Asian Immigrant Fathers as Primary Caregivers
Running head: Asian Immigrant Fathers as Primary Caregivers
Asian Immigrant Fathers as Primary Caregivers
Ruth K. Chao
University of California, Riverside
This research was supported by National Institute of Health grant RO1 HD38949-02 awarded to Ruth K. Chao. Inquiries may be addressed to Ruth K. Chao, 1137 Olmsted Hall, Department of Psychology, and University of California at Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521. Phone: 951-827-7334, Fax#: 951-827-3897.
The current study examined the characteristics and parenting influences of Asian immigrant fathers who were identified as the primary caregivers (PCGs) by adolescents in two-parent families. The characteristics and parenting influences of the primary care giving fathers were compared to those of primary care giving mothers. A sample of 1,353 first- and second-generation Asian/Asian American ninth graders from eight high schools completed self-report surveys on demographic information, identification of their PCGs and their parental practices, in addition to quality of communication and their respect for both parents, and adolescents’ internalizing and externalizing symptoms. The results indicated that Asian immigrant fathers were more likely to be identified as the PCGs 1) among Chinese compared to Koreans; 2) when mothers held jobs outside the home; 3) when fathers did not and 4) when adolescents indicated better communication and higher respect for fathers than for mothers. The examination of parental practices indicated lower levels of monitoring, warmth, and psychological control involving withdrawal of affection among the primary care giving fathers compared to primary care giving mothers. Finally, in examinations of mother-father PCG differences in the effects of parental practices, only one difference was found. That is, warmth was more positively associated with adolescents’ externalizing symptoms among adolescents who identified their fathers as the PCG than those adolescents who identified mothers. No other difference was found on the adolescents’ adjustment outcomes between father and mother PCG groups.
Asian Immigrant Fathers as Primary Caregivers
As the traditional adage “strict father, kind mother” (e.g., Chao & Tseng, 2002) characterizes, the father’s role in the family throughout much of Asia has traditionally been that of the undisputed leader and disciplinarian (Kitano, 1969; Sung, 1967; Wolf, 1970), in contrast to mother’s protective caregiver role. In addition to this image of the father as authoritarian, previous research on Asian fathers has indicated markedly lower levels of involvement in parenting compared to fathers of other ethnic groups due to their strong breadwinner role (Parke, Dennis, Flyr, Morris, Leidy, & Schofield, 2003; Jankowiak, 1992; Sun & Roopnarine, 1996; Ishii-Kuntz, 2000). Thus, Asian fathers have rarely been considered as caregivers of their children. Solomon (1971), in one of the earlier studies on Asian fathers, found that Chinese fathers were not without a deep, warm sentiment for their children. He argued that traditionally the father’s role constrained their involvement in children’s lives and their expressions of warmth toward their children.
Despite the strong traditional image of Asian fathers as stern and aloof, the Asian fathers’ role in the family has been shifting due to socioeconomic changes in some Asian countries (Ishii-Kuntz, 2000). In addition to the socioeconomic changes, the process of migration has also caused further notable changes in traditional Asian parenting roles (Chao & Tseng, 2002). In spite of such reported changes in the parenting roles of Asian fathers, studies are needed that more thoroughly examine the parenting of fathers who are more involved (i.e., those who are identified as the primary caregiver). In addition, most research on paternal involvement in parenting has focused on infants or very young children. Few studies have examined fathers as primary caregivers of adolescents. This is important because the meaning or tasks of care giving during adolescence will differ from care giving in infancy and early childhood. During infancy and early childhood much of the way primary caregivers are identified depends on the amount of time the parents spend with children, their availability, and the number of care taking tasks they perform. However, during adolescence, additional factors such as the relationship quality between parents and adolescents may play more of a role than the amount of actual time spent with youth.
Therefore, more descriptive studies of Asian immigrant fathers are needed that focus on them as primary caregivers, and to what degree their parental practices differ from those of mothers as primary caregivers. This study relied on adolescent’s reports of the parent whom they considered the primary caregiver among two-parent families. Based on samples of Asian/Asian American adolescents, this study was undertaken to examine some of the characteristics that are associated with the identification of fathers as the primary caregivers by their adolescents. Also, this study examined the differences in the levels and effects of parental practices on adolescents’ adjustment outcomes between fathers and mothers who were both identified as the primary caregivers. Unlike most research on primary care giving fathers, this study included a large sample of Asian immigrant fathers comprising three sub-ethnic groups (Chinese, Korean, and Filipino) and adolescents of both first and second generations.
