Children in both China and the United States who want to please their parents tend to do better at school, new research finds.
Yet in the United States, American kids' drive to please their parents declines during early adolescence, while in China feelings of obligation toward parents stay strong and even grow as kids hit their teenage years.
Researchers attribute that to cultural differences -- Americans view adolescence as a time in which teens assert their individualism, while the Chinese believe in "filial piety," or the idea that it's a child's responsibility to bring honor to their families and repay their parents for the sacrifices they made in raising them.
During early adolescence, "U.S. children feel less obligated toward their parents, and less concerned with showing their parents they are responsible members of the family," said study author Eva Pomerantz, a professor in the department of psychology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "You don't see that decline in Chinese kids."
In both countries, kids who felt connected to their parents, who felt an obligation to their parents and who wanted to please them tended to do better academically.
"Kids who have these high-quality relationships, who feel they can trust their parents and who feel close to their parents, also feel more responsible for their parents," Pomerantz said. "This sense of connection and closeness plays a role in academic achievement."
The study is published in the current issue of Child Development.