In our society, there’s a large emphasis on being the “best” in everything—whether that’s parenting a teen or being the top dog at work. It’s normal for a parent to want their child to excel and succeed in every area, but when it reaches a certain level it can become one of the causes of depression in children. While many parents have children’s best interests at heart, pushing a child to fit a mold of “perfection” can be extremely detrimental to their mental health. Recent studies have yielded disturbing results confirming this idea. Daily Mail recently reported on these results and their implications in how parents push their children.
In Singapore, a five-year study of primary school children was conducted. Researchers discovered that children with “intrusive” parents had a much greater tendency to over criticize themselves, which ultimately increased over the years. The researchers focused on “maladaptive perfectionism,” which is known as the “bad” form of it, in primary school-aged children. The results of the study were troubling. Children had the possibility of becoming fearful of making little mistakes and constantly blaming themselves for not being “perfect.” This specific type of perfectionism has the chance of developing into one of the causes of depression in children.
“When parents become intrusive in their children’s lives, it may signal to the children that what they do is never good enough.” –Assistant Professor Ryan Hong, who led the study at the National University of Singapore (NUS)
In the study, researchers studied 263 children and over half–60 percent to be exact–showed self-criticalness classified as high and/or increasing, while nearly 80 percent were shown to be considered high socially prescribed (others having unrealistically high expectations of them) perfectionists. Nearly 60 percent of the children had both.
Singapore is a place that highly emphasizes academic excellence, which can often lead to unrealistic, harmful expectations of young people. This doesn’t just happen in Singapore–if the researchers were to study other countries (including the US), the results would most likely be similar. Overbearing, ridiculous expectations can be counted as one of the possible causes of depression in children, along with anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and even suicide.
Changing Our Expectations
All parents want their child to succeed, but trying to have them fit a mold of “perfect” is unrealistic and damaging to their wellbeing. Parents should be supportive, give constructive criticism, and be proud when they accomplish something. Instead of saying, “Did you get an A on your exam?” say, “How did your exam go?” By changing the way we present expectations, children will stop feeling the need to be “perfect” and start feeling proud of their achievements.