Both English and Japanese have two voiceless sibilant fricatives, an anterior fricative /s/ contrasting with a more posterior fricative //. When children acquire sibilant fricatives, English children typically substitute s for //, whereas Japanese children typically substitute for /s/. This study examined English- and Japanese-speaking adults' perception of children's productions of voiceless sibilant fricatives to investigate whether the apparent asymmetry in the acquisition of voiceless sibilant fricatives reported previously in the two languages was due in part to how adults perceive children's speech. The results of this study show that adult speakers of English and Japanese weighed acoustic parameters differently when identifying fricatives produced by children and that these differences explain, in part, the apparent cross-language asymmetry in fricative acquisition. This study shows that generalizations about universal and language-specific patterns in speech-sound development cannot be determined without considering all sources of variation including speech perception.