Critical Parenting Does Not Always Cause Behavior Problems in Children

Parents have a significant influence on how their children will behave, react, and interact. The way in which a child is parented has a big impact on who they will become and how they will respond. But so does culture. For example, the Western culture embraces autonomy, individuation, and expression, while many Eastern Asian cultures encourage emotional restraint and conformity. Therefore, one could assume that the same type of parenting may have different effects on children of different cultures. Controlling tactics, such as psychologically or behaviorally controlling children, generally constitute negative parenting behavior in the United States. But, according to Joey Fung of the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, it could have a different meaning for people of other cultures. “Depending on the system of local meanings, certain forms of psychological control may be indicative of parental concern and investment rather than parental hostility or rejection.”

If that is the case, do children of Asian cultures behave differently than children of Western cultures in response to harsh parenting strategies? That question was the basis of a recent study led by Fung. He interviewed 96 European American (EA) participants and 165 participants from Hong Kong (HK) and asked them how they parented. Specifically, Fung looked at hostile psychological tactics, such as criticism, belittling, devaluation, and relational induction including shaming, guilt tripping, and comparing children. He then examined how these behaviors affected levels of parental rejection and childhood behavior.

Fung found that there was indeed a cultural difference. In particular, hostile psychological parenting did lead to feelings of parental rejection in both groups of participants, but only negatively affected the behavior of the HK children. Additionally, induction of shame, guilt, and inferiority was not related to problem behavior for any of the children in the study, but did increase feelings of parental rejection in the EA group. Fung believes these findings demonstrate that even though critical and harsh parenting may be viewed as universally bad, it can have different meanings for different cultures. The most effective parenting, this study showed, is the type of parenting that most models the moral beliefs of the parent and the culture in which the child is raised.

Fung, Joey, and Anna S. Lau. Tough love or hostile domination? Psychological control and relational induction in cultural context. Journal of Family Psychology 26.6 (2012): 966-75. Print.

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  • Debbie


    January 12th, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    It’s not always good to yield to everything and great your child in the nicest possible way.

    Sometimes they do need a little bit of critical parenting every now and then to get going. Some kids need it more than others but the absence if it can spoil them!

  • Celia


    January 12th, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    I don’t think that you have to be so permissive that they get to everything all the time, but the cut the kids a little slack every now and then. They’re kids and shouldn’t be forced to be little adults when they are not ready for that. Heck I am an adult and I’m still not ready for it sometimes!

  • Joshua M

    Joshua M

    January 12th, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    Culture does play a role.There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parenting,it’s only relative.When one is satisfied with his or her own parenting style and it benefits the child (not necessarily all goody-good),then that is what I would call the best form.

  • anna peete

    anna peete

    January 13th, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    OK so it may not cause behavioral issues, but what about self esteem issues and doubting of one’s self? My mom amd dad were always so hard on us, expected perfection and we all tried to give it to them, knowing that out efforts in the end would never really measure up to what they wanted. I don’t even know that they knew what they wanted- just some way yo control us I think now that I am looking back on it all. It was not pleasant to say the least

  • mary blissel

    mary blissel

    January 21st, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    My mother was extremely critical of me, to the point where I was inspected by her each day, before I went to school, and she would criticize my hair, my skin, and my choice of clothing. She never seemed satisfied, and was always criticizing according to an antiquated standard.
    Later on in life, she criticized my hair, my son, and my husband. She didn’t like the way we looked and was afraid of what the neighbors thought, her friends thought. None of them were critical, but totally accepting of us.
    Yes, this led to extreme self-esteem problems for me. I am currently in therapy, and have perfection issues, holding myself up to a certain high-achieving standard, and part of it has to do with my looks, the other part, achievement in my work, and thinking I should associate with certain people who “appear” to be good people.
    Intense criticism from parents is narcissistic, and can create narcissistic tendencies in their children.

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