Primary Care Giving Fathers
Research has defined or identified primary care giving fathers in various ways (Russell, 1999). In some research, primary care giving fathers were identified in terms of those who spent more time taking care of their children than mothers, or relative to other more traditional fathers. When compared to mothers, fathers who spent more time were often stay-at-home fathers with mothers who were employed full-time. When compared to more traditional fathers, however, fathers who spent more time were not necessarily stay-at-home fathers. In other research, more involved fathers were also identified as those who were primary caregivers during certain time periods (e.g., while mothers are at work), but mothers were considered as the primary caregivers when they were available. In these cases, fathers usually worked outside the home and were only considered primary caregivers, because they shared the responsibilities of care giving with mothers. Nevertheless, studies that examined primary care giving fathers have agreed upon some of the antecedents that lead fathers to be more involved in care giving behaviors. According to these studies, parents’ employment status outside the home was a major institutional determinant of paternal involvement (Parke, 1996; Russell, 1999). In other words, when maternal participation in the labor force increased, the amount of time mothers could devote to parenting decreased and this, in turn, increased the necessity for paternal involvement in care giving.
Related to this antecedent, researchers have also reported economic changes that have increased paternal involvement in parenting of fathers in Asia. For example, the economic recession in Japan, in combination with an increase in mothers’ participation in the labor force, contributed to a trend for Japanese fathers to be more involved in parenting (Ishii-Kuntz, 2000). In support of this trend, 81% of Japanese fathers ranked the caregiver role as first or second in importance among other paternal roles (Shwalb, Kawai, Shoji, & Tsunetsugu, 1997). Similar trends have also been reported in other Asian countries. In Hong Kong, substantially higher levels of parental involvement were found among fathers compared to the previous generation (Ho and Kang, 1984). Although this may be an overstatement or even misrepresentation of current trends, throughout many parts of Asia there has been an increase in the participation of fathers in care taking that may concomitantly be leading to shifts in their parenting or parenting style.
Some initial studies have indicated such shifts. Due to the urbanization of the societal structure in China, Jankowiak (1992) found that among college educated Chinese men, greater importance was being given to demonstrate care and affection toward their children rather than the traditional style of aloofness. In a study of parental control, Shek (2005) also found less disciplinary practices by Chinese fathers, and has even suggested a role reversal between Chinese fathers and mothers. He stated that the traditional adage of Asian parents has become more like “strict mother, kind father” in contemporary Chinese society.
Migration to the United States has also caused downward occupational mobility among many Asian immigrants resulting in increased maternal participation in the labor force and higher paternal responsibilities in parenting. In addition, Asian parents who migrate to Western cultures often have to negotiate between parenting roles, values, styles, and behaviors of their ethnic cultures and those of the dominant culture in order for them and their children to adapt to a new society. According to Parke (1996), cultural attitudes concerning the roles of males and females might be the most important factor in accounting for the levels of parental involvement in care giving behaviors. That is, fathers who held more positive attitudes toward care giving were more likely to be involved in parenting. In fact, both these factors of increased maternal participation in the labor force and acculturative changes in cultural views about the appropriateness of paternal involvement have led to increases in parental involvement among Asian immigrant fathers compared to their counterparts in their countries of origin (Ishii-Kuntz, 2000).
In spite of the noted increase in the involvement of Asian fathers, research has not examined the characteristics and parenting behaviors of Asian fathers who are involved in parenting. Also, most research on fathers as primary caregivers has focused only on families with infants or young children, and few studies have examined fathers as primary caregivers of adolescents. During adolescence, additional factors such as the relationship quality between parents and children may play more of a role in how adolescents view each parent, and the roles that each plays in two-parent families. Thus, it is important to examine both parenting behaviors and parent-child relations to understand the contribution that fathers make to parenting adolescents. A two-factor model of parenting, involving control and responsiveness, has long been recognized as representing the core dimensions of parenting for explaining child and adolescent outcomes. As children enter adolescence, parents must be able to balance the control or regulation of adolescents with their increasing need for autonomy. Such balancing requires a different type of control, described below, in terms of supervision and monitoring (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992).
