Asian American Students’s Relationship With Their Parents and Stress


The San Fransisco Bay Area is teeming with life, for this can be seen from the heaps of seals at Pier 39 to the cherry blossoms blooming in Hakone Gardens in Saratoga. There’s a variety of activities to do that can never bore you, for they’re all in a one hour drive from each other. The high concentration of things to do in the area allows for collaboration between businesses in San Fransisco and San Jose. Known for housing successful electronic companies such as Apple, Netflix, Twitter, Zynga, and Google, the Bay Area holds high expectations for its students to eventually have a successful career at one of these companies. I’ve lived in San Jose my whole life, and I’ve been attending the same school for 13 years. According to, 70% of our student population is Asian, and it’s an extremely competitive environment. I’ve seen the stress my peers have almost every day, and I was curious if their stress generally roots from one source, their parents.

Every parent wants the best for their child, but when does pressure to succeed negatively affect kids?

Nearly 8 in 10 children aged 1 to 14 years were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment on a regular basis at home in 81 countries (primarily developing), according to available data from 2005 to 2017. In all but seven of these countries, more than half of children experienced violent forms of discipline.

One influential book that reflects Asian parents’ mindset is The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. In her novel, she breaks down why she believes Chinese parenting yields stronger results in grades than Western parenting. She used her own experiences as a child to reflect on how her own children think of her discipline, for Chua stated explained how her father called her “garbage” but it did not impact her self esteem. She felt horrible for what she had done, yet she was still aware of how highly her father thought of her. Chua generalizes her own past with other families with no regard of their background, so this form of discipline could come across poorly to others who do not have the same confidence. Although Chua states that this method will increase confidence, it can degrade it as well. Yelling and physical punishment makes children feel more insecure and often leads to long term effects such as anxiety, depression, and increased aggression.

Additional to these punishments, she explained that Chinese parents override their children’s preferences because they know what is best for their kid’s future. Individuality was stripped from their children, for the parents chose what extracurricular their child would pursue. Western families embraced passions and provided a nurturing environment, for Chua states they are focused on their child’s psyches whereas Asian parents are not.

Christine Lu, Co-Founder & CEO of Affinity China, responded to Chua’s article in an empathetic view. She grew up in the same household, where her mother pushed for perfection, and her older sister was a prime example of the greatness that can come out of Chinese parenting. She had straight A’s, a perfect SAT score, participated on the varsity swim team, was advanced at playing piano, was on student council, was granted early admission to Harvard, and earned an MBA at Harvard. She was the perfect Asian child. However, a month after her wedding she committed suicide from the stress she accumulated over her lifetime. Lu’s story is a snap into reality from Chua’s methods she described. The highest number of suicides in Asian American communities is from 20-24 years old, and this is because of academic stress for the future. To prevent this from continuing in future generations, I have come up with a few things schools and Asian American families can implement to prevent overstressing children.

Education is where prevention is most influential, for it stops problems from occurring before it happens. This type of teaching has been shown to be effective in minimizing drug use in teenagers. In education, we should teach kids two things: the importance of The Good Life and Resilience. Both of these teachings follow positive psychology, the study of what makes life worth living. By giving the children meaning early in their lives, it will promote good feelings and fulfillment for hopefully the remainder of their lives.

The Good Life is a term coined by Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, which will be achieved by utilizing one’s unique strengths and virtues to the fullest. Through classes at school, we would teach aspects of The Good Life and the importance of achieving it. As school teaches morals, such as kindness, respect, and responsibility, instilling virtues for children at a young age will positively impact how they see their life. The Good Life is important to self-esteem because one receives more gratification through successes once discovering values within oneself.

Next, teaching resilience as a part of a school curriculum will provide life skills for these students. Resilience is the power of bouncing back from setbacks and how one continues their life through their struggle. Teaching children these skills will result in a stronger desire for greatness, and this ultimately yields better work habits in their lifetime. I would teach resilience through daily journals in class, for students would write down a summary of their day and reflect on how they would improve tomorrow. Additionally, at the bottom they would write down the thought process they should go through instead of their negative thoughts.

I had my peers fill out a stress survey from Berkeley which assigns a numerical value to one’s stress level; 0 being not stressed and 48 being extremely stressed. I found the results very interesting, for I split my peers into four ethnic groups: White, Asian, Indian, and Chinese. I created Indian and Chinese groups along with Asian because files those of Indian descent as Asian, so the results would have varied.

I wrote down each score according to the person’s ethnic group and then divided each column into fourths. The numerical value is the mean of each quarter, and each number in each quarter is the score my peer scored on the quiz. In the first half of the quiz, those of Chinese ethnicity were significantly more stressed than others, so this means my Chinese peers score the highest of the lowest scores. When comparing everyone’s stress and anxiety to the Chinese focus group, Chinese students were always above the average stress rate in each quarter. Their stress remained at the higher end of the spectrum throughout each period. Additionally, to emphasize the ratio of Asian to White ethnicities at my school, I received 20 Asian participants but a mere 7 White participants. Because of the low number in the White focus group, the data cannot be entirely relied on.

Now how do you fit into the Asian American community? After filling out the same survey as my peers and receiving a number, please add your score to the board with your location**, age, and ethnicity. Looking at how our different environments potentially add or detract stress from our lives could reveal potentially a bigger problem which we could soon tackle.

Age and ethnicity are encouraged but not required!

Made with Padlet


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Hijoka, Shihoko, Ph.D., and Joel Wong, Ph.D. “Suicide Among Asian Americans.” Infographic. Asian American Psychological Association. Accessed April 22, 2019.

Kelley, Michelle L., and Hui-Mei Tseng. “Cultural Differences in Child Rearing: A Comparison of Immigrant Chinese and Caucasian American Mothers.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 23, no. 4 (December 1, 1992): 444-55. Digital file.

“Martin Seligman.” The Pursuit of Happiness. Accessed April 22, 2019.

Moeller, Tamerra P., Gloria A. Bachmann, and James R. Moeller. “The combined effects of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse during childhood: Long-term health consequences for women.” In Child Abuse & Neglect, 623-40. Vol. 17. New York, USA: Elsevier, 1993. Digital file.

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Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by Alex.Lepa

    I really enjoyed your project and found it very interesting. As a person who is white and grew up in China, I found this quite relatable. I often saw the stress the local kids faced and questioned the reason why they faced such stress. After moving back to Canada, I noticed that the stress my peers faced changed and that in fact, it was more self-inflicted. Very interesting topics. Thanks.

  2. April 28, 2019 by Annabel.Sumardi

    This is a really interesting topic, and especially seeing a lot of people in the Asian community who are my friends struggle with this, it’s nice to see someone tackle the problem. My parents are both from Indonesia, and they can definitely relate to what your presentation talks about. Are there any organizations you might suggest to get involved with and help end the issue?

  3. April 28, 2019 by Evie Tomita

    Hi Lauren, thank you for doing such a good job on your project! I’ve grown up with the immense pressure of Japanese parenting, and I think today its incredibly important to recognize the stress parents are putting on their children. I didn’t know the physical and psychological damage was so extensive, but I can definitely see, in my community and others, how that could be true. Thank you for spreading awareness about this!

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