Parental disciplining of their misbehaving children continues to draw much research attention. Baumrind’s typology of parenting styles has been frequently used to classify Chinese parenting as more authoritarian. Although influential, research tends predominantly to focus on abstract characterization. Yet, parenting is a practice informed by specific cultural ethnotheories and enacted in response to their children’s behavior in specific contexts. Our study attempted to explore this type of disciplining in situ. We interviewed 89 mothers from Taiwan (45) and Hong Kong (44) with children from near the end of infancy to beginning-school age. Mothers were asked to share their disciplinary strategies for handling four hypothetical yet common situations in which children misbehaved. These situations varied in setting, social distance among participants, possible consequences, nature of rules involved, and degree of conflict. We found five strategy types. Moreover, mothers prioritized them differently for different situations. Finally, we identified four ways of using strategies: single, contingent, simultaneous, or ratcheting-up. Depending on their strategies in a given situation, these uses also varied. We were compelled to conclude that Chinese parenting is more multi-faceted than has been typically portrayed in research. Implications for future research on parenting across cultures are discussed.
Year of publication
International Journal of Behavioral Development