Parental control has been distinguished into psychological and behavioral control (Baumrind, 1967; Schaefer, 1965). According to Steinberg (1990), at the heart of the distinction was the notion that psychological forms of control adversely affected adolescent development by impeding the development of autonomy and self-direction, whereas behavioral regulation served a positive socializing function by providing youth with needed guidance and supervision. Barber (1996) further sharpened the distinction by stating that behavioral regulation was concerned with the regulation, supervision, and management of behavior. Monitoring was a fundamental component of effective behavioral regulation, and has been measured as parents’ awareness and supervision of their children’s whereabouts, activities, and companions (Brown, Mounts, Lamborn, & Steinberg, 1993; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992), especially in middle childhood and adolescent years. Psychological control referred to control attempts that inhibited or interfered with children’s development of independence and self-direction by keeping the child emotionally dependent on the parent. It has often been measured as withdrawal of affection, and guilt induction.
Research on European Americans has found that mothers’ monitoring was negatively associated with delinquent behaviors and positively associated with academic outcomes (Barber, Olsen, & Shagle, 1994; Mason, Cauce, & Gonzales, 1997; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989), whereas psychological control was positively associated with anxiety/depression (Pettit, Laird, Dodge, Bates, & Criss, 2001). Research conducted on Asians and Asian Americans has also found that monitoring was negatively related to delinquency and to alcohol use over time (McNeal, 1999; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Webb, Bray, Getz, & Adams, 2002).
Most studies linking parental psychological control with the adjustment of Asian adolescents have assessed only maternal psychological control or assessed “parental” psychological control without differentiating between the psychological control of mothers and fathers. When both fathers and mothers were examined, research has indicated higher levels of psychological control for mothers than for fathers (Barber & Harmon, 2002; Choo, 2000).
Parental warmth has been defined as a quality of the parent-child relationship characterized by affection and responsiveness that was believed to be universally beneficial for children (Rohner, 1975). Studies of Chinese and Chinese Americans have indicated that a lack of parental warmth often has serious consequences for children and adolescents, including increased depression, anxiety, aggression, emotional stability, and decreased life satisfaction (Chen, Liu, & Li, 2000; Lin, 2002; Rohner, 1975; Rohner, Khaleque, & Cournoyer, 2005; Stewart, Rao, Bond, McBride-Chang, Fielding, and Kennard, 1998). Studies have also compared the warmth of mothers to that of fathers in Asia and the United States. The findings in these studies, however, were somewhat contradictory. In accordance with the traditional parenting roles, Choo (2000) found higher levels of affection and support by the Singaporean mothers compared to Singaporean fathers. On the other hand, similar levels of affection were found between fathers and mothers among Chinese in Taiwan and immigrant Asians (Sun & Roopnarine, 1996; Chao & Kim, 2000; Kim, 1996).
In summary, when the levels of parental practices were examined, research has indicated higher levels of psychological control among mothers than fathers. The research, however, has not compared fathers and mothers who were both identified as the primary caregivers. Examination of the psychological control of primary care giving fathers and mothers, therefore, is needed to test whether the use of psychological control is more a reflection of strategies used by mothers, or of those used by all primary caregivers. Also, the levels of parental monitoring and warmth among Asian immigrant parents have not been well examined or have been contradictory.
This study examines the effects of these parental practices on adolescents’ psychological, behavioral, and academic adjustment. In terms of the consequences of parenting among primary care giving fathers, Russell (1999) stated, in a review of research, that high paternal involvement appeared to have neither a significant negative nor a significant positive effect on infants or young children compared to maternal involvement. Thus, no significant difference in the consequences of these parental practices is also expected during adolescence with fathers that are primary caregivers compared to mothers that are primary caregivers.
