Abstract: Family is the primary learning environment for children. Parents are children’s first social network. Prior to and concurrent with school education, the critical influence of parental expectation eventually permeates into all aspects of an individual’s life. However, the subject of family relationships is rarely addressed within school curricula. Furthermore, due to some seemingly unreachable parental expectations and unbearable family discord, brokenness continues to increase. The influence of expectation on relations is an area of limited academic research.
This study explores parental expectation and its influence on parent-child relationships, using mixed methods: qualitative research methods involving interviews and focus group studies; and quantitative research utilizing a 41 item Likert scale questionnaire which was analyzed using exploratory factor analysis (EFA) in order to identify underlying relationships among measured variables. This exploratory study establishes the basis to encourage further research on the topic of expectations and relationships.
Keywords: parental expectation, parent-child relationship, family relationship, Chinese cultural groups.
(Simplified Chinese:) 摘要（Sharon H. C. Chiang和Arthur K. Ellis：期望是否会影响关系？特定华裔群体中父母期望和亲子关系的调查）: 家庭是儿童的主要学习环境。父母是孩子们的第一个社交关系网络。先发于学校教育并与之并存，父母期望的重要影响最终会扩展到个体生活的各个方面。然而，学校课程鲜少涉及家庭关系这个主题。与此同时，由看似无法实现的父母期望和难以忍受的家庭不和谐所造成的关系破裂仍在继续增加。期望对关系的影响是一个尚待探索的学术研究领域。本研究采用混合研究法，探讨父母的期望及其对亲子关系的影响。定性研究方法涉及访谈和焦点小组研究。定量研究使用41项李克特量表(Likert Scale)问卷，并通过探索性因素分析法（EFA）确定变量之间的潜在关系。本次探索性研究旨在抛砖引玉，为未来此课题的进一步研究与讨论提供实验依据。
(Traditional Chinese:) 摘要（Sharon H. C. Chiang江秀圈 和Arthur K. Ellis:期望是否會影響關係？華裔家庭中父母的期望對親子關係的影響之研究）: 家庭是兒童成長的主要學習環境。父母是孩子第一個接觸的社交關係網絡。在接受學校教育之前或同時，父母的期望對孩子的成長所帶來的影響深遠地擴展到兒童發展的各個層面。然而，學校課程極少涉及家庭關係這個主題。此外，由於一些來自父母親近乎無法實現的期望，以及難以承受的家人關係不和諧，因此破碎的家庭不斷地持續增加。期望對關係的影響是一個學術界鮮少探索的研究領域。本研究採用混合研究法，探討父母的期望對親子關係的影響。定性分析法採用個案訪談與焦點小組研究法。定量分析法使用41項李克特量表(Likert Scale)問卷，並通過探索性因素分析法（EFA）確定變量之間的潛在關係。本次探索性研究旨在拋磚引玉，盼望學術界未來能更多對此相關課題做進一步的研究與探討。
Zusammenfassung (Sharon H. C. Chiang & Arthur K. Ellis: Beeinflusst die Erwartung die Beziehung? Eine Untersuchung der elterlichen Erwartungen und der Eltern-Kind-Beziehung zwischen ausgewählten chinesischen Gruppen): Die Autoren gehen davon aus, dass die Familie die wichtigste Lernumgebung für Kinder ist. Eltern sind das erste soziale Netzwerk für Kinder. Vor und parallel zur Schulbildung erweitert sich der kritische Einfluss der elterlichen Erwartung schließlich auf alle Aspekte des Lebens eines Menschen. Das Thema Familienbeziehungen wird jedoch selten in den Lehrplänen der Schulen behandelt. Darüber hinaus scheint die Gebrochenheit aufgrund einiger scheinbar unerfüllbarer elterlicher Erwartungen und unerträglicher familiärer Zwietracht weiter zu steigen. Der Einfluss der Erwartung auf die Beziehungen ist ein Bereich begrenzter akademischer Forschung. Diese Studie untersucht die elterliche Erwartung und ihren Einfluss auf die Eltern-Kind-Beziehungen mit gemischten Methoden. Qualitative Forschungsmethoden umfassten Interviews und Fokusgruppenstudien. Die quantitative Forschung verwendete einen 41 Punkte umfassenden Likert-Skalenfragebogen, der mit Hilfe der Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) analysiert wurde, um zugrundeliegende Beziehungen zwischen den Messgrößen zu identifizieren. Diese explorative Studie bietet das Potenzial, weitere Forschungen zum Thema Erwartungen und Beziehungen anzuregen.
Stichworte: Elternvorstellung, Eltern-Kind-Beziehung, Familienbeziehung, chinesische Kulturgruppen.
