Troubling the Chinese Tiger Mom

Research output: Other contributionWeb publication/Blog postPopular science


When interviewing parents in Beijing and Shanghai about strategies surrounding their children’s education, one reoccurring topic was the parenting style of the “tiger mom” (虎妈, huma). Depicted as a mother who does everything for her child, but also demands everything from the child, the tiger mom takes on the status of a “fetishized other,” upholding unattainable standards of discipline, endurance, time management skills, and competencies to set out the most conducive trajectory for optimizing the cognitive and academic development of her child. She is familiar to everyone, and basically everybody can pinpoint a personal example. Through snowball sampling, several of my interlocuters introduced me to their tiger mom friends. Yet, no one I spoke to identified with this characterization. The reason the tiger mom is at the same time omnipresent and non-existent, I argue, is that middle-class parenting in urban China today is much more complex and infused with anxieties and dilemmas, juggling academic performance and mental well-being, than what the tiger mom persona epitomizes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherInternational Institute for Asian Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2023 May 16

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Psychology

Free keywords

  • parenting
  • China
  • Tiger mom
  • fetishized other


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