This study will first address the characteristics or factors associated with the adolescents’ identification of Asian immigrant fathers as the primary caregivers compared to mothers. Then, both the mean levels and the effects of parental practices of father and mother primary caregivers will be compared to determine whether there is a difference in parenting practices and influences that paternal and maternal parental practices have on adolescents’ adjustment outcomes among Asian immigrants.
For the characteristics or factors associated with the identification of the primary caregivers, as reported in previous research, parents’ working status is expected to differ between father and mother primary caregiver groups. That is, there will be lower paternal and higher maternal participation in labor force among father primary caregiver group compared to mother primary caregiver group. Parent-child relations are also expected to differ in that adolescents with fathers as primary caregivers will report higher communication and respect for fathers and lower communication and respect for mothers than those with mothers as primary caregivers. In terms of the parental practices, no significant difference in levels and effects are expected between the primary caregiver groups. However, since Asian mothers have been found to rely more heavily on the use of psychological control, this examination will test whether the finding is influenced by the mothers or by their frequent status as the primary caregivers.
A total of 1,353 first- (those born abroad) and second- (those born in the U.S. to at least one immigrant parent) generation Asian/Asian American ninth graders from intact (two-parent) families were drawn from eight high schools in the Los Angeles area between 2002 and 2004 academic years. The sample consisted of 167 (12.3%) adolescents who identified their fathers as the primary caregivers and 1,186 (87.7%) adolescents who identified their mothers as the primary caregivers.
. In order to allow adolescents’ participation in the study, consent from both parents and adolescents were required. A passive consent procedure was used with parents, asking that they respond to or send back consent forms only if they did not wish their children to participate. All parents received copies of the consent letter in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean along with a postage paid, pre-addressed envelope for returning the forms. The participation rate was high, at 80.6%. Of all adolescents eligible to participate, fewer than 9.3% either refused to participate or did not have parental consent; another 10.1% were either absent on the day of the study or did not receive their parental consent forms.
Adolescents were given 50 minutes (the whole class period) to complete the surveys that included the following items/measures in English:
Primary caregiver (PCG). Adolescents were asked to identify the person who takes care of them most of the time followed by the responses, “mother,” “father,” step-mother,” “step-father,” or “other: please specify.” Only those adolescents who identified their father or mother as the primary caregiver were the focus of this study. Youth who identified their mother as the primary caregiver were coded as “0,” whereas youth who identified their father as the primary caregiver were coded as “1.”
Sub-ethnicity. Only those who identified themselves as Asian were included in this study. Sub-ethnic groups included Chinese, Korean, and Filipino. Because of the small sample sizes, other sub-ethnic groups (e.g., Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Vietnamese) were combined and identified as “Other Asians.”
^ Adolescents reported their place of birth as well as their parents’. Youth who were born abroad were considered first generation immigrants (coded as “1”), whereas youth who were born in the U.S. to parents who were born abroad were considered second generation (coded as “0”). For both PCG groups, there were more than twice as many second-generation immigrants (117 and 849 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively) as first-generation (50 and 337 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively).
Adolescents’ gender. Males were coded as “1” and Females were coded as “0.” Overall, 49.6% of the adolescents were female and 50.4% of the adolescents were male.
Mothers’ and fathers’ working status. Parents’ working status was determined by whether they held a paid job. If adolescents reported that their parents were employed full-time or part-time, the parents were considered to be working (coded as “1”). If adolescents reported that their parents were either homemakers, students, or not employed, they were considered to be non-working (coded as “0”).
^ Adolescents reported the number of older and younger siblings. Those youth who indicted no older siblings were coded as “1.” All other youth who indicated at least one older sibling were coded as “0.”
Homeownership. Adolescents who reported that their parent owned their homes were coded as “1,” whereas those whose parent didn’t own their home were coded as “0.”
Mothers’ and fathers’ education. For each parent, adolescents reported what is the highest level of education completed that included the following eight options: 1 = no formal schooling, 2 = some elementary school, 3 = finished elementary school, 4 = finished middle school, 5 = finished high school, 6 = some vocational or college training, 7 = finished four-year college degree, and 8 = finished graduate degree.
Frequencies/proportions and means/standard deviations for the demographic characteristics are presented in Table 1 for each PCG group.