Аннотация (Шарон Х.К. Чиан & Артур К. Эллис: Влияют ли экспектации на отношения? Исследование родительских экспектаций и взаимоотношений родителей и детей на примере отдельных фокус-групп в Китае): Авторы исходят из того, что семья является наиважнейшей обучающей средой для ребенка. Родители для детей – их первый социальный опыт. За время дошкольного и школьного образования критическое влияние родительских экспектаций охватывает практически все аспекты жизни человека. Однако тема семейных отношений мало представлена в школьных учебных планах. Кроме того, создается впечатление, что усиливается подавленное состояние, появляющееся вследствие некоторых кажущихся невыполнимыми родительских экспектаций и гнетущей атмосферы разногласия в семье. Влияние экспектаций на взаимоотношения – достаточно редкая тема в научных изысканиях. Данное исследование, которое базируется на использовании смешанных методов, изучает родительские экспектации и их влияние на взаимоотношения родителей и детей. Качественные методы исследования представляют интервью и изучение фокус-групп. В рамках количественного исследования применялась основанная на шкале Ликерта анкета из 41 пункта, которая была подвергнута экспланаторному факторному анализу (Explonatory Factor Analysis – EFA) с целью идентификации основополагающих отношений между заданными величинами. Данное эксплоративное исследование открывает перспективу для дальнейшего изучения взаимовлияния экспектаций и социальных отношений.
Ключевые слова: родительские экспектации, взаимоотношение родителей и детей, семейные отношения, этнокультурные фокус-группы Китая
According to the family theory of Klein and White (1996 & 2008), four major differences distinguish the family as a social group from other associations and networks. Individuals spend greatly extended periods of time with their families. The family group is intergenerational. The relationships of family members are both biological and legal. And, the network group expands due to biological or affiliate connections (pp. 17-18). Even with significant societal changes in family structure and dynamics, these four characteristics remain evident and relevant. Gullotta and Blau (2008) concluded that although “there are numerous factors that impact child development…, the most important is the influence of families,” (p. 21) and “the parental environment is the first contextual factor encountered and thus serves as the impetus for a child’s development” (p. 26). Parents are typically children’s primary social contact. Prior and concurrent to school education, the influence of parents establishes children’s values and identities; and impacts in all aspects of growth for the remainder of their lives (Coser, 1964; Lewis & Rosenblum, 1979). Lewis & Rosenblum (1979) affirmed that “[a] child’s social network forms a social environment from and through which pressure is extended to influence the child’s behavior and is also a vehicle through which the child exerts influence on others” (p. 25).
Education in the form of schooling is designed to cultivate students’ talents and further expand their potential for the development of a positive future. Nonetheless, there is sparse existing curricula in family relationships in the education system designed to equip individuals for their future roles as spouses and parents. Throughout elementary, secondary, college and post graduate education, rarely does one receive formal school instruction regarding family development or strategies to cope with family relationships. Most must cope “on the job” until they find themselves in need of counseling when psychological and emotional problems arise, worsen and become unmanageable due to unmet expectations in family relationships. In such situations, these relationships have already deteriorated “beyond repair,” and giving up becomes the least painful option.
Parents with unmet expectations become open to frustration, anger, or depression; children with unmet expectations become vulnerable to passive acceptance, rebellion, or traumatization. Unmet expectations also commonly occur in marital relationships where husband or wife can no longer live with the spouse he/she was once deeply in love with. Consequently, the brokenness of family relationship increases and has become a major epidemic in this modern world. Gullotta and Blau (2008) noted that nearly 50% of children experience the divorce of their parents before age 18 in the U.S., and that children raised in divorced families typically have poorer adjustment compared to their counterparts from intact families (p. 143). This early psychological impact could well influence children’s fortunes in a range of outcomes, including academic success, self-esteem, self-confidence, and even physical and mental health (Saarela & Finnäs, 2003; Davies & Cummings, 1994; Gullotta & Blau, 2008). Research shows that parental marital discord is negatively related to an offspring’s marital harmony and positively correlates to an offspring’s marital discord (Amato & Booth, 2001). Troxel & Matthews (2004) also note that conflict surrounding divorce influences children’s health even more than parental absence (p. 41).
Parental expectations, particularly in behavior and academic performances, have emerged as a primary influence in children’s outcome (Samura 2015). Cultural influences often dictate the expression of these parental expectations. For example, Samura (2015) found that Asian parents often display leniency towards their college-age children’s social life as long as strong academic performance is maintained. Such discordance of expectations likely shapes a child during development.
Family is the primary learning environment for children. Children need warm, loving, and stable home conditions to grow and develop in a healthy manner (Thompson & Henderson 2007). However, given an inability to meet seemingly unreachable parental expectations and experiencing the pain associated with the family dysfunction, increasingly children are expressing resentments overtly towards their parents who may be genuinely dedicated, or covertly by internalizing the unspoken hurt within themselves. Some run away from home rather than live under the pressures of meeting such unbearable parental expectations. Still others avoid relationships when they reach adulthood in order to shun expectations. The brokenness affects not only children themselves, but also propagates generationally onto their progeny with dysfunction of expectation and relationships. Expectation from the parents therefore impacts a child; and that influence pervades and profoundly shapes the child into the adult and possibly parent when s/he grows up.
Parental Expectation in Chinese Culture Root
Expectation as a social construct is created and affected by culture and value. It is used within the culture to enforce certain shared values, social behaviors, and standards. Therefore, expectations are often embedded within the culture and parental expectations communicate both cultural and personal ideals. Not surprisingly, Chao (2001) commented on the influence of culture and value on the interactions and relationship between parents and children. Among Chinese cultural groups, the traditional values and teachings of Confucius are still evident in models of socialization today (Miller, et al., 1997; Wu, 1996; Wu, 1997). The three most highly emphasized and deeply rooted expectations in Confucian principles among Chinese families are respect for the elderly, filial piety and the valuing of education (Chuang & Tamis-LeMonda, 2013; Wang 2014).
