Parental emotion socialization in Chinese and US families: Roles of parents' beliefs about emotions and self-construals

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Virginia Tech


Recent studies have addressed the importance of identifying determinants of parental emotion socialization (ES) to clarify how and why parents engage in ES practices. Furthermore, emotions occur within cultural contexts. Recent work has drawn attention to the importance of cross-cultural research for developmental science. Consistent with these calls for research, I examined parents' beliefs about emotions and self-construals as two sets of distinct factors guiding parental ES responses in China and the United States (US). Three emotion-related beliefs (manipulation [children can use emotions to manipulate parents]; parental knowledge [parents have to know all about their child's emotions]; autonomy [children can work through emotions on their own]) and two self-construals (independence [view self as unique entity]; interdependence [view self as connected with others]) were highlighted. One hundred seven parents with 7- to 11-year-old children (75 Chinese, 32 US; 90 mothers, 17 fathers) completed online questionnaires in their native language. MANCOVA analyses indicated cultural differences. Compared with Chinese parents, US parents less strongly endorsed beliefs about manipulation, parental knowledge, and autonomy. US parents endorsed more supportive and less nonsupportive responses towards children's emotions than Chinese parents. There was a trend for Chinese parents to endorse more interdependence than independence in self-construals, whereas no within-person difference was found for US parents' endorsement of these two self-construals. For both Chinese and US parents, beliefs about emotions and self-construals were significantly associated with ES responses. Linear regressions showed that parents' stronger manipulation belief was associated with higher nonsupportive responses to positive and negative emotions. Parents with stronger parental knowledge or autonomy beliefs reported more supportive responses to negative emotions and explanations of positive emotions. Stronger belief in parental knowledge was also related to more endorsed encouragement of positive emotions and lower nonsupportive responses to negative emotions. After controlling for the effects of beliefs, parents with higher interdependent self-construal reported more supportive responses to negative emotions and more explanatory responses to positive emotions. Parents who endorsed higher independent self-construal reported more encouraging responses to positive emotions and less nonsupportive responses to negative emotions. Results are discussed in relation to meaning and significance within socio-cultural contexts.



emotion socialization, beliefs about emotions, independent and interdependent self-construals, middle childhood, China, United States