Communication with father and mother. Adolescents’ perception of their communication with each parent was assessed using 8 items from the Communication Scale (Boutakidis & Kisman, 2001; Barnes & Olson, 1985). This measure captured the notion of “open communication” (e.g. “I find it easy to discuss problems with my parent”) and quality communication influenced by cultural/linguistic differences between parents and adolescents (e.g. “I feel that my parent cannot express her/himself to me”). Responses were coded on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. Separate scale scores were created for both fathers and mothers by averaging the 8 items for each parent. The alphas for the communication with mother were .86 and .85 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively. The alphas for the communication with father were .82 and .85 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively.
^ . Respect was assessed using 8 items that were created by Chao (2001) based on the Parental Identification measure derived by Bowerman and Bahr (1973). This measure not only captured adolescents’ identification with parents (e.g., “I have a high regard for my parent.”), but also their respect for and obedience to fathers and mothers (e.g., “I respect my parent’s opinions about important things in my life.”). Responses were coded on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. Separate scale scores were also created for both fathers and mothers by averaging the 8 items for each parent. These scales possessed strong internal consistency with alphas of .88 and .89 for respect for mother (for father and mother PCG groups, respectively) and .85 and 90 for respect for father (for father and mother PCG groups, respectively).
Means/standard deviations for the parent-child relations are presented in Table 2 for each PCG group.
Behavioral adjustment. Adolescents’ behavioral adjustment was assessed by the internalizing and externalizing scales of the Youth Self-Report Form (YSR) of the Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach, 1991). The internalizing scale consisted of subscales for Depression-Anxiety, Somatic Complaints, and Withdrawal. The Depression-Anxiety subscale contained 15 items such as “I cry a lot,” and “I feel that no one loves me.” The Somatic Complaints subscale consisted of 10 items such as “I feel dizzy or lightheaded,” and “I feel overtired without good reason.” Another 7 items such as “I am too shy or timid,” and “I keep from getting involved with others,” comprised the Withdrawal subscale. The externalizing scale consisted of two subscales, Aggression and Delinquency. Seventeen items such as “I am mean to others,” and “I try to get a lot of attention,” comprised the Aggression subscale. The Delinquency subscale contained 14 items such as “I lie or cheat.” Responses for all the items of the internalizing and externalizing scales were coded on a 3-point scale ranging from 0 “not true” to 2 “very true or often true.” Separate scale score were created for internalizing and externalizing symptoms by averaging all the items comprising each scale. The two scales possessed good internal consistency for both PCG groups. The alphas for the internalizing scale were .89 for both father and mother PCG groups. The alphas for the externalizing scale were .86 and .87 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively.
^ . Adolescents’ standardized test scores were obtained directly from school records. Between 2002 and 2003 academic years, the schools changed their standardized tests from the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition (Stanford 9) to the California Achievement Tests, Sixth Edition Survey (CAT/6 Survey). In order to make these test scores comparable, the scores were converted into national percentile rankings, which were normally distributed and had a range of 1 to 99 and a mean score of 50. The z-scores of the national percentile ranks for each test scores were then converted into the comparable normal curve equivalent (NCE) scores using the formula below.
NCE = 50 + 21.06 * z-score of the national percentile ranks
The NCE scores had a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 21.06 in the norming population. The mean of language, math, and reading test scores from the 8th and 9th grades were calculated to create a total achievement score.
^ Adolescents’ report cards were also obtained directly from school records. The grade point averages (GPA) were calculated from the 9th grade fall and spring semesters.
Means/standard deviations for the adolescents’ adjustment outcomes are presented in Table 2 for each PCG group.
Adolescents reported the levels of the following parental practices only for the parent whom they identified as the primary caregiver.
