Social science has weighed in on the “tiger mom” debate, and it looks like everyone is right: Both overprotective and laid-back mothers can raise successful children.
Three years after Yale law professor Amy Chua’s controversial article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” in the Wall Street Journal, Stanford researchers Alyssa Fu and Hazel Markus have published a study examining the effectiveness of the strict, high-pressure parenting Chua advocates and the more permissive style common in European-American culture.
They found both parenting styles can be effective; the key is in how the child views his or her relationship with the mother. In Asian-American culture, children are often expected to rely on their families, but European-American families tend to value and encourage independence. Parental pressure provokes different reactions in each culture: Asian-American students said they felt like parent involvement in their lives is a form of support, while European-American children resented the pressure to perform.
“These findings underscore the importance of understanding cultural variation in how people construe themselves and their relationships to others,” the researchers wrote. “[European-American] mothers who assume that achievement is an individual project may be right to believe that too much maternal involvement can quash motivation. Tiger Mothers who assume that achievement is a group project may be equally right to assert that parental involvement is beneficial for motivation.”