Parents' Theories of Intelligence with Children's Persistence/Learned Helplessness

Contact: Paul Jose.


This study looks at the reasons behind why Asian students appear to be more academically successful than Western students.

It focuses on:

  • The differences in the level of persistence and learned helplessness across cultures.
  • The impact of parental views, values, and behaviors on children’s persistence and learned helplessness.

The study was conducted among 7- and 8-year-old children and their parents in Asian (China and Japan) and Western cultures (New Zealand and United States of America).


This study found that:

  • Chinese children showed higher levels of persistence than the American and New Zealand children. Unexpectedly, Japanese children did not show higher persistence,
  • Parents from the two Western countries reported the highest expression of frustration. Chinese parents reported providing their children with more encouragement than New Zealand and American parents. Unexpectedly, Japanese parents reported levels similar to the Western participants,
  • Parent encouragement linked parent beliefs to child persistence and learned helplessness. Children persisted more in the learned helplessness procedure when they had parents who believed in their child’s ability to develop their potential and actively encouraged them,
  • Parental support of the view that intelligence is a skill to be acquired by effort and persistence led to greater child persistence and lower learned helplessness. Parent persistence and parent encouragement linked this relationship for Asian parents but not for Western parents.

The result indicate that:

  • Asian parents believe in, model, and behave according to a different motivational framework than do Western parents,
  • Beliefs that Asian parents and children have stronger beliefs about effort and persistence than Western parents and children are not supported,
  • Common beliefs that Asian parents and children show more effort or persistence than Western parents and children are not supported.

You can access the article "Relationships of Parents' Theories of Intelligence With Children's Persistence/Learned Helplessness: A Cross-Cultural Comparison" here.