^ Adolescents’ perceptions of parents’ psychological control were assessed by 8 items based on Barber’s (1996) subscale of psychological control derived from the Children’s Report on Parent Behavior Inventory (CRPBI) (Schluderman and Schluderman, 1988). The responses for the psychological control items were on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = not at all like to 5 = a lot like. An exploratory factor analyses with a varimax rotation indicated that a two-factor structure (with all items loading at .40 and above) best fit the data. The first factor, labeled, Intrusiveness/Guilt Induction consisted of items such as, “My parent is a person who brings up past mistakes when s/he criticizes me,” and “My parent is a person who changes the subject whenever I have something to say.” The second factor, labeled, Withdrawal of Affection consisted of items such as, “My parent is a person who will avoid looking at me when I disappointed her/him,” and “My parent is a person who, if I have hurt her/his feelings, stops talking to me until I please her/him.” Separate scale scores for each factor were created by computing the mean of all items in each factor. The internal consistencies were somewhat low for intrusiveness/guilt induction (5items, α = .69 and .67 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively) and withdrawal of affection (2 items, α = .55 and .60 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively). One item (i.e., “My parent is a person who is less friendly with me if I do not see things her/his way”) was dropped because it loaded on both factors.
Monitoring. Adolescents’ perceptions of parental monitoring were assessed by 5 items from the monitoring/behavioral control scale by Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling (1992). The items on this scale asked adolescents how much their PCGs tried to monitor their friends, locations, and activities (e.g., “How much does your parent try to know where you are most afternoons after school?” and “How much does your parent try to know who your friends are?”). The items were on a 3-point scale ranging from 1 = doesn’t try to 3 = tries a lot. The scale possessed good internal consistency with alphas of .78 and .74 for father and mother PCG groups, respectively.
Warmth. Adolescents’ perceptions of parental warmth were assessed by 10 items from the Acceptance-Rejection subscale of the CRPBI (Schulderman and Schulderman, 1988). The responses were on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = not at all like to 5 = a lot like. This measure included items such as, “My parent is a person who believes in showing her/his love for me,” and “My parent is a person who is able to make me feel better when I am upset.” The internal consistencies of this scale were excellent, with alphas of .91 for both father and mother PCG groups.
Means/standard deviations for the parental practices are also presented in Table 2 for each PCG group.
In order to examine the characteristics most associated with fathers being the PCG, logistic regression analyses were conducted with the demographic characteristics (Step 1), parent-child relations (Step 2), and adolescents’ adjustment (Step3) as the predictors net of each other, and the dichotomous variable, fathers as PCG, as the outcome. The unstandardized coefficients and standard errors are presented in Table 3. With the demographic characteristics, Asian immigrant fathers were more likely to be identified as the PCG when mothers were working and when fathers were not working. Although in the initial analyses of the sample characteristics, males tended to identify their fathers as the PCGs more than females, once adolescents’ gender was examined net of the other factors, it was not significantly associated with the identification of their fathers as the PCG. In the second step, when parent-child relations were added to the model, the results indicated that Chinese immigrant fathers were more likely to be identified as the PCG than Korean immigrant fathers although this association was marginal in the first step. As adolescents reported their communication and respect for both parents, we were able to compare adolescents’ reports of these variables between primary care giving and non-primary care giving parents. The results showed that adolescents reported higher levels of communication and respect for primary care giving parents than non-primary care giving parents. Finally, as indicated in the third step, there were no significant associations between adolescents’ adjustment outcomes and the identification of Asian immigrant fathers as the PCG. That is, youth who identified their fathers as the PCG were no worse off than youth who identify their mothers.
Between the Primary Caregiver Groups
A multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted, followed by post-hoc univariate analyses of variance, to examine the levels of parental practices between the PCG groups. Means, standard deviations, and statistical tests (F-tests) are shown in Table 2. Sub-ethnicity, generation/immigrant status, adolescents’ gender, parents’ employment status, eldest sibling, homeownership, and parents’ education were included as the covariates. The results indicated an overall difference in the levels of parental practices between father and mother PCG groups. Specifically, adolescents of the mother PCG group reported significantly higher levels of withdrawal of affection than those of the father PCG group. Adolescents of the mother PCG group also reported marginally higher levels of monitoring and warmth than those of the father PCG group. Therefore, adolescents who identified their mothers as the primary caregivers generally perceived higher levels of parental practices than those who identified fathers. The level of intrusiveness/guilt induction, however, did not differ between the PCG groups.
