Shteyngart clearly turned out fine—after years of therapy—but even Chua and Rubenfeld point out that not every Triple-Package child does. It's unclear from the book whether the Triple Package is something even worth aspiring to.
In an interview after Chua's first book, the New York Times wrote:
“In retrospect, these coaching suggestions seem a bit extreme,” she writes in the book after describing how she once threatened to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals if she did not play a piano composition perfectly. “On the other hand, they were highly effective.”
She's similarly equivocal in her follow-up. The couple offers seven chapters singing the praises of the Triple Package, and exactly one describing its “downside.”
And it’s a pretty big downside. Immigrants in all countries tend to have elevated levels of anxiety, but this type of relentless parental pressure can have particularly severe consequences.
Though some surveys show that Asian Americans suffer from less anxiety and depression than white Americans, in at least one 1995 study, Asian American teen girls were shown to have the “highest rates of depressive symptoms” of all races. Among the children of Filipino immigrants, family can be a source of “stress and alienation,” a 1997 study found.
“In a study of thousands of high school students, Asian-American students reported the lowest self-esteem of any racial group, even as they racked up the highest grades,” Chua and Rubenfeld wrote in the New York Times this weekend.
Other social scientists doubt the effectiveness of pushy parenting, regardless of culture. Suniya Luthar, a Columbia University psychologist, has documented rising depression and anxiety levels among the children of rich parents, which she attributes to “the pressure for high octane achievement.” Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, has suggested that “Qualities such as perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control, he writes, are more likely to ensure a child’s success in life than ‘cognitive’ (the traditional process of acquiring knowledge) teachings.”
Ang Lee, the Life of Pi director whom Chua and Rubenfeld hold up as an example of a successful Triple-Package immigrant, has spoken out against his father’s overbearing expectations. “He was not much fun and he was kind of disillusioned in me in some ways,” he told the Guardian. ”When I had my own family I was different because I didn't want to do that to my own kids, so I am fun.” Chua’s first book, meanwhile, launched dozens of blog posts along the lines of this one, titled: “Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy.”
And there are clear disadvantages to cultural barriers within families. Children of Chinese and other Asian immigrants report high levels of “feeling embarrassed by their parents” and “parent-child conflict,” according to work by Rubén Rumbaut, a researcher whom Chua and Rubenfeld cite. Rumbaut also found that Cubans, one of the Triple Package super-cultures, had the highest dropout rates in Miami public schools.