Data Challenges ‘Tiger Mom’ Parenting Methods

When Amy Chua sounded her battle cry in 2011, first with the Wall Street Journal article “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” followed closely by her tongue-in-cheek parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Motherthe advocate of heavy-handed child-rearing met criticism for both encouraging draconian parenting and for reinforcing stereotypes. Slate reports on a recently published study by University of Texas professor Su Yeong Kim, whose research suggests that the methods used by “tiger moms” and “wolf dads” may not promote success in their children:

In March, she published her results; they will no doubt surprise Chua and her admirers. Children of parents whom Kim classified as “tiger” had lower academic achievement and attainment—and greater psychological maladjustment—and family alienation, than the kids of parents characterized as “supportive” or “easygoing.”

For Kim’s study, parents and children answered questions during the children’s adolescence about their parenting styles. The vast majority of parents were foreign-born in Hong Kong or southern China, with relatively low educational attainment and a median income of between $30,001 and $45,000 in each of the study’s three phases, spaced out equally over eight years. Three-quarters of their kids were American-born. The study controlled for socioeconomic status and sibling order and other potentially confounding factors.

[...]Kim also measured the outcomes for each of her categories. Supportive parents had the best developmental outcomes, as measured by academic achievement, educational attainment, family obligation (considered positive outcomes), academic pressure, depressive symptoms, and parent-child alienation (considered negative).Academic achievement and attainment were purely data-driven, while the latter four came from different assessments developed by academics over the years (the academic pressure rating is Kim’s own), which, while considered reliable, are inherently somewhat subjective. Children of easygoing parents were second in outcomes, while tiger moms produced kids who felt more alienated from their parents and experienced higher instances of depressive symptoms. They also had lower GPAs, despite feeling more academic pressure.[...]

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A separate study released in January focused on differing cultural views of family, and can be seen to support both “tiger moms” and their critics (via Live Science).