Madiha Tahseen, M.A. (August 2009)
(Mentor: Charissa S.L. Cheah)
Despite their increasing numbers in the U.S., the role of acculturation in the psychological well-being and parenting of immigrant Chinese mothers has been neglected. More specifically, past research has focused on mothers of adolescent children and has not examined these factors among immigrant Chinese mothers of young, preschool-aged children. Additionally, the majority of past research has been conducted on mothers living in communities with large Chinese populations and has neglected mothers residing in smaller Chinese communities. Finally, past literature has often ignored the complex nature of acculturation by combining the behavioral and psychological components of acculturation. The present research addressed these gaps by adopting a multidimensional approach to measure acculturation using the cluster analysis method in Chinese immigrant mothers of preschoolers residing in a smaller Chinese community. The demographic profile, psychological functioning and parenting practices associated with each acculturation style were also examined.
Participants in the present research were part of a larger longitudinal research project which examined first-generation immigrant Chinese mothers of preschool-aged children (M = 4.23 years). The mothers resided in suburban neighborhoods with a small proportion of Chinese families, in the state of Maryland. The current sample included eighty-six families recruited from Chinese organizations, schools, businesses, churches and community centers.
Mothers’ acculturation styles were measured using four different acculturation measures that uniquely assessed behavioral and psychological aspects of acculturation to American and Chinese cultures: (1) Chinese Parent Acculturation Scale, (2) Asian Values Scale, and (3) European-American Values Scale. Parenting was assessed using the Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire and the Psychological Control and Overprotective/intrusiveness Measure; and psychological well-being was assessed using the Psychological Well-being Scale and Beck Depression Inventory.
Results from the cluster analysis statistical method revealed four acculturation styles that existed in our sample of mothers: Integrated, Assimilated, Psychologically Marginalized/Behaviorally Integrated, and Separated. Follow-up analyses indicated that mothers in the Separated cluster were older at immigration, resided in the U.S. for a shorter amount of time, and were less educated than mothers with the other three styles. The clusters did not differ in their utilization of Chinese resources or of speaking Chinese in the home. Additionally, Separated mothers had significantly lower psychological well-being than mothers in the other three clusters. Last, there were no significant differences between the styles in their use of authoritative or indigenous parenting practices.
The results of this study highlighted the importance of uniquely examining mothers’ cultural orientations (i.e. American or Chinese) and components (i.e. behavioral or psychological) of acculturation. Our findings regarding the demographic profile and the psychological benefits of the acculturation styles have implications for policymakers and mental health professionals. These findings can be used to inform policy and services aimed at improving outcomes for mothers of young children residing in small Chinese communities. Our findings also demonstrated the need to understand the process of acculturation from a multidimensional perspective.