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Parenting Practices and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms in Chinese American Families

Nov 16, 2015




parenting styles and its effects on the depressive symptoms of chinese american students

  • Journal of Family Psychology2000, Vol. 14, No. 3, 420-435

    Copyright 2000 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.0893-3200/O0/$5.0D DOI: 10.1O37//O893-32OO.14.3.420

    Parenting Practices and Adolescent DepressiveSymptoms in Chinese American Families

    Su Yeong Kim and Xiaojia GeUniversity of California, Davis

    This study examined parenting practices and adolescent depressive symptomsamong Chinese Americans. First, confirmatory factor analyses revealed that self-reported parenting practices by mothers and fathers and adolescent perception ofparenting practices loaded adequately on three subscales: Inductive Reasoning,Monitoring, and Harsh Discipline. Second, parents' depressive symptoms wererelated to disrupted parenting practices, which, in turn, were significantly related tothe negative evaluation of these behaviors by the adolescents. Adolescents' per-ceptions of such parenting practices were significantly associated with their de-pressive symptoms. Third, the relationships were robust even after parental income,education, and generation status were statistically controlled. Overall, the relation-ships between parenting practices and adolescent depressive symptoms amongChinese Americans seemed to echo those found among European Americans.

    The rising prevalence of depression duringadolescence has drawn increased research atten-tion (Compas, Ey, & Grant, 1993; Ge, Lorenz,Conger, Elder, & Simons, 1994; Kandel & Da-

    Su Yeong Kim and Xiaojia Ge, Department ofHuman and Community Development, University ofCalifornia, Davis.

    Support was provided through a Scott Mesh Hon-orary Scholarship for Research in Psychology fromthe American Psychological Association of GraduateStudents; a Jastro-Shields Research Award from theUniversity of California, Davis, College of Agricul-tural and Environmental Sciences; and a GraduateResearch Mentorship Award from the University ofCalifornia, Davis, Office of Graduate Studies.

    We would like to thank the administrators at theschool district and the families that participated in thestudy. Research assistance is highly appreciated fromMarilyn Luong, Selina Li, Wilson Luk, Sun-MeeKang, Cindy Kwan-Yee Lau, Chor-Yi Wong,Charles Inada, Jenny Jiun-Ling Wang, Kunise Stroh,Laura Kawate, Marco Cordova, Elaine Chinn, andElizabeth Wong. Valuable comments on an earlierversion of this article were received from M. BrentDonnellan.

    Correspondence concerning this article should beaddressed to Su Yeong Kim, Department of Humanand Community Development, University of Califor-nia, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616-8523.Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected]

    vies, 1982; Radloff, 1991). Various factors thatmay explain this phenomenon have been exam-ined. One line of research involves investigationof the linkage between parenting and adolescentdepressive symptoms. Research conductedamong European American families suggeststhat the way parents interact with their childrenis related to adolescent depressive symptoms.For example, several studies (Ge, Best, Conger,& Simons, 1996; Ge, Conger, Lorenz, & Si-mons, 1994) have shown that parenting withwarmth and involvement is negatively related todepressive symptoms and that parenting char-acterized by harshness and disciplinary incon-sistency is positively related to adolescent de-pressive symptoms in European Americanfamilies. However, it is unclear whether similarrelationships exist within ethnic minority fami-lies. To fill this gap in knowledge, the presentstudy explored the relationship between parent-ing processes and adolescent depressive symp-toms using a sample of Chinese American fam-ilies, the largest Asian American ethnic group inthe United States (Uba, 1994).

    Despite the popular "model minority" image,studies suggest that some Asian Americanadults do experience an elevated level of de-pressive symptoms (Aldwin & Greenberger,1987; Kuo, 1984; Okazaki, 1997; Ying, 1995).Although studies on Asian American adoles-



    cents are fewer than those involving adults,there is some evidence that adolescents alsoexhibit elevated distress levels (Kim & Chun,1993). Important progress has been made inidentifying some of the possible predictors ofdepressive symptoms among Asian Americans,including different cultural orientations (Ying,1995), recency of arrival (Kuo, 1984), and typeof self-construal (Okazaki, 1997). Relativelyfew studies, however, have explored the signif-icance of family processes in adolescent depres-sive symptoms.

