Maggie Gallagher


American women are both incredibly dogmatic and anxious about our mothering.

When Amy Chua described her intense efforts to push her two daughters into high achievement in school, in music and, hence, in life, she caused an uproar among many Americans who consider her methods bordering on child abuse. (What? No playdates!?)

Two new studies do point out that there are costs to tiger mothering.

A study by professor Desiree Qin and colleagues was published this month in the Journal of Adolescence and is titled, “Parent-Child Relations and Psychological Adjustment Among High-Achieving Chinese- and European-American Adolescents.”

Qin looked at survey data on 295 Chinese-American and 192 European-American ninth-graders at Stuyvesant High School, a well-regarded public magnet school in Manhattan.

Chinese-American teens reported lower levels of psychological well-being, less family cohesion and more conflict with their parents, on average.

The ethnic differences on psychological adjustment disappeared once family conflict and cohesion were controlled for, suggesting “such perceptions may be a key factor in understanding the high academic achievement/low psychological adjustment paradoxical pattern of development among Chinese-American adolescents.”

“(Chua) said Western children are not happier than Chinese ones,” Qin told the New York Daily News. “But at the same time, research from our study does show that when parents place a lot of pressure on their kids, the children are less happy.”

Tiger mothering works, in other words. But having a mom or dad who constantly push you to perform well can also take a toll.

It takes a toll on the moms as well.

Professor Esther Chang and colleagues also have just published a new study on tiger moms in the January 2012 issue of the Asian-American Journal of Psychology, “Parenting Satisfaction at Midlife among European- and Chinese-American Mothers with a College-Enrolled Child.”

“Chinese-American mothers reported significantly lower parenting satisfaction than did European-American mothers, as well as less positive relationship quality (i.e., lower mutual warmth and acceptance and higher parent-child conflict) and poorer perceived college performance by their young-adult child (i.e., grades, academic investment and satisfaction with students' college experiences),” the study found.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.