The Confucian principle of Respect for the elderly is highly prized in the Chinese family (Chao, 1994; Su & Costigan, 2009; Baggerly, Ray & Bratton, 2010). Due to the teachings of Confucius that have been deeply embedded in Chinese culture over the past two thousand five hundred years, respect for the elderly is considered a philosophical virtue and intrinsic to “being Chinese.” With culture, society and the family unit all imposing such a virtue on children, Chinese parents often command absolute authority and control over their children to follow their expectations in different forms (Bates & Bates, 1995; Xu, Farver, Zhang, Zeng, Yu, & Cai, 2005). Chao (2001) described Chinese parenting style as prescribing parent-child relationships based on respect and obedience rather than establishing closeness and intimacy.
“Among all virtues, filial piety is the foremost” is a statement that is commonly accepted and stressed in parenting according to historical Confucian teachings. Filial piety is therefore highly valued and strongly asserted as a guiding principle among Chinese families in ascribing honor and respect to parents and all elderly (Bond, 1996; Flanagan, 2011; Yue & Ng, 1999; Su & Costigan, 2009; Shek, 2008; Baggerly, Ray & Bratton, 2010; Naftali, 2014). It is considered an indigenous Chinese virtue so favorably integrated in Chinese cultural history that it is perpetuated as a socialization pattern that is deeply intertwined with family relationships (Chan, & Tan, 2004; Fan, 2010; Yue & Ng, 1999), even becoming a qualification in the selection of suitable marital candidates (Cheung & Pomerantz, 2011).
Confucianism likewise idealizes scholarly achievement and highly values education (Wang 2014). There is an old saying in Chinese culture, “Everything is lowly, only studying is supreme,” which describes how highly Chinese value academics above everything else. Numerous studies have noted how, due to the strong influence of Confucianism and its mandate of filial piety, children are expected by their parents to maintain high standards of academic achievement as a way to show respect for the elderly and bring honor to their families (Chen, 2014; Chen & Ho, 2012; Chen & Wong, 2014). The emphasis becomes more prominent as children grow older with the intensification of the parental expectation upon academic performance. Filial piety and respect for elders become inextricably linked with a child’s academic achievement (Chen & Wong, 2014; Shek, 2007). High academic performance becomes a classic gesture of filial piety in traditional Chinese families, and is viewed as a way of honoring the family.
Consequently, families perceive their children’s failure in academic performance as an absence of filial piety or “causing shame to the family.” Children who do not practice filial piety or who commit misdeeds are considered a source of family shame and disgrace, and are often made to feel guilty (Slote & De Vos, 1998). Chinese parents’ expectations toward their children’s academic success are uniquely influenced by their cultural and social views of what is honorable and virtuous. Researchers have highlighted that the unconditional financial, material, and psychological support Chinese parents provide for the learning of their children as an expression of their love; and their only expectation in return is their children’s success in academics (Chen & Ho, 2012; Chen & Wong, 2014). Chen (2014) noted that “because of Confucianism, schools, families, and the entire society have an interwoven education net to support and urge students to meet academic success” (p.78). The parents’ educational expectations of their offspring reflect an ulterior expectation of prosperity and blessing (through their children’s top career choices and professional success) that Chinese parents assume will result later in their children’s lives (Chu, 1999; Ramirez, 2008).
Methodology and Rationale on Sample Selection
The purpose of this study is to investigate the correlation between parental expectation and parent-child relationships. First, given that the aim is to study “relationships,” a social and behavioral science “human element” focus (Creswell, 2015), a mixed-methods investigation model was performed to investigate the complexity of Chinese cultural groups. Second, this model not only investigates influences of family background, but also facilitates personal discussions. Considering that Chinese are typically more reserved in their verbal and non-verbal communication as compared with their peers from Western cultures (Zhao, Xu, Wang, Jiang, Zhang & Wang, 2015), conducting both qualitative and quantitative researches provided complementary approaches that allowed participants multiple avenues of response. Having both qualitative and quantitative research tools also provides a more comprehensive platform for the investigator to creatively expand the research design for more extensive and robust data collection. Interviews and focus group studies were conducted in qualitative investigations. A set of four open questions were utilized for both the interviews and focus group studies. In order to ensure gender and age representation, four individuals were interviewed separately, while two focus groups were conducted among two different age groups at independent times and locations. All sessions were recorded in audio as well as transcribed. One session was video recorded. The Childhood Family Experience Scale (CFES) questionnaire instrument was employed for conducting the quantitative investigation. CFES involves 41 question groupings with items sub-divided by paternal, maternal and family aspects into 90 items in a Likert scale. Additionally, a companion open-ended question allowed participants to express data beyond what the Likert scale provides.
Participants—Why study adults for childhood experiences?
