Applied Psychology OPUS

Chinese Adolescents' Self-Esteem and Mental Health Outcomes: The Role of Permissive Parenting

Amelia Yang

Faculty Mentor | Dr. Sumie Okazaki 

The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of permissive mothering styles in Chinese mothers on self-esteem of their children, as well as to test whether mothers’ education level moderates this influence. In her 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua asserts that Chinese mothers employ strict and harsh parenting styles focused on achievement, while Western parenting styles are more permissive and lead to negative self-esteem and mental health outcomes. Research has shown that contrary to Chua’s beliefs, Chinese mothers do practice permissive styles of mothering and are focused on health and happiness. There is an observed trend of Chinese mothers seeking intimacy with their children, and also supporting child autonomy with less power assertion (Goh & Kuczynski, 2009; Way et al., 2013). However, there is a lack of information pertaining to the effects of these styles of mothering, especially in the context of China’s increasingly globalized society. The present study seeks to expand on these findings and explore the nature of the relationship between maternal permissiveness and child self-esteem, keeping in mind the rapid socioeconomic changes in mainland China in the past few decades that may have influenced education level of the parental generation. Participants will be approximately 450 mother-child dyads in Nanjing, China who will be surveyed as part of an ongoing longitudinal study. Semi-structured qualitative interviews will be conducted with mothers to construct profiles of permissive parenting, which will then be used to create a quantitative measure of permissiveness based on the Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ). Mothers will respond to the new quantitative measure, and children will respond to the Rosenberg Self-Esteem measure. Maternal education data will be collected with demographic data as part of the survey. A series of regression analyses will be conducted to determine the relationship between maternal permissiveness and adolescent self-esteem, with maternal education as a moderator. I predict that maternal permissiveness will be positively correlated with self-esteem levels, with parental education level moderating this relationship such that a higher education level will increase the strength of the relation.