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Chinese parenting and children's compliance to adults: a cross-cultural comparative study



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Huang, Ching-Yu Soar 


The current study examined the parenting beliefs and practices of Taiwanese, Chinese immigrant (all first-generation immigrants in the UK) and English mothers, and the compliance of their young children (aged 5–7), in order to elucidate the effects of child temperament, culture and acculturation strategies on reported parenting beliefs and practices, observed parental behaviour, child behaviour, mother–child interaction dynamics and children’s compliance. The data were collected from a total of 90 families with 5- to 7-year-old children in Taiwan and the UK. Child temperament, parenting beliefs and practices and acculturation were assessed using questionnaires, and parental behaviour, child behaviour, dyadic interaction dynamics and child compliance were assessed using observation in two tasks (Etch-A-Sketch and clean-up). Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with the Chinese immigrant parents to gather more information regarding their acculturation and parenting. Cultural differences were found between groups in reported as well as observed parenting and children’s compliance. The Taiwanese mothers reported greater use of Chinese-specific parenting and physical coercion and were observed to use more (gentle and assertive) physical intervention than both the Chinese immigrant and English mothers. The Chinese immigrant mothers reported a higher degree of child autonomy than the Taiwanese and English mothers, and also reported cultivation of their children’s independence. The stronger the Chinese immigrant mothers' affiliation with Chinese culture, the more they reported adopting the Chinese-specific parenting style; the longer they had been in the UK, the less they reported authoritarian parenting. The English mothers were rated as more responsive and less negatively controlling than the Chinese immigrant mothers; they also showed more positive affect than both the Chinese immigrant and Taiwanese mothers. There were few cultural differences between groups in the children’s behaviour, although Taiwanese children showed more situational compliance than Chinese immigrant children. Further regression analyses showed that child characteristics, such as child age and temperament, affected the parents’ and children’s behaviour as well as dyadic interactional dynamics. Committed compliance, situational compliance and opposition were associated with different predictors, suggesting that they are qualitatively different and are associated with different developmental processes. Committed compliance may develop as children grow older, mediated by surgency; situational compliance, on the other hand, was associated with authoritarian parenting and mothers’ use of negative control, which varied by culture. Child opposition was predicted by neither child characteristics nor parenting. These findings provide valuable insights into parenting and children’s compliance in different cultural contexts. The results underscore the importance of looking at human development from a holistic perspective. The active role that children play in shaping their developmental process, their parents’ parenting and the culture they live in should all be taken into account when attempting to understand their development.





Parenting, Cross-cultural psychology, Chinese, Acculturation, Child compliance, Parent-child interaction, Observation, Mixed-method


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
This work was supported by Cambridge Overseas Trust, King's College Cambridge,and the Ministry of Education in Taiwan.