The subjects were drawn from a convenience sample with the inclusion requirements of Chinese heritage and at age of 18 or above. Explicitly, the intent to limit the sample to adults in this research was based on several major considerations. Firstly, examination of a completed relationship was for the consideration of face validity (Vogt & Johnson, 2011). This study is to assess parent-child relationships through the lens of perceived/reported childhood family experiences. Therefore, the participants included only adults, so the responses would be based on a completed and processed childhood experiences. Secondly, as adults the participants could respond fully with their own consent and full authority, which increases content validity (Vogt & Johnson, 2011). Thirdly, developmental stage considerations for population validity were considered (Vogt & Johnson, 201l). This research was explicitly and intentionally designed to focus on Chinese adults. To assess individuals younger than 18 would mean that the parent-child relationship would still be in progress and therefore process unfinished. Among current studies, assessing family relationships, particularly the parent-child relationship, many have already studied sample populations from the adolescent point of view (Shek, 2005a; Shek 2005b; Shek, 2006; Shek, 2008; Shek & Ma 2010). A weakness of previous studies involving adolescent participant has been the questionable population validity (Vogt & Johnson, 2011). There is ample reason to suggest that adolescents are unsettled developmentally but continue to undergo shifting developmental stages in many areas of life, such as their evolving psychological identity and physical (hormonal) changes. Prior researches indicate that there could be substantial resentment and/or significant conflicts ongoing in their relationship with parents (Gullotta & Blau, 2008; Lane & Beauchamp, 1959; Kerr & Bowen, 1988; Pomerantz, Qin, Wang & Chen, 2009; Zhao, Xu, Wang, Jiang, Zhang & Wang, 2015). Given that there appears to be a more reserved cultural background, Chinese adolescents tend toward avoidance in the parent-adolescent relationship, and research indicates that self-development and family relationships frequently are affected by parent-adolescent conflicts (Zhao, Xu, Wang, Jiang, Zhang & Wang, 2015).
Strom, Bernard, & Strom (1989) concluded that adolescents experience more conflict with their parents due to their developmental stage, that is, one of ongoing identity and role confusion; they will often seek to ultimately escape or sometimes even consider self-destruction. Consequently, suicide has become a well-documented cause of fatality among adolescents (Strom, Bernard, & Strom, 1989). Parent-adolescent relations often suffer from tension or even disruptions due to conflicts and avoidance. For the reasons discussed above, the current study intentionally designs to focus on adult subjects only because assessing parent-child relationship using adolescents as the sample population potentially carries a high risk of volatile reliability and validity for empirical research. Vogt & Johnson (2011) stated that the nature of social science research involving subjects relating to the “human element” is very challenging as the factors investigated can change by year, month, date, or sometimes even hours. Therefore, using adult subjects allows the completion of the volatile adolescent stage and afford the subjects some time to complete introspection of the adult-child relationship that s/he has experienced a more stable developmental stage, adulthood, is the focus of this current research for criterion-related validity and population validity (Vogt & Johnson, 2011).
Measure—The development of bilingual scale
The instrument was created by drawing on three surveys: FACES IV (Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scales IV) by Olson (2011), FAD (Family Assessment Device) by Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop (1983), and FAM (Family Assessment Measure) by Skinner, Steinhauer, & Santa-Barbara (2009) (Grotevant & Carlson, 1989). Since none of them was designed to assess parent-child relationships, particularly regarding paternal and maternal interaction specifically for Chinese participants, the English and Chinese bilingual Childhood Family Experience Scale (CFES) were developed. The CFES consists of 41 Likert scale items in addition to one open-ended question. And, the 41 questions were not only further sub-divided to cover paternal and maternal aspects, but also to reflect on childhood and adolescence developmental stages. The instrument was designed with an intent to investigate how responses of participants might differ when the same questions were posed specifically to their experience with their father or mother, and at different developmental stages.
Participants for both qualitative and quantitative investigations were recruited from convenience sample groups. Their backgrounds included American Born Chinese, Overseas Born Chinese living in the U.S., and Taiwanese Chinese living in Taiwan, plus a small number of Chinese from other regions. Instead of comparing the variance of cultural backgrounds, this study focused on the comparison of developmental stages of childhood and teenage years, and the difference between paternal and maternal parent-child relationship. The age range covered individuals from college-age (above 18) to retirees (79 being the oldest), of both male and female genders. A pilot study (Pett, Lackey & Sullivan, 2003) was conducted with combinations of gender and education background among six samples. Snowball sampling was also involved (Vogt & Johnson, 2011) via social networks such as religious groups, school groups, Facebook groups, LINE, WeChat groups, and email contacts. For the qualitative research, interviews involved four individuals and two focus groups. Individuals and focus groups were interviewed with four questions engaged. In this research model, the interview, focus groups, and questionnaire development occurred concurrently.
The theming and coding of the qualitative studies from interview responses were taken as invaluable reference points by the investigator for effective development of variable items to align more closely with the missional intention of the study and the unique culture of the population. For statistical data analysis, the data collected from the CFES was analyzed through SPSS. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was conducted for dimension reduction to uncover the underlying structure and relationships of the set of variables. The data analysis involved oblique rotation using Maximum Likelihood with Promax rotation for factor extraction. The factor loading was set at .30 to suppress the small coefficients. Cronbach’s Alpha scores were calculated through SPSS to test the internal reliability of each factor for all constructs. The Bivariate Correlations were conducted to examine the Pearson r Correlation Coefficients among the variables.
