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.