The Best Way to Raise Successful Daughters May Surprise You

Sep 26, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. ET
The Best Way to Raise Successful Daughters
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Science says: If you want to raise a successful daughter, raise your expectations. According to recent research from the University of Essex, apparently the more you nag your daughter, the more successful she's likely to be. Yeah, we were skeptical too. 

The study, led by Ph.D. candidate Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, studied the effects of parental expectations on teenage daughters. The study looked at the lives of over 15,000 teenage girls age 13 to 14 over a 10-year period.

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“The measure of expectations in this study reflects a combination of aspirations and beliefs about the likelihood of attending higher education,” the study said.

So, for example, reminding your daughters that you expect them to go to college will increase their chances of actually going to college. Reminding them that you expect them to reach a certain age before becoming pregnant lessens their chances of experiencing a teenage pregnancy. And reminding them that you expect them to clean their room... well, we don't know how much that will help, but it's worth a try.

The study also found that the mother — or rather the “main parent,” who often tends to be the mother — is the parent with the most influence on the daughter’s life (and has the greatest influence when nagging). So if the non-primary parent nags, they're less likely to get what they want.

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When the main parent expresses high expectations, the daughter benefits in various ways. The daughter is less likely to give into peer pressure, less likely to become pregnant as a teenager, less likely to enter a low-paying, dead-end job and less likely to be unemployed at some point in her life. She is also more likely to attend college due to these high expectations.

Researcher Rascon-Ramirez said, “In many cases, we succeeded in doing what we believed was more convenient for us, even when this was against our parents’ will. But no matter how hard we tried to avoid our parents’ recommendations, it is likely that they ended up influencing, in a more subtle manner, choices that we had considered extremely personal.”

The study also discovered there is a noticeable effect of stacking expectations. For example, if you tell your daughter she should wait to have a child until she is financially stable and you tell her you expect her to attend college, she is more likely to follow both of those guidelines than if you only set one of them. 

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Even though the word “nag” usually has a negative connotation attached to it, it may be getting a shiny new rep thanks to this study. While your daughter may roll her eyes in annoyance right now, she may also thank you later on in life for setting goals she may not have without your influence (and your nagging).

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.

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