Parenting

Tiger Moms: Harsh Parenting, Harsh Outcomes

Trigger Warning for Suicide, Self-Harm, and Depression

Remember Amy Chua, the woman who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother but ended up singing The Siren Song of the Back-Pedaler? Over two years after the publishing of her memoir and the explosion surrounding it, her name is passing lips again thanks to Slate reporting on pertinent research regarding Asian-American parenting styles:

Since “tigers” in Kim’s study scored highly on the shaming practice believed more common among Asian-Americans, it seems that, pre-Chua at least, tiger parenting would be less common among whites. (The moms rated themselves more highly on shaming than even their kids, suggesting tiger moms—like Chua, who recounted such instances in her best-seller—feel no shame in their shaming)

And although Chua presented her own children as Exhibit A of why her parenting style works, Kim said, “Our data shows Tiger parenting produces the opposite effect. Not just the general public but Asian-American parents have adopted this idea that if I’m a tiger parent, my kids will be whizzes like Chua’s kids. Unfortunately, tiger children’s GPA’s and depressive symptoms are similar to those whose parents who are very harsh.

I cannot express how glad I am that the study took a look at depressive symptoms. This is due to the unhappy facts about the suicide rates among young US-born Asian-American women.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Noh:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Asian American women, ages 15-24.
  • Asian American women, ages 15-24 and over 65, have the highest female suicide rates across all racial/ethnic groups.
  • Asian American adolescent girls (grades 5-12) demonstrate the highest rates of depression across both race/ethnicity and gender.
  • “Model minority” expectations and family pressures often are cited as factors of suicide.

I can attest to this. As a college student, I attended a support group by and for Asian-American women where we discussed the real-life, non-theoretical intersection of race, class, and gender that affected our everyday lives; the struggles that no one knew lurked behind the straightened-teeth smiles and college admission letters; the never-ending battle to please just about everyone in our filial, social, academic, and professional lives.

Every one of us, by virtue of being in that room, were highly successful students attending a relatively highly-ranked school. Not one of us had passed our teenage years without major suicidal ideation and depressive episodes.

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It really does come down to this: are parents like Amy Chua willing to sacrifice some of their daughters so that the ones who survive become piano prodigies and Harvard graduates?

Though the notion that tigresses eat their young is mostly an urban legend, I suppose self-described tiger moms have taken the old quote to heart.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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3 Comments

  1. May 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm —

    Certainly, being the eldest of two boys mitigated this issue for me, but my parents were often permissive in general. Possibly because they were exhausted from work. In any case, I certainly saw the debilitating effects of strict upbringings in my community. I credit my parents (when I am not arguing with them) for allowing me to become decently well-adjusted.

  2. May 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm —

    Heina

    I find this rather disturbing. Glad you brought it to our attention though.

  3. January 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm —

    Thanks for this Heina. Growing up with not just a tiger mom in terms of guilt but also physical and emotional abuse, I couldn’t articulate at the time the cultural influence. That is why sharing posts like this and having support groups for these issue is important to combat the negative scripts that girls internalize growing up like this. It can cripple your self worth, and that is why there are high suicide and depression rates.

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