Everybody understands that good parents have to lay down rules for their children as they grow up. However, too many rules can be a bad thing, says a new report in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

According to the authors, numerous studies have found that in Western countries, when parents are too strict with their children, they can impede their psychological development. It has also been suggested that this effect may not be as strong in East Asian countries — researchers have posited that certain aspects of East Asian culture may make children more accepting of their parents' intrusive behavior.

The idea shared by many researchers examining the effects of parental control seems to be that too much may interfere with a child's psychological development by making them feel like they don't have any control over their lives. They suggest this outcome may be particularly pronounced in the West, where autonomy and independence are emphasized.

Longitudinal studies have indicated that parental control in both Western and East Asian countries can have similar results on children from those regions. For example, as children are entering adolescence, the more parents make decisions for them regarding personal issues, the more the child's emotional suffering will be affected two years later — the size of this effect was similar in the United States and China.

However, there may be some contexts in which the effect of parental control is stronger in the West than in East Asian countries. In Western countries, for example, parents tend to decrease control more than Chinese parents do as children go through adolescence; Western children expect this decrease in supervision and therefore, their psychological functioning may be dependent on the extent to which parents decrease their control over them.

In addition, the negative effects of parental control over children's academic learning may be stronger in the West than in East Asia. In East Asian countries, there is a very strong moral aspect associated with learning and an education has much greater financial impact than in the West. For these reasons, when it comes to academics, East Asian children may be more accepting of excessive parental involvement.

Nonetheless, the research discussed in the report seems to indicate that extreme meddling by parents can have negative effects on their children's psychological development in both East Asian and Western countries, although the effects may not be uniform.

Citation: Eva M. Pomerantz,Qian Wang, 'The Role of Parental Control in Children's Development in Western and East Asian Countries', Current Directions in Psychological Science 2009, 18(5), 285-289, 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01653.x