Parent-Child Conflict in Chinese American Immigrant Families: A Longitudinal Study Examining Parental Communication Strategies During Conflict and Outcomes in Adolescence
AbstractParent-Child Conflict in Chinese American Immigrant Families: A Longitudinal Study Examining Parental Communication Strategies During Conflict and Outcomes in Adolescence
bySara Chung Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology University of California, Berkeley Professor Qing Zhou, Chair
Evidence-based behavioral parent training (BPT) has shown high efficacy in decreasing parent-child conflict and related family distress in studies with majority White American samples. Asian American youth from immigrant families are at heightened risk for the detrimental effects of parent-child conflict, yet are less likely to utilize mental health services compared to other racial/ethnic groups in part due to low perceived cultural relevance of existing interventions. To increase the cultural relevance of BPT, the current study aimed to identify and contextualize protective conflict communication strategies used by Chinese immigrant parents.
This study used two waves of data from a longitudinal study of parents and children (Wave 2: N = 216, M age = 9.2 years, age range = 7.5-11.0; Wave 3: N = 139, M age = 16.66 years, age range = 15.4 to 18.1) in Chinese American immigrant families. A verbal coding scheme was developed through a three-phase iterative process to code ten communication strategies used by parents. At Wave 2 (W2), parent-child verbal interactions during a conflict discussion task were transcribed and coded, and all codes achieved high interrater agreement.
First, I examined descriptive characteristics of parental communication strategies as well as concurrent associations between parents’ communication strategies and family sociodemographic and cultural factors (e.g., child age, socioeconomic status, cultural orientations) and parenting styles. The most commonly used communication strategies were acknowledgement/validation and eliciting the child’s opinion (used by 66.8% and 59.4% of parents in the sample, respectively), which in turn were negatively associated with authoritarian parenting. Acknowledgement/validation was also associated with higher Chinese orientation. The use of praise was positively associated with Chinese and American orientations. Family socioeconomic status was associated with several strategies.
Next, I examined longitudinal associations between W2 parental communication strategies and degrees of parent-adolescent open communication at W3. Praise, used among 24% of parents, was the only communication strategy that predicted parent-youth open communication in adolescence (B = 3.24, p = .02) after covarying for W2 parenting styles and child adjustment. A significant interaction effect was found for parent-child Chinese orientation gaps such that children with low Chinese orientation were more likely to report higher open communication if their parents had high Chinese orientation compared to low Chinese orientation (t = -3.34, p = .001). The findings indicate that praise, a commonly targeted parenting skill of BPT, appears to be culturally relevant to Chinese immigrant families who identify as bicultural and may have long-term protective effects for parent-child relationships. The findings of this study also add to the literature that demonstrates the benefits of heritage culture maintenance. Finally, I discussed the implications of the findings for clinical practice aimed at increasing mental health service utilization and treatment adherence in Chinese immigrant families.
Keywords: Chinese American, immigrant families, parent-child conflict, parental communication strategies, parent-adolescent communication