Kids’ Mental Health Impacted by Strict, ‘Tiger Mom’ Parenting

A tiger mom with her cubBattle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua’s controversial 2011 book, advocates a highly controlling and often punitive style of parenting. A new study that looked specifically at this “tiger parent” style of parenting has found that it increases problem behaviors in children and may lead to mental health concerns.

How Punitive Parenting Affects Children

Previous research suggests that Chinese parenting styles differ from American parenting styles. Many Chinese parents believe that controlling their children’s behavior is a sign of support and love. Consequently, some Chinese parents show less affection toward their children while behaving in more controlling ways—a parenting style commonly known as authoritarian parenting.

Although past research has suggested that this parenting style is damaging to American children, cultural norms play a huge part in influencing the way parenting affects children. Cixin Wang, a professor at the Graduate School of Education at UC Riverside, grew up in China and wanted to examine whether authoritarian parenting styles were hard on Chinese children.

The study surveyed 589 middle and high school students in Hangzhou, China. Children reported on their parents’ parenting style and behavior, as well as their own academic performance, self-esteem, and behavior. Children with punitive “tiger” parents had lower self-esteem and more difficulty adjusting to the demands of school. They also displayed more problem behaviors and were more likely to experience depression. Psychological control techniques, particularly withdrawing love, were especially problematic. These kinds of psychological control techniques are similar to those advocated by Chua in her book.

Which Parenting Style Is Best?

Though the study found that punitive parenting negatively affected children, excessive permissiveness by parents was also linked to negative outcomes for kids. Previous research on Western children has uncovered similar correlations. Child psychologists often measure parenting style by evaluating two factors: warmth and control. Parents deficient in either behavior tend to generate worse outcomes for kids. For example, parents who are low in warmth and control may tend to be neglectful.

While the latest study did not provide information about the “right” parenting style for Chinese children, it does suggest that Chinese children have similar needs to the American kids from other studies. Research on parenting demonstrates that authoritative parents who are high on both warmth and control get the best outcomes.


  1. Hold on, tiger mom: Punitive parenting may lead to mental health risks. (2014, September 23). Retrieved from
  2. Parenting styles: A guide for the science-minded. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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  • jenn

    September 27th, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    Yeah I didn’t agree with this method of parenting from the time I heard about the book. I don’t want my kids to do things or not do things because they are afraid of me, I want them to do it or not to do it because I have taught them the right values and they are able to make wise and healthy choices for themselves. They are gonna screw up, we are all gonna screw up but I refuse to be that mom who holds everythign over their heads and never let them learn what it is like to make great choices and to be a success on their own.

  • Sherri

    September 28th, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    I know that not everyone agress with this method and that’s fine, but I have two boys who would end up doing who knows what if I did not stay on them and plan their pretty much every moment for them.
    They may rebel against this one day, as a matter of fact I am convinced that at some point they probably will but that does mena that I give up this time now in anticipation of what they will do later on?
    No I am going to keep moving forward because they are good kids, good students and I happen to think that this method is actually teaching them about the things that are important and those that aren’t.

  • Keith

    September 28th, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    You have to be willing to find the balance that will work the best for you and for your kids.
    Just because it seems to work well on paper, your kids might actually be visibly harmed by one parenting style or the other. This can’t be a one size fits all sort of thing.
    I think that there are multiple tactics that you can try knowing from the get go that there will be some that are a success for you and others that will likely fail miserably.
    This is not a reflection on you especially if you are always open to the possibility of trying again, maybe even something new and different and testing out how the kids will do with that.

  • deaner

    September 28th, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    Great article. You know, there’s a lot of online assessment tools where parents can quickly assess their parenting style. For example, there’s one at

  • Madge R.

    September 29th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    There is no right way or wrong way to do this, and for a lot of parents much of their style of parenting will come from how they were raised as children. You fall back into what feels natural for you and for many this was an overbearing sort of parenting like this. I don’t know whether to say that this is good or bad because there are a million ways to skin a cat, you know? I do think though that people are sort of naturally fall back into the routine of how they were raised themselves and even when they say that this is not how they are going to be as parents, then guess what? This is how they end up because this is what they know!

  • dusty

    September 30th, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    But there WILL be kids who respond better to this type of parenting, and that nothing will get through to them except playing hard ball and staying on top of them all of the time. I don’t care if it seems harsh to others, but if you have to crack the whip to get the kid to respond then that’s what you have to do

  • Tracy

    October 1st, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I have always seen myself as more of the permissive parenting type, but I have friends who do the complete opposite and they are on their kids all the time about what they can or cannot do. My style works for me but it may not work with another set of children. I don’t think that it is my job to judge that, only to support the other families that I know who are doing the best that they can to raise good young men and women. We all need to stick together and do far more in the way of support versus the criticism that can be so prevalent.

  • Ella

    January 19th, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    I think there is a limit for how strict a parent can be because I’m 16 and throughout my life my mum has been controlling my life and it turned out that she could control it so much she can ruin it. I have suffered from stress and depression and I wonder sometimes if either of us mentally ill. I don’t think this approach is healthy for anyone, despite if they think they are doing it because they care about us.

  • CF

    April 23rd, 2020 at 10:08 PM

    Sometimes my ma lectures me; I try to debate and dictate but she interrupts me; she could’ve been like a tiger ma to me. And I admit to being a coward so do my ma to be like it but not to be it. Tough love.

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