Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Brian K. Barber

Committee Members

Greer Litton Fox, Robert Tom Ladd, Heidi Elizabeth Stolz

Abstract

Chinese adolescents’ development has received increasing attention over recent decades. However, following a traditional deficit model, most of the attention has been on problematic functioning of adolescents (e.g. depression). This emphasis is not consistent with evidence that the large majority of Chinese adolescents do not manifest such problem behaviors. Little is known about positive functioning among Chinese adolescents and how it is related to key socialization practices such as parenting. The purpose of the present study was to begin to fill these gaps.

Using theory, past empirical practice, and characteristics of Chinese culture, the study posited a second-order structure for positive functioning in three components: intrapersonal functioning (self-esteem and empathy), interpersonal functioning (social initiative and peer connection), and institutional functioning (academic achievement). Parenting was measured by three commonly investigated dimensions: parental support, behavioral control, and psychological control.

A specialized multivariate model of associations between parenting and adolescents’ positive functioning was hypothesized and analyzed using data from the Cross-National Adolescence Project (C-NAP; Barber, Stolz, & Olsen, 2005). The Chinese sub-sample consisted of 1,027 adolescents (453 boys) from 12 to 20 years old in Beijing, China. The three hypothesized paths were: parental support would be positively related to interpersonal functioning, parental psychological control would be negatively associated with intrapersonal functioning, and parental behavioral control would be positively linked with academic achievement.

The results indicated that the second-order model for adolescents’ positive functioning fit the data well. In terms of the associations between parenting and positive functioning, all three hypothesized paths were supported. In post-hoc analyses, it became apparent that a parental support model fit the data even better than the specialized model. Thus, the best model fit was achieved when all paths from parental support to positive functioning were estimated, revealing that parental support explained unique variance in all three domains of positive functioning. In contrast, parental behavioral control and psychological control did not explain unique variance in any outcome measure beyond that explained by parental support. The predominating role of parental support in Chinese adolescents’ positive functioning was discussed, along with limitations of the study, and suggestions for future studies.

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