Qualitative Research—Data Synthesis
Through coding and theming techniques, the interview findings aided the development of the CFES with respect to several critical construction decisions and item development. First, parents’ expectation on academic achievement were unquestionably expressed by most of the participants. Second, the discussion and reflections related to “strict father, kind mother” and “kind father, strict mother” confirmed the need to divide each item in order to show answers with experiences from paternal or maternal interactions independently. Therefore, the sub-division of each item to cover paternal and maternal aspects aligns with the recommendation from Shek’s study regarding the need to assess the parent-child relationship according to paternal and maternal reflections in order to distinguish the differences (Shek, 2005a). Third, the parent-child relationship covered should range from early childhood through elementary years and end on the teenage years. Strom, Bernard, & Strom (1989), stated that subjects in adolescence experience more conflict with their parents due to being in a developmental stage that is undergoing identity and role confusion. Therefore, items were further divided to reflect the “when I was a child” and “when I was a teenager” stages, which allowed participants to answer more precisely, since the parent-child relationship in adolescence can be distinctly different from what it is in childhood years. Lastly, some of the items were developed to not only assess childhood family experiences, but also to evaluate how participants reflect upon and discover parental influences in their adulthood stage.
i. Reliability of Childhood Family Experience Scale
A reliability test was conducted on the CFES via SPSS for both paternal and maternal items. Cronbach’s Alpha based on standardized items of reliability test on 41 paternal items was .945 and on 41 maternal items was .943, indicating excellent internal consistency of the items for both categories (Salkind, & Rasmussen, 2007). This robust reliability of the Childhood Family Experience Scale strongly indicates that the items produce stable and consistent results (Vogt & Johnson, 2011). In other words, the results of Cronbach’s Alpha clearly indicate that the instrument used to study relationships among the items related to the topic and hypothesis through the CFES was reliable.
A total of 1,056 responses were collected through both convenience sampling (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2007; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003) and snowball sampling (Vogt & Johnson, 2011; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). The data from the responses were rich and robust. The return rate was unmeasurable since the CFES was designed to allow participants to respond through an online platform and was encouraged to pass out via social network of any recipient. Due to validity concerns, sample of responses was reduced to 846, mainly because some responses were incomplete. Therefore, a total of 846 cases were retained for the quantitative data analysis via EFA on SPSS.
iii. Results from Exploratory Factor Analysis
An EFA was conducted for dimension reduction on 41 items. Due to the theoretical relatedness and high correlations among the variables, oblique rotation was chosen over orthogonal (independent) rotation (Field, 2013). Maximum Likelihood extraction method with Promax rotation was used. Coefficient display format was set to suppress small coefficients at the absolute value of below .30. Therefore, during the factor evaluating and refining process, factors loading weaker than .30 were eliminated due to their insufficient correlation score with other items in the matrix (Pett, Lackey & Sullivan, 2003). A total of 22 items were removed while 19 items were retained. Both the Scree Plot and Correlation Matrix indicated that there are three distinctive factors.
Regarding the results of the participants’ responses related to their interactions with father (referred to paternal interactions thereafter), the Kaiser-Meyer-Oklin measure verified the sampling adequacy for the analysis, KMO = .923, a score which is identified as ‘marvelous’ according to the Hutcheson and Sofroniou (1999). An initial analysis was run to obtain Eigenvalues for each factor in the data. Five factors had eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of 1 and in combination explained 63.10% of variance. Items deleted were those that cross-load (i.e., have small factor loadings on multiple factors) and items with very low factor loadings (<.30) in each successive attempt. The purpose is to retain items that load clearly on one factor while having no or small loading on other factors to improve the clarity of the factor structure. This step was also guided by careful consideration of whether the retained items are theoretically meaningful and consistent with the hypothesized factor structure. The final pattern matrix suggested a 3-factor structure, with eigenvalues over 1 and in combination that explained 53.19% of variance.
Regarding the results participants’ responses related to their interactions with mother (referred to maternal interactions thereafter), the Kaiser-Meyer-Oklin measure verified the sampling adequacy for the analysis, KMO = .924, which is ‘marvelous’ according to Hutcheson and Sofroniou (1999). An initial analysis was run to obtain eigenvalues for each factor in the data. Five factors had eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of 1 and in combination explained 61.68% of variance. Again, cross-loading items and items with very low factor loadings were deleted (<.30) in each successive attempt to improve the clarity of the factor structure. The final pattern matrix suggested a 3-factor structure, with eigenvalues over 1 and in combination that explained 49.07% of variance.
The 3-factor structure obtained from maternal and paternal interactions were similar with some non-overlapping items. Since a future goal is to administer the survey with the same items to assess respondents’ experiences with their mother and father across multiple samples, the non-overlapping items (items 15, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, ,27, 29, 30, 31 ,35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 43, 44, 49, 50) between the paternal pattern matrix and the maternal pattern matrix were deleted. The will also provide for between-group comparisons (e.g., paternal expectations vs. maternal expectations). It should be noted that future studies will no doubt use different samples to gather evidence to verify or confirm the obtained factor structure. The final loadings are shown in Table 1. The items that clustered on the same factor suggested that factor 1 represents the outcomes of Parental Influences, factor 2 represents Relationship Quality, while factor 3 represents Parental Expectations. The 3-factor structure largely supports the research hypotheses that the survey items were measuring parental expectations and parent-child relationships.