    Previous studies of Asian American parent-ing practices tended to focus on the averagedifferences between Asian and European Amer-ican parents. In comparison with their EuropeanAmerican counterparts, Asian American parentsare described as more controlling, stricter indiscipline, and more restrictive (Chao, 1994;Kelley & Tseng, 1992; Steinberg, Dombusch,& Brown, 1992). When individual differenceswithin Asian Americans are examined, studieshave primarily focused on the relationship be-tween parenting practices and students1 aca-demic achievement (Dombusch, Ritter, Leider-man, Roberts, & Fraieigh, 1987; Steinberg etal., 1992). Relatively little attention has beenpaid to individual differences in Chinese Amer-ican parenting practices and their associationwith adolescent socioemotional developmentaloutcomes.

    There is some evidence to suggest that, de-spite the significant mean differences in parent-ing practices between Asian and EuropeanAmericans, the association between parentingbehaviors and some psychological outcomesappears to be similar. For example, Steinberg,Mounts, Lamborn, and Dombusch (1991) re-ported that authoritative parenting, conceptual-ized as a composite of acceptance-involvement,firm control, and democratic discipline, is asso-ciated with less depressive symptoms amongAsian American adolescents. Other studies havealso shown that warm parenting is negativelyrelated to depressive symptoms among adoles-cents of both European and Asian descent(Chiu, Feldman, & Rosenthal, 1992; Green-berger & Chen, 1996). Collectively, the re-search suggests that, within Asian Americanfamilies, parenting practices characterized byhigher levels of warmth, involvement, and dem-ocratic disciplinary practices are associatedwith decreased levels of adolescent adjustment

    problems. On the basis of these findings, weexpected that Asian American adolescentswhose parents were more involved with theirlives through monitoring their activities wouldmanifest fewer depressive symptoms. We alsoexpected that those adolescents whose parentsused more reasoning in their disciplinary prac-tices would display fewer depressive symptoms.

    Although parental warmth has been found tobe associated with less depressive symptomsamong Chinese or Chinese American adoles-cents (Chiu et al., 1992; Greenberger & Chen,1996), the relationship between parenting di-mensions other than warmth and adolescent de-pressive symptoms is less well explored. Thismay be due in part to limited understanding ofparenting practices among Asian Americans.When examining parenting practices in ChineseAmericans, researchers remain uncertain as towhich aspects of parenting other than warmthmay be related to adolescent depressive symp-toms. For example, whereas Chiu et al. (1992)examined parental control and involvement,Greenberger and Chen (1996) focused on fam-ily conflict and cohesion. The inconsistencyacross previous studies in the assessment ofparenting practices suggests a need for a carefulexamination of measurement strategies. Thus,the first phase of this study was devoted to anexamination of several parenting dimensionsamong Chinese American families.

    Moreover, the existing studies of AsianAmerican parenting practices typically adoptedBaumrind's (1991) parenting typology (Dom-busch et al., 1987; Leung, Lau, & Lam, 1998).Recently, however, Chao (1994) and Gonzales,Cauce, and Mason (1996) cautioned that such aframework may not be entirely appropriate forassessing parents from other cultures. In light ofthese warnings, the first phase of the studysought to ensure the adequacy of the measures.In doing so, we examined whether several par-enting dimensions developed for EuropeanAmericans, such as inductive reasoning, moni-toring, and harsh discipline, would be appropri-ate to the study of parenting practices amongChinese American families.

    Studies of Asian American parenting typi-cally adopt measures used with EuropeanAmericans (Chiu et al., 1992; Steinberg et al.,1991). Although ethnic differences have beenobserved (Chao, 1994; Gonzales et al., 1996),researchers have not adequately explored

  • 422 KIM AND GE

    whether parenting items used to assess induc-tive reasoning, monitoring, and harsh disciplinein European Americans would be appropriatefor the assessment of Chinese American parent-ing. It is plausible to expect Chinese Americanparents who are high in inductive reasoning toprovide more explanations, give reasons fortheir decisions, ask their adolescent for opinionswhen making decisions, and explain rules totheir adolescent. Similarly, Chinese Americanparents who are high in monitoring are expectedto know the whereabouts of their adolescent,whom their adolescent is with, and whethertheir adolescent complies with the set bedtime.Conversely, Chinese American parents who arehigh in harsh discipline may be more likely tospank and hit their adolescent or lock the ado-lescent out of the house. In other words,whereas the level at which parents use certainparenting practices may differ across ethnicity,items making up the dimensions should showa certain degree of similarity regardless ofethnicity.

    Previous research typically examined the in-fluence of parents on Asian American adoles-cent developmental outcomes using child