Then, in order to examine differences in the associations between parental practices and adolescent adjustment outcomes across the PCG groups, regression analyses were conducted for each outcome controlling for the same covariates as the multivariate analysis of covariance. Differences across PCG groups were tested by estimating two-way interactions between PCG and each parental practice variable. The parental practices were centered on the means of the sample as a whole to prevent problems with multicollinearity and to make the interpretation of the effects more meaningful (i.e., centering allows for interpretation when the variables are at the mean instead of when they are at zero”). The unstandardized regression coefficients and standard errors for the coefficients of PCG, parenting scales, and the two-way interaction terms are presented in Table 4.
None of the interaction terms were significant, suggesting that the relations between parental practices and adolescents’ internalizing symptoms did not differ for father and mother PCG groups. For the overall sample, both psychological control scales, intrusiveness/guilt induction and withdrawal of affection, were positively related to adolescents’ internalizing symptoms. Monitoring, on the other hand, was associated with lower internalizing symptoms.
Only one significant difference between the PCG groups was found in the associations between parental practices and externalizing symptoms, and that was for parental warmth. The interaction was interpreted using the following steps. First, the interaction was graphically represented such that each point in the graph showed the predicted level of adolescents’ externalizing symptoms for parental warmth at low levels (1 standard deviation below the mean), at the mean, and at high levels (1 standard deviation above the mean). This graph was displayed in Figure 1. Next, after graphing the interactions, we then tested whether each slope was significantly different from zero, based on Cohen, Cohen, West, and Aiken’s test of simple slopes (2003).
As displayed in Figure 1, warmth was associated with higher externalizing symptoms more so among the father PCG group than the mother PCG group. In fact, although the test of simple slopes for the mother PCG group was not significant, the test of simple slopes for the father PCG group indicated that warmth had positive and significant associations with adolescents’ externalizing symptoms, t(1308) = 2.41, p = .02.
For the sample overall, similar to the findings for internalizing, both psychological control scales were related to higher externalizing symptoms, whereas monitoring was related to lower externalizing symptoms.
No significant difference between the PCG groups was found in the associations of parental practices with standardized test scores and GPAs. For the sample overall, intrusiveness/guilt induction was marginally related to lower academic achievement (i.e., standardized test scores and GPAs). Monitoring, on the other hand, was related to higher academic achievement.
The purpose of this study was to investigate among a larger, more representative sample of Asian immigrants the characteristics most associated with adolescents’ identification of their father as primary caregiver, and to examine the degree to which the parental practices of these fathers differ from those of mothers who were identified as primary caregivers. This was the first study to examine the characteristics and the parenting practices of Asian immigrant fathers who were primary caregivers. As this study found, over 12 % of youth in the sample identified their fathers as the primary caregiver. Despite the much smaller proportion of adolescents who identified their father as the primary caregivers relative to those who identified mothers, the sample was large enough to enable us to conduct comparisons between these primary caregiver groups. This study has confirmed the importance of mother’s employment outside the home as a critical factor in adolescents’ identification of fathers as primary caregivers. This study has also found that although adolescents reported that mothers who were primary caregivers engage in somewhat more control and warmth, the consequences of their parenting were similar to that of fathers who were primary caregivers.
The results indicated that, among those who identified their fathers as the primary caregivers, there was a much lower proportion of working fathers, and concomitantly, a higher proportion of working mothers. Chinese youth also tended to identify their fathers as the primary caregivers more than Koreans. Adolescents who indicated higher levels of communication and respect for fathers were more likely to identify their fathers as the primary caregiver. On the other hand, those who indicated higher levels of communication and respect for mothers were more likely to identify their mothers as the primary caregiver. Regarding levels of parental practices, adolescents who identified their mothers as the primary caregivers reported higher levels of withdrawal of affection and marginally higher levels of monitoring and warmth than those who identified fathers. Only one significant difference in the associations between parental practices and adolescent outcomes was found between the groups. For adolescents who identified their fathers as the primary caregivers, parental warmth was associated with higher externalizing problems than those who identified their mothers. Also, this association was not significant for those who identified mothers. Because this study did not examine longitudinal changes in such associations, it is unclear whether primary care giving fathers were responding to adolescents’ externalizing problems with warmth, or whether their warmth caused these problems.