Table 1. Summary of Exploratory Factor Analysis Results for Childhood Family Experience Scale Using Maximum Likelihood Estimation (N=846)
|Factor 1||Factor 2||Factor 3|
|Q16: My parent expressed affection with me when I was a child.||.453/.625|
|Q18: My parent was fair in disciplining me when I was a child.||.345/.489|
|Q19: My parent was strict with me when I was a child.||.668/.534|
|Q22: Meeting my parents’ expectations was difficult when I was a child.||.714/.688|
|Q23: My parents’ expectations of me made me feel stressed when I was a child.||.820/.782|
|Q26: My parents made me feel guilty when I wanted to spend time away from home during my teenage years.||.579/.549|
|Q28: My parent and I fought over their expectations for my college, major and/or career choice.||.534/.448|
|Q32: I tried to avoid contact with my parent when I was a child.||.429/.599|
|Q33: I tried to avoid contact with my parent during my teenage years.||.394/.557|
|Q34: My parent was supportive of me when I had difficult times when I was a child.||.430/.630|
|Q37: Looking back on my teenage years, I am satisfied with how my parent communicated with me.||.413/.483|
|Q41: Looking back on my childhood, I am satisfied with the amount of time that my parent spent with me.||.943/.808|
|Q42: Looking back on my teenage years, I am satisfied with the amount of time that my parent spent with me.||.903/.793|
|Q45: I have become more appreciative of my parents’ expectations of me, now that I am an adult.||.647/.591|
|Q47: My parents’ expectations of me were helpful to my academic success.||.704/.615|
|Q48: The influence my parents’ expectations of me on our parent-child relationship had been…||.595/.558|
|Q51: The influence my parents’ expectations of me on my emotional health today has been…||.812/.774|
|Q52: The influence my parents’ expectation of me on my confidence today has been…||.906/.855|
|Q53: The influence my parents’ expectation of me on my success today has been…||.989/.939|
Extraction Method: Maximum Likelihood.
Rotation Method: Promax with Kaiser Normalization.a
(a. Rotation converged in 6 iterations for maternal; Rotation converged in 5 iterations for paternal.)
In questionnaire research, reliability is crucial for both the assessment developer and the user (McDonald, 2002). Therefore, six reliability analyses were conducted to examine the reliability of internal consistency for each of the three factors for both paternal and maternal interactions. Regarding Paternal Influences (Factor 1), Cronbach’s Alpha for the six items was .90, which is considered excellent. Cronbach’s Alpha for the 8-item Paternal Relationship Quality (Factor 2) was .87, which is considered good. Regarding the 5-item on Paternal Expectations (Factor 3), Cronbach’s Alpha based was .77, which is in the range of acceptable to good. Regarding Maternal Influences (Factor 1), Cronbach’s Alpha for the six items was .89 which is considered good to excellent. Cronbach’s Alpha for the 8-item Maternal Relationship Quality (Factor 2) was .89, which is considered good to excellent. Regarding the 5-item on Maternal Expectations (Factor 3), Cronbach’s Alpha based was .74, which is in the range of acceptable to good.
Correlation coefficients among the factors for both the paternal and maternal variants were also conducted through Bivariate Correlations on SPSS to examine the Pearson r Correlation Coefficient as rough rules of thumb (Holcomb, 2014). For the correlations among three paternal factors, the Pearson r Correlation Coefficient between Paternal Expectations and Paternal Relationship Quality is .44, which is considered strong. The correlation between Paternal Relationship Quality and Paternal Influences is .71, which is considered very strong. The correlation between Paternal Expectations and Parental Influences is .32, which is considered moderate. The 2-tailed correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (see Table 2).
Table 2. Paternal Factors—Pearson r Correlations Coefficients
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
For the correlations among three maternal factors, the Pearson r Correlation Coefficient between Maternal Expectations and Maternal Relationship Quality is .45, which is considered strong. The correlation between Maternal Relationship Quality and Maternal Influences is .70, which is considered very strong. The correlation between Maternal Expectations and Maternal Influences is .34, which is considered moderate. The 2-tailed correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (see Table 3).
Table 3. Maternal Factors—Pearson r Correlations Coefficients
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
The results from the EFA are considered robust overall, which has supported and confirmed the hypothesis of this research regarding parental expectation and its influence upon parent-child relationships.
The above chronological report of the results from concurrent administration and analyses of both qualitative and quantitative research studies supported the research hypothesis.
From the qualitative study, a number of participants indicated that they experienced some level of influence and stress from their parents’ expectations in their childhood family experiences, while some indicated that they had little experience of pressure due to parental expectations. From the quantitative study, the results from exploratory data analysis and Pearson r correlation coefficients confirmed the influence of parental expectation on parent-child relationships to be considered statistically significant. The null hypothesis was rejected, i.e., the hypothesis that there is no statistically significant difference regarding the influence of parental expectation on parent-child relationship was rejected. The alternative hypothesis, that there is statistical significant difference regarding the influence of parental expectation on parent-child relationship, is confirmed by data analysis. Both qualitative research results through interviews and quantitative research results through the questionnaire support the hypothesis.
