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Stage Parents: Understanding Why they Push Their Children

Update Date: Jun 25, 2013 11:39 AM EDT

With popular reality television shows like "Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Dance Moms," the audience gets to witness just how far parents are willing to go to push their children to be number one. Even though what is displayed on television could be exaggerated for entertainment purposes, the length that many of these parents go to is still shocking to see. In a new study, one of the first of its kind, researchers decided to investigate the possible explanations as to why and how parents push their children. The researchers found that these types of parents, such as tiger moms and sports dads, might be attempting to fulfill some of their own ambitions that they never had the opportunity to accomplish.

"Our research provides the first empirical evidence that parents sometimes want their child to fulfill their unfulfilled ambitions - for example, that they want their child to become a physician when they themselves were rejected [from] medical school," Brad Bushman, the study's co-author explained according to TIME. Bushman is a professor at Ohio Stat University.

The researchers did their study in Holland where they recruited 73 Dutch parents who were all around the age of 43. The sample set, which was mostly women, had children between the ages of eight and 15. The parents were administered a psychological test, which measured how they viewed their children in relation to themselves. The researchers then asked some of the parents to write down two ambitions and why these ambitions were important. The final part of the experiment asked parents whether or not they "strongly agreed" or "strongly disagreed" with statements such as: "I hope my child will fulfill dreams I wasn't able to fulfill."

"When parents see their child as part of themselves, they may experience the child's achievements as if they were their own," Bushman said. "They may bask in the reflected glory of the child's achievements. As such the child's achievements may become a surrogate for parents' own unfulfilled ambitions. In this way, parents could lose some of the feelings of regret and disappointment that they could not achieve these ambitions themselves."

Although this finding might not be surprising for most people, the researchers remind parents that pushing children to fulfill other people's ambitions could be detrimental for the children's growth. In these situations, parents could place a lot of pressure on their children, pressure that takes away the joys of being a child.

The study was published in PLoS ONE

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