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Article

Family, Culture, and Communication  

V. Santiago Arias and Narissra Maria Punyanunt-Carter

Through the years, the concept of family has been studied by family therapists, psychology scholars, and sociologists with a diverse theoretical framework, such as family communication patterns (FCP) theory, dyadic power theory, conflict, and family systems theory. Among these theories, there are two main commonalities throughout its findings: the interparental relationship is the core interaction in the familial system because the quality of their communication or coparenting significantly affects the enactment of the caregiver role while managing conflicts, which are not the exception in the familial setting. Coparenting is understood in its broader sense to avoid an extensive discussion of all type of families in our society. Second, while including the main goal of parenting, which is the socialization of values, this process intrinsically suggests cultural assimilation as the main cultural approach rather than intergroup theory, because intercultural marriages need to decide which values are considered the best to be socialized. In order to do so, examples from the Thai culture and Hispanic and Latino cultures served to show cultural assimilation as an important mediator of coparenting communication patterns, which subsequently affect other subsystems that influence individuals’ identity and self-esteem development in the long run. Finally, future directions suggest that the need for incorporating a nonhegemonic one-way definition of cultural assimilation allows immigration status to be brought into the discussion of family communication issues in the context of one of the most diverse countries in the world.

Article

Maternal Emotions and Childrearing in China  

Meng Li

Psychological research on maternal emotions often examines how mothers’ emotional expression or regulation may affect children’s development. This perpetual interest in the benefit and harm of mothers’ emotions reflects popular beliefs that women are inherently emotional and, as the primary caregiver of children, mothers must restrain and regulate their emotions in order to raise well-balanced children. Rather than treating maternal emotions as private, intrapersonal feelings, scholars from various disciplines (e.g., sociology, anthropology, communication, women’s and gender studies, etc.) have recognized that many sociocultural forces contribute to the formation and interpretation of emotions. Emotions are not just a primary means through which humans experience the world but are also an avenue for understanding both the individual and the society. The interaction between the psychological and the social is especially salient in societies undergoing radical social transformations, such as China. In the postsocialist era (1978–present), a mother-responsible, child-centered, and education-oriented childrearing culture has emerged in China, presenting unforeseen challenges to parents. Unlike their parents’ generation who mostly adopted traditional authoritarian styles of childrearing, parents who raise children in the new cultural environment are expected to meet the multifaceted needs of their children while also cultivating intimate bonds with them. Mothers in particular carry the greatest emotional burden of childrearing. To be good mothers, they are told that they must learn how to express their emotions appropriately. Proper expressions of love and intimacy keep the channels of communication open and foster trust between generations. Expressions of negative emotions, conversely, are described by childcare experts as a potential threat to children’s psychological development. But when mothers are confronting a highly competitive education system and an increasingly narrower path for social mobility, negative emotions, such as anger and ambivalence, are inevitable and justified. Mothers from different socioeconomic backgrounds also have different emotional experiences when raising children. While urban middle-class mothers are anxious about food safety, environmental pollution, and their children’s educational achievements, rural–urban migrant mothers feel guilty for leaving their children behind in the countryside to pursue a dependable income. Overall, the Chinese case illustrates how maternal emotions can provide a unique window through which a society’s childrearing culture, intergenerational dynamics, and structural inequalities can be observed.