The results of the EFA also indicate that there is a third factor, Parental Influences which appears to be an outcome from the parent-child relationship. This factor included the following six items: “appreciate parent’s expectations when I became an adult,” “parent’s expectations had positive influence on my academic success,” “parent’s expectations had positive influence on our parent-child relationship,” “parent’s expectations have a positive influence on my emotional health today,” “parent’s expectations have a positive influence on my confidence today,” and “parent’s expectations have a positive influence on my success today.” This salient finding and its implication are exceptional valuable and will be further discussed.
Development of Paternal and Maternal Measures on Items
The qualitative and quantitative research methods were conducted concurrently, which strongly supported the development of both investigations. In consideration of the need to assess the differences between paternal and maternal parental expectations upon the parent-child relationship, items were subdivided into “Father” or “Mother” to distinguish between and facilitate the collection of potentially different responses. After much revision on many of the items during the research design process, the Childhood Family Experience Scale was developed for the purpose of this study and customized for the unique cultural mindset of Chinese families. This, in fact, was a recommendation from Shek’s research (Shek, 2005a). As a result, items were designed to assess the different interaction among family members: paternal, maternal, father-to-mother, mother-to-father, and the family as a unit.
Development of Measure by Specifying Developmental Stages on Items
During the pilot study, participants responded that “childhood” was too broad a range to cover. Taking into account the key developmental stages of childhood, the Childhood Family Experience Scale was further divided into inquiries specifically focused on asking “when I was a child” and “when I was a teenager.” Specifying questions according to developmental stages for the measure enabled the investigator to examine how respondents related their family experiences differently from when they were children and when they were teenagers.
Data Collection—Internet Survey as Platform and Online Social Network as Medium
The quantitative research was designed to be conducted using an online survey platform. The CFES was initially loaded on Google Forms in two language versions, English and Chinese, to accommodate the language background of the participants. However, the switch from free primitive platform to more comprehensive Survey Monkey, and the development of making the survey questionnaire bilingual brought needed change and made the instrument more sophisticated as well as user-friendly. These developments made data collection drastically effective and efficient. As a result, data analysis was ready to be conducted with 1,056 responses in less than ten days with robust results. Besides, in consideration of the sensitivity of questions regarding personal family experiences, sending out the survey link directly and anonymously by group via social network platforms such as LINE, WeChat and Facebook through third parties in the social network of the primary investigator, afforded a successfully amplified expansion of the snowball sampling effect (Vogt & Johnson, 2011; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003).
Inclusion of a short vision statement to convey the purpose of the research effectively drew participation. As this research is to study relationships, this data collection process also shows that relationship is the key to its success. The first 150 responses were collected within six days. The most remarkable phase came in the following three days when over 850 more people responded to the survey. To calculate the response rate of those three days, it translates to an average of 11.8 responses per hour. Most of these 850 respondents had no direct relationship with the investigator, which indicates the significance of social networks and the power of social media.
Findings and Implications from the Population Distribution
The gender ratio of respondents was approximately 30% male respondents and 70% female. The result of this gender difference implies that men may be less interested in participating in questionnaire surveys or family relationship research. There was a rather high formal education sample segment: among the 846 completed samples, the education distribution of the sample population consisted of 349 respondents with a bachelor’s degree (41.29%), 256 with master’s (28.89%), and 55 (6.25%) with a doctoral degree. These higher education groups made up 76.43% of the entire sample. The result could suggest that people who have higher education tend to be more motivated when it comes to participating in research questionnaire surveys.
Findings and Implications from Exploratory Factor Analysis Results
The EFA indicated that there are 3 factors from the dimension reduction on the 41 items. The items clusters suggested that factor 1 represents the outcomes of Parental Influences, factor 2 represents Relationship Quality, while factor 3 represents Parental Expectations. The 3-factor structure largely supports the research hypotheses that the survey items were measuring parental expectations and parent-child relationships. The strengths of the influence are indicated by the Pearson r correlation coefficients as follows: (See Table 2 and Table 3) The correlation coefficient on Paternal Expectations and Paternal Relationship Quality is .44, which is considered strong. The correlation coefficient on Maternal Expectations and Maternal Relationship Quality is .45, which is considered strong. The correlation coefficient on Paternal Relationship Quality and Paternal Influences is .71, which is considered very strong. The correlation coefficient on Maternal Relationship Quality and Maternal Influences is .70, which is considered very strong. The correlation coefficient on Paternal Expectations and Parental Influences is .32, which is considered moderate. The correlation coefficient on Maternal Expectations and Maternal Influences is .34, which is considered moderate.
The results of the correlation coefficients indicate that the influence of Paternal Expectations on Paternal Relationship Quality is considered strong, and the influence of Paternal Expectations on Parental Influences is only moderate. However, the influence of Paternal Relationship Quality on Paternal Influences is very strong, in fact, the strongest among the three. The results of correlation coefficients indicate that the influence of Maternal Expectations on Maternal Relationship Quality is considered strong, and the influence of Maternal Expectations on Maternal Influences is only moderate. However, the influence of Maternal Relationship Quality on Maternal Influences is very strong, which is the strongest among the three. The results indicate that while parental expectations have strong influence on parent-child relationship, the parent-child relationship has even stronger influence on the outcomes of the items on parental influences, such as emotional health, confidence and success, than the other factors. The results of the EFA and Pearson r correlation coefficient confirmed that parental expectation has statistical significant influence on the parent-child relationship, and the parental-child relationship has influence on the future marriage relationship, emotional health, confidence and success of the child.
