Megan Chung

Spring 2017

Research has shown that parental socialization practices play a crucial role in children's emotional competence, and that the socialization process is bidirectional (Eisenberg et al., 1998). One important aspect of emotion socialization theorized to benefit children’s emotion understanding is how parents talk about emotions with children (Thompson, 2002). Research in this field is primarily limited to Western populations (Cameron, 2000) and lacks information regarding the effects of cultural factors on parental emotion discussion (ED). The present study addresses this limitation using observational data of preschool-age children and their parents from two samples: a sample of low-income Chinese immigrant families in the U.S., and a sample of Taiwanese families in Taiwan. The proposed study had two aims: 1) to examine the associations between parent and child ED behaviors and children’s socio-emotional adjustment; and 2) to examine cultural differences in parent-child ED by comparing the local Taiwanese families with Chinese immigrant families. We also examined whether parents’ ethnic socialization (ES) (of traditional Chinese culture) practice is associated with their ED behaviors. Results showed that parental use of emotion reasoning, children’s use of emotion words and quality of children’s ED were negatively associated with children’s peer problems controlling for family and child demographic characteristics. Compared to Chinese American parents, Taiwanese parents displayed marginally higher emotion reasoning. Taiwanese children displayed more ED behaviors (e.g., used more emotion reasoning, displayed higher quality of emotion discussion) than Chinese immigrant children. Chinese American children scored higher on mother-reported peer problems than Taiwanese children. We did not find associations between parental ethnic socialization (of Chinese culture) and their ED behaviors. The study provided support for parent-child emotion discussion as an intervention target for promoting children’s socio-emotional adjustment in Chinese families.