support for their children through affection. Instead, they express support through efforts to control and govern their youngsters.

Previous research on Western cultures has found that when parents exert strong psychological control over their children it leads to problem behavior, low self-esteem, and low grades among the children.

However, the impact of psychological control and strictness in Chinese culture has been less clear. Wang and her co-authors show the findings from the sample of Chinese students are consistent with those from the Western students.

Parental support and monitoring were associated with positive adolescent adjustment, but permissiveness and punitiveness were linked to negative adolescent adjustment.

Psychological control, specifically love withdrawal techniques, did not predict any adolescent outcomes after controlling for other parenting practices.

The study also has implications for Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans, who are often trying to balance traditional cultural norms with popular parenting practice in American society today.

Future work by Wang will focus on mental health literacy among Asian-Americans students, specifically around the stigma of seeking help related to depression and other mental health difficulties.

She is interested in these issues in part because of her upbringing in China. Growing up in Shanghai, she was not frequently praised by her parents. She remembers being in first grade, getting a 99 percent on an assignment and her mother being upset she didn’t get 100 percent.

“I hear Asian parents saying that they are concerned about using too much praise with their children because they were not brought up this way,” Wang said.

“In a way, I missed out on getting parental praise and approval. And, in a way, I don’t want a whole generation of Asian kids to miss that really important piece too.”

Source: University of California, Riverside

Mother and child photo by shutterstock.

‘Tiger Moms’ May Scar Kids

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). ‘Tiger Moms’ May Scar Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 23 Sep 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.