Parenting and Basic Education

Parents and caregivers are children's first teachers. What happens inside a child's home contributes to a child's education. Homes, daycare centers, and preschools provide the environment and experience to a child in the early years. Even after a child enters formal schooling, the home still exerts a significant influence on a child's education. Since parents are the children's first teachers, it begs the question of whether a parent's educational attainment is crucial for the next generation to succeed. Do parents need a high educational attainment in order for their children to achieve the same. My father did not finish high school. My mother finished an elementary teachers' program. Together, my parents made it clear to me at the very beginning how important education was. When I made it to the star section on my third year at the Manila Science High School, my father was very happy. My father felt at that time that I was already guaranteed to finish high school. He was with me when I was enrolling in high school. We walked back and forth from one place to another, since we did not have money for transportation. It took us the entire day, getting a chest x-ray, obtaining a physical examination, getting and filling up forms from various offices. At that time, my father only had hope. After learning that I would now be in the top section in the high school, my father no longer had just hope, but a sense of fulfillment.

Sociologist Jennifer Lee wrote in the Society Pages, "Tiger Kids and the Success Frame". In this article, she presented an analysis of the Immigrant and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles survey data. Her findings are summarized in the following two figures:

Figure downloaded from Tiger Kids and the Success Frame

The above figure shows the educational background of parents of families in Los Angeles. In this specific groupings, the Chinese have the highest fraction with a bachelor's degree (both father and mother). The next figure shows the educational attainment of the next generation:

Figure downloaded from Tiger Kids and the Success Frame
None of the children of Chinese immigrants included in this survey dropped out of school before finishing high school. But the decrease in the number of high school dropouts among Mexican Americans is equally impressive. As Lee correctly points out, "...while nearly 60% of Mexican immigrant parents did not graduate from high school, this figure drops to 14% within one generation." Albeit a parent's educational attainment is perhaps a reason why children of Chinese immigrants do well, it does not mean that a parent who did not finish high school cannot possibly raise a child who will finish high school. Thus, it is perhaps useful to examine how various styles of parenting influence learning outcomes.

There is currently an impression that Chinese American children do well in school because of "Tiger Moms". This was largely a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding of a book by Amy Chua, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Amy Chua describes her book on her blog in the following terms,
"...Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the story of my family’s journey in two cultures. I wrote this book in a moment of crisis, when my younger daughter seemed to turn against everything I stood for and it felt like I was losing her and everything was falling apart. After one terrible fight, I sat down at my computer, and even though I usually have writer’s block, this time the words just poured out. I showed every page to my daughters and my husband. It was like family therapy. In retrospect, I think writing the book – going back eighteen years when my elder daughter was born and I was a very different person – was an attempt to put the pieces back together and work things out for myself . . . and the story is unfinished!"
For the purpose of finding what parenting style works best for a child's education, there is a study recently published that has specifically looked at Chinese families to examine how parenting affects a child's success in school. The following paper: Does “tiger parenting” exist? Parenting profiles of Chinese Americans and adolescent developmental outcomes. Kim, Su Yeong; Wang, Yijie; Orozco-Lapray, Diana; Shen, Yishan; Murtuza, Mohammed, Asian American Journal of Psychology, Vol 4(1), Mar 2013, 7-18. doi: 10.1037/a0030612, performed a longitudinal study of more than 400 Chinese American families living in Northern California.
 “Tiger parenting,” as described by Chua (2011, Battle hymn of the tiger mother. New York, NY: Penguin Press), has put parenting in Asian American families in the spotlight. The current study identified parenting profiles in Chinese American families and explored their effects on adolescent adjustment. In a three-wave longitudinal design spanning 8 years, from early adolescence to emerging adulthood, adolescents (54% female), fathers, and mothers from 444 Chinese American families reported on eight parenting dimensions (e.g., warmth and shaming) and six developmental outcomes (e.g., GPA and academic pressure). Latent profile analyses on the eight parenting dimensions demonstrated four parenting profiles: supportive, tiger, easygoing, and harsh parenting. Over time, the percentage of parents classified as tiger parents decreased among mothers but increased among fathers. Path analyses showed that the supportive parenting profile, which was the most common, was associated with the best developmental outcomes, followed by easygoing parenting, tiger parenting, and harsh parenting. Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents.

Unfortunately, access to the above paper is not free. Paul Tullis, however, wrote an article on Slate, "Poor Little Tiger Cub" that highlighted the above paper by Kim et al. Tullis provided the following to explain the parenting styles explored in the study:

Above figure downloaded from "Poor Little Tiger Cub"
The axes are the student outcomes; high-achieving corresponds to good academic scores while low-depressive corresponds to less social and emotional problems. The Chinese American parents have been characterized into four categories, Harsh, Tiger, Easy Going, and Supportive. Tullis added the following to describe these categories used by Kim, et al.:
Adolescents and parents rated the parents on several qualities, for example, “act loving, affectionate, and caring,” “listen carefully,” and “act supportive and understanding.” Warmth, reasoning, monitoring, and democratic parenting were considered positive attributes, while hostility, psychological control, shaming, and punitive measures were considered negative. These characterizations would be combined through a statistical method known as latent profile analysis to determine Kim’s four parenting profiles: Those scoring highest on the positive dimensions were labeled “supportive;” those scoring low on both dimensions were deemed “easygoing;” “harsh” parents were high on negative attributes and low on positive ones, and “tiger” parents scored high on both positive and negative dimensions.
In addition to the finding that only children from "supportive" parents have positive outcomes in academic, social and emotional terms, the study by Kim, et al, also found out that most parents in Chinese American families are "supportive". Only a few are "tiger".

Paul Tullis quotes Kim;
“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. Tiger parenting doesn't produce superior outcomes in kids.”


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