'Tiger moms' hurting themselves?

by Sari Harrar               

Helicopter moms and Tiger moms, here’s news: Practicing “intensive parenting” may be hazardous to your mental health. In a new study from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, researchers found that women who practiced this style of child-raising were more likely to feel stressed and depressed. They also felt they had less family support. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Child and Family Studies. You can read a summary here.

Researchers looked at 181 moms with kids younger than age 5. Using online questionnaires, they asked them how they felt about five intensive-parenting tenets. Among those on board with at least three beliefs, one in four had signs of depression. These moms were less satisfied with their lives and felt more stressed-out.

Intensive parents endorsed some or all of these beliefs: 

  • Moms are the most capable parent.
  • Parents’ happiness mainly comes from their children.
  • Parents should always provide their children with stimulating activities that aid in their development.
  • Parenting is harder than working.
  • A parent should always put her child’s needs ahead of her own.

The researchers question whether this is really helpful for kids if their mothers are so unhappy. “They may think that it makes them better mothers, so they are willing to sacrifice their own mental health to enhance their children’s cognitive, social and emotional outcomes,” the study authors wrote. “In reality, intensive parenting may have the opposite effect on children from what parents intend.”

What do you think? Is intensive parenting good for kids and for mothers? Does it work if you have support from your family and your community?