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Constructing Trans-disciplinary Human Science for Evidence-Based Human ServiceThe diversity of the effects of parental expectations: Applying the Trajectory Equifinality Approach (TEA)

writer: KASUGA, Hideaki (College of Letters, Assistant) published: 2016-11

Effects of parental expectations

The expression “expectations regarding someone” is usually used with a positive nuance. Another person having expectations of you means they are paying attention to you, and this becomes an encouragement and is connected to achieving results of a high standard. Expectations of parents have an especially important significance for children. Expectations put on them by parents serve as guidance for children that tells them what they should do, and by acting in line with expectations they are able to elicit positive responses, such as praise, from the people who have expectations of them, such as their parents and teachers. And there is no doubt that another person’s attitude can increase one’s own drive, creating a positive spiral. Beginning in the latter half of the 1990s, however, there has also been a focus on the negative effects of expectations. Children generally try to meet their parents’ expectations. Expectations that are too much for them, or feeling that they are being forced to follow expectations against their will, becomes a heavy burden for children. In addition, high expectation gives rise to conflict, and repress their feeling. A pattern also emerges in which children prioritize meeting expectations and lose sight of their own goals. In this way both positive and negative effects have been identified, and the fact that there are multiple mechanisms by which expectations affect children has been made clear.

Differences in effects depending on forms of understanding of expectations

What factor influences to the effect of parental expectation. It is generally said that excess expectation makes negative effects for children, but it is thought that is not quite so simple. Kasuga, Utsunomiya, and Sato (2014), for example, divide participants into some groups by how they had understood parental expectations, and examine the difference of effect of response about expectations such as feelings and selected behavior on current self-restraining traits and life satisfaction by the questionnaire research for university students. Positive response, negative response and rebellious spirit for parents were applied.
The results were that in most groups the response to burdens was a heightening of self-restraining traits, and these in turn were found to lower children’s sense of satisfaction with their lives. Only in the group in which expectations were understood with a good balance were self-restraining traits found to increase life satisfaction. Looking at this group in more detail, its members were found to possess the characteristic of perceiving expectations as encouragement and attempting to respond to them positively. It was also reported that this characteristic was associated with a tendency toward being able to accomplish things to a high standard. The fact that while feeling a burden the members of this group worked hard and while restraining themselves obtained good results can be seen as indicating a positive effect.
Of course, this kind of result being seen does not necessarily mean that self-restraining traits and expectations that create a feeling of burden being forced on children have been affirmed as beneficial. As has been pointed out above, negative effects have been identified in most existing research, including Kasuga, Utsunomiya, and Sato (2014). However, it does suggest that a diversity of effects in which the result of an expectation is not necessarily negative just because it creates a burden or causes self-restraint. In other words, it is necessary to investigate approaches that will not only restrict what seem at first glance to be negative results, but to connect them to what comes next and transform them into something positive.

Describing diversity: the Trajectory Equifinality Approach (TEA)

Fig.1 Expressions of equifinality in development using TEA (TEM) (Sato,2009) 
Parental expectations have been cited as an example, but among human behaviors and psychological activities there are many that diverge into various different paths even if they start from the same place (multiple trajectories), and it is also possible for them to pass through various processes after diverging and arrive at the same (or similar) results (equifinality). In the case cited above, for example, we can posit a trajectory in which the child’s life satisfaction increases as a result of accepting the burden of expectations and self-restraint, but conversely we can also posit a trajectory in which the child’s life satisfaction increases as a result of resisting the burden and modifying the expectation in question and their relationship with their parents through self-assertion.
One method which qualitatively research about processes of change with a focus on these multiple trajectories and similar outcomes is the Trajectory Equifinality Modeling (TEM), and its development through the Trajectory Equifinality Approach (TEA) (Yasuda, Nameshida, Fukuda, and Sato, 2015 (Figure 1)). Researchers get people who have had experiences related to their topic of inquiry to speak about the nature of these experiences and how they unfolded through irreversible time. At this point it may be possible to discover experiences that can be described as essential transit points, or experiences at which various trajectories diverge. These discoveries then facilitate the advancement of research as new research questions. In addition, it should also be possible to provide knowledge that can be used to provide support in practice by indicating the current position in the process of attaining a goal, what sorts of things may happen in the future, and how these things should be dealt with, and further development and refinement of this research can be expected going forward.


  • Kasuga, H., Utsunomiya, H., & Sato, T. (2014). Effects of parental expectation understanding on the characteristics of university student self-restraining behavior and sense of life satisfaction: focusing on forms of response to expectations. , Japanese developmental psychology research, 25, 121-132.
  • Sato, T. (2009). Qualitative research beginning with TEM: Toward research that deals with time and process. Tokyo: Shin-yo-sha Press.
  • Yasuda, Y., Nameda, N., & Sato, T. (ed.) (2015). Word map TEA theory – learning the basics of the Trajectory Equifinality Approach. Tokyo: Shin-yo-sha Press.


Ritsumeikan Journal of Human Sciences


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Institute of Ars Vivendi. Ritsumeikan Univ.