Faculty » Ruth Chao
My research has involved exploring alternative conceptualizations, theories, and paradigms for capturing and understanding the parenting and childhood socialization of East Asian immigrant families, primarily Chinese. I have been particularly concerned with the area of parenting style, demonstrating the need for a reconceptualization of Baumrind's widely-recognized parenting styles (i.e., comprising three types, authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive). Studies focusing on the relationship between parenting style and child outcomes like academic achievement have found some very contradictory results for Asian Americans, in general. That is, although the authoritative parenting style was most predictive of achievement for European Americans, this style was least effective in explaining Asian American achievement. I had proposed as a resolution to this paradox, that these parenting-style concepts are relevant for Asians, and I offered an alternative indigenous parenting style of chiao shun (i.e., a Chinese term that I have generally translated as "training"). The concept of training is based on a type of parental control that is distinct from the more "domineering" control that describes the authoritarian parenting style.
Currently, I am conducting a longitudinal study, funded by a large grant from NIH (NICHHD) that examines the importance of parental control as well as parental involvement in school in explaining children's school achievement. Specifically, this study will examine how the effects of parental control and parental involvement on adolescents' school outcomes are moderated by their perceptions of their parents' control and involvement and that these relationships may differ for Asian immigrant families in comparison to European American families. First, this study will address whether more negative effects of parental control on school performance will be found for European Americans compared to Asian Americans. These differences in effects across ethnic groups though will largely be explained by the moderating role of the students' perceptions of parental control and involvement in school. That is, Asian American students may interpret their parents' control more positively than European American students and parental involvement in school more negatively than European American students.
I have also begun another area of studies examining acculturation processes among immigrant families, specifically focusing on the role that children play in providing cultural or linguistic brokering for their immigrant parents. Research on the topic of language brokering or translation of children for their immigrant parents indicates that this has been a very understudied area. However, there is some evidence that brokering is not only prevalent for them, but also involves great linguistic and psychosocial challenges or demands. This study seeks to determine whether children are the primary brokers for their parents, and whether there are particular qualities or characteristics in children that are related to being "chosen" as brokers by their parents. Finally, this study will also determine whether these brokering responsibilities have an impact on children's psychosocial well-being and their relations with parents. More in-depth analyses will explore whether brokering may undermine parent's authority, or on the other hand, may also foster more closeness between parents and children.
Chao, R. & Tseng, V. (2002). Parenting of Asians. In M. H. Bornstein (Series Ed.), Handbook of parenting: Vol. 4 Social conditions and applied parenting (2nd ed., pp. 59-93). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Chao, R. (2001). Extending research on the consequences of parenting style for Chinese Americans and European Americans. Child Development, 72, 1832-1843.
Chao, R. (2000). The parenting of immigrant Chinese and European American mothers: Relations between parenting styles, socialization goals, and parental practices. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(2), 233-248.
Chao, R. (1995). "Chinese and European-American cultural models of the self reflected in mothers' child-rearing beliefs." Ethos, 23, 328-354.
Chao, R. (1994). "Beyond parental control; authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training." Child Development, 45, 1111-1119.