Science says raise your expectations if you want to raise a successful daughter.
The study, led by Ph.D. candidate Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, studied the effects of parental expectations set on teenage daughters. The study looked at the lives of over 15,000 teenage girls aged 13 to 14 over a 10-year period.
“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, basically, reminding your daughters that you expect them to go to college will increase their chances of actually going to college. Reminding them you expect them to reach a certain age before becoming pregnant lessens their chances of experiencing a teenage pregnancy. And reminding them to clean the kitchen... well, we don't know how much that will help.
The study also found that the mother — or the “main parent,” who 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.
When the main parent expresses high expectations, the daughter benefits in various ways. The daughter is less likely to give in to 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.
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 will thank you later on in life for setting goals she may not have without your influence (and nagging!).