The lack of association among PCG mothers and negative associations among PCG fathers may point to potential problems with the measure of warmth for this sample. That is, it may not have be a culturally valid measure of warmth among Asians, particularly for fathers. Although a few recent studies have identified changes in father’s parenting role and style, their increased involvement and more nurturing style may not be consistent with the type of warmth assessed in most measures. Chao (2001) has argued that warmth assessed as “emotional and physical demonstrativeness” (e.g., praising, hugging and kissing) may not reflect the type of nurturance that Asian immigrant parents are providing. This may be particularly true for Asian immigrant fathers.
As hypothesized, identification of primary caregivers was associated with parental working status and parent-child relations. Adolescents’ adjustment outcomes also did not significantly differ between the primary caregiver groups. Although it was not hypothesized, Korean adolescents were less likely than Chinese adolescents to identify their fathers as the primary caregivers. This result might indicate different parental roles of Korean fathers and mothers compared to Chinese parents. Further study is needed to examine this difference in the identification of primary caregivers between these two ethnic groups. Also as predicted, adolescents reported higher levels of control and warmth for their mothers as primary caregivers than for fathers. The level of intrusiveness/guilt induction, however, was not significantly different between the primary caregiver groups. This finding is noteworthy, because previous research suggested higher levels of intrusiveness/guilt induction by mothers compared to fathers (Barber & Harmon, 2002).
This study provided an initial, more descriptive examination of fathers as primary caregivers among Asian immigrant families. Few studies have focused on Asian immigrant fathers, particularly fathers of adolescents. Because of this focus on older children, this study was able to rely on the perspective of the child/adolescent in determining which parent provided the primary care giving. Because previous studies have primarily focused on infants or very young children, these studies have relied upon various criteria for identifying the primary caregiver that might not reflect the experiences or perspectives of the family members themselves. Moreover, by focusing on fathers who were primary caregivers, this study was able to test whether the circumstances or factors associated with fathers serving as primary caregivers in two-parent households were similar to the factors contributing to mothers serving as primary caregivers, i.e., full-time employment outside the home for the non-primary caregiver, and no full-time employment for the primary care giving parent.
Unlike previous studies, this study also found that another important criterion related to adolescents’ selection of fathers over mothers as their primary caregivers had to do with the quality of their relationships with each parent, net of all other factors. That is, Asian immigrant parents were perceived as the primary caregivers by the adolescents based on their greater communication and respect adolescents held for them. In addition, when fathers were identified as the primary caregivers, they were not necessarily as involved in parenting, or were not using these parenting strategies, as much as primary care giving mothers. These results suggest that, during adolescence, the quality of parent-child relations may be stronger determinants of adolescents’ identification of the primary care giving parent than their levels of parenting. However, further studies are needed that include reports of levels of parenting for both the primary care-giving parent and non-primary parent, with these variables together in analyses that include parent-adolescent relationships for both primary and non-primary care-giving parents.
Ultimately, this study was also able to examine the consequences of parenting by fathers who were primary caregivers, and has revealed that their parenting did not have different consequences for youth than the parenting of mothers who are the primary caregivers. Thus, among Asian immigrant families, fathers who serve as the primary caregivers are quite similar in their parenting to mothers who are primary caregivers, and that there are no differential consequences in their parenting for adolescent’s development.
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Table 1. Demographic Characteristics by Primary Caregiver
Table 2. Parent-Child Relations, Adolescents’ Adjustment Outcomes, and Parent Practices by Primary Caregiver Group; Means & Standard Deviations
† p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01.
Table 3. Unstandardized Coefficients (B) & Standard Errors for Logistic Regression Analyses of Primary Caregiver (Father)
Note: † p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01
Table 4. Unstandardized Coefficients (B) & Standard Errors
Note: All analyses included following covariates; Sub-ethnicity, Generation, Adolescent’s Gender, Parents’ Working Status, Eldest Sibling, Homeownership, and Parents’ Education.
† p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01
Figure 1. The Two-Way Interaction Effect of Warmth on Externalizing Symptoms between the Father and Mother PCG groups