Parents have a significant influence on how their children will behave, react, and interact. The way in which a child is parented has a big impact on who they will become and how they will respond. But so does culture. For example, the Western culture embraces autonomy, individuation, and expression, while many Eastern Asian cultures encourage emotional restraint and conformity. Therefore, one could assume that the same type of parenting may have different effects on children of different cultures. Controlling tactics, such as psychologically or behaviorally controlling children, generally constitute negative parenting behavior in the United States. But, according to Joey Fung of the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, it could have a different meaning for people of other cultures. “Depending on the system of local meanings, certain forms of psychological control may be indicative of parental concern and investment rather than parental hostility or rejection.”
If that is the case, do children of Asian cultures behave differently than children of Western cultures in response to harsh parenting strategies? That question was the basis of a recent study led by Fung. He interviewed 96 European American (EA) participants and 165 participants from Hong Kong (HK) and asked them how they parented. Specifically, Fung looked at hostile psychological tactics, such as criticism, belittling, devaluation, and relational induction including shaming, guilt tripping, and comparing children. He then examined how these behaviors affected levels of parental rejection and childhood behavior.
Fung found that there was indeed a cultural difference. In particular, hostile psychological parenting did lead to feelings of parental rejection in both groups of participants, but only negatively affected the behavior of the HK children. Additionally, induction of shame, guilt, and inferiority was not related to problem behavior for any of the children in the study, but did increase feelings of parental rejection in the EA group. Fung believes these findings demonstrate that even though critical and harsh parenting may be viewed as universally bad, it can have different meanings for different cultures. The most effective parenting, this study showed, is the type of parenting that most models the moral beliefs of the parent and the culture in which the child is raised.
Fung, Joey, and Anna S. Lau. Tough love or hostile domination? Psychological control and relational induction in cultural context. Journal of Family Psychology 26.6 (2012): 966-75. Print.
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