Developmental Relations between Chinese Parenting Styles, Children’s Temperament, Negative Life Events, Coping Efficacy, and Externalizing Problems

Most longitudinal studies of relations between parent and child characteristics, on the one hand, and children’s behavior problems, on the other, have been done in Western societies. Consequently, tests of the generalizability of findings are needed for children in other societies. A longitudinal study of 382 children living in Beijing assessed relations between multiple parent and child variables initially when the children were 6 to 9 years old (Time 1) and again 3.8 years later, when they were 10 to 12 years old (Time 2). The variables included parenting styles (authoritarian and authoritative parenting); child temperament (effortful control and anger/frustration); negative life events (family events, negative parent-child events, and negative school events); coping efficacy; and externalizing problems rated by parents, teachers, peers, and the child participants themselves (Zhou et al., 2008). Structural equation modeling showed that Time 2 externalizing scores based on parent, teacher, and self ratings of ASEBA instruments were significantly predicted by a complex combination of parent and child variables.

The strongest direct predictor was an aggregation of multi-informant Time 1 externalizing scores. Other predictors included authoritarian parenting (predicting high externalizing scores), authoritative parenting (predicting low externalizing scores), childhood tendencies to show anger and frustration (predicting high externalizing scores), and low socioeconomic status (predicting high externalizing scores). Negative family, parent-child, and school events and the child’s coping efficacy mediated the effects of the other predictors in various ways. As several of the findings were consistent with findings in Western societies, the authors concluded that their study “suggested that some cross-cultural universality exists in the developmental pathways to childhood externalizing problems” (p. 509).

Reference: Zhou, Q., Wang, Y., Deng, X., Eisenberg, N., Wolchik, S.A., & Tein J-Y. Relations of parenting and temperament to Chinese children’s experience of negative life events, coping efficacy, and externalizing problems. Child Development, 79, 493-513.