To summarize the findings of the EFA, the results confirmed that parental expectation has influence on the parent-child relationship. Furthermore, Parental Influence is strongly influenced by the parent-child relationship including respondents’ academic success, emotional health, confidence and success. This robust empirical outcome is extremely remarkable. The results imply that the parent-child relationship could be the fundamental influence on building the self-efficacy and self-esteem that many researchers have been investigating in the past decades.
- The methodology design of selecting adults as the sample group was successful and relevant as this provided results from reported parent-child relationships.
- The survey was conducted in English and Chinese which helps and ensures a diverse population of participants.
- The survey was conducted via an online platform where participants could answer by computer, smart phone or ipad at their convenience, which provided anonymity.
- Participants’ ability to return to the same page if interrupted allowed respondents to continue the survey easily, which became an important factor in increasing the completion rate.
- Succinct survey item responses were to a Likert scale, which made responding and completion easier.
- The survey was conducted via Survey Monkey, which provided a clear and professional presentation, in addition to including an IRB number that helped in acquiring the trust of the participants.
- Deep level sharing during focus group studies was achieved due to pre-existing close relationships. These relationships allowed participants to respond with strong levels of openness.
- Instrument design–due to concerns about the culture and language background of the participants, the survey was designed to be presented in a bilingual setting to enhance clarity and comprehension. Many participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to see the survey in both languages as it helped them ascertain their understanding of the items. For data collection purposes, the bilingual structure was more efficient as all the data could be compiled together and made ready for clean-up and analysis.
- Qualitatively, the research provided rich vein of insightful non-quantifiable data.
- The qualitative and quantitative research methods, being conducted concurrently, strongly supported the mutual development of both areas of research (Creswell, & Plano Clark, 2007).
- Due to the nature of the online snowball invitation, a response rate as such was not attainable.
- One respondent answered, “My childhood was very sad, and I preferred not to participate in the study.” This result might imply that: i) respondents who had a more positive childhood are more likely to participate; ii) people who had more negative childhood family experiences are more likely to decline participation and/or not go any further after the demographic items in the questionnaire, which may explain the drop-out rate.
- 121 drop-out cases happened right after demographic items and right before the faith background questions. It is possible that the prospect of answering faith background questions offended some participants, even though the faith background questions were optional.
- Conversations and interruptions happened due to the close relationships in the first focus group.
- Data collection issue—unequal sample sizes for the qualitative and quantitative data collection. Qualitatively, the sample had more females than males, so the gender ratio was not balanced. Quantitatively, a total of 73.96% of participants live in Taiwan, a ratio that represents an unbalanced sample population as nearly three-quarters of the responses are from Taiwan.
This study was proposed and conducted to raise awareness and draw scholarly attention to the extent to which expectations represent a critical factor in influencing relationships and to stimulate interest in further research. The study focused on parental expectations and parent-child relationships in the context of family relationships, particularly among Chinese cultural groups. The findings of this study respectfully aimed to add a vital piece to the larger research picture of the challenges faced in Chinese familial ways of thought, which may on the one hand be unique to the Chinese culture, but on the other hand universal to child-rearing and family relationship-building among different culture groups.
Recommendations for further research pertinent to topics relating to expectations and relationship include:
- Comparing samples of American Born Chinese with Mainland Chinese
- Comparing parental expectations and parent-child relationship among different cultural groups
- Investigation of unmet parental expectation and its relationship to parental depression
- Investigation of unmet parental expectation and its influence on children’s emotional traumatization
- Comparison studies on parental expectation between intact and non-intact families
- Investigation of spousal expectation and its influence on marital relationship
- Correlation between family expectation and choice of homelessness
As discussed, parents are the primary contact for a child, and the influence of a parent can impact the development of a child in numerous ways (Gullotta & Blau, 2008). The breadth of changes and the adaptations Chinese families and their society have undergone in response to those changes have been enormous and radical in recent decades, directly affecting parenting and parent-child relationships.
Further research related to parental expectation and its influence on parent-child relationships is crucial and imperative, as the family is the primary growth environment for children (Klein & White, 1996), yet topics related to expectations and its influence on relationship are rarely studied. Further studies and scholarly attention will help Chinese families to grow understanding in how to navigate the unique difficulties they are facing and perhaps convince appropriate governing bodies to create innovative programs to support children and families at this pivotal time in Chinese history. With such help, parents can realize how to place expectations upon children according to a healthy and balanced understanding of each child’s unique individual development. They can preserve the intrinsic, positive side of traditional Chinese culture and values while promoting healthy parental expectations that will improve their parent-child relationship and benefit their children in today’s increasingly globalized world.
This leads to the second potential contribution of the current research: to serve as a useful measuring tool that can create opportunities for reflective learning from and review of the childhood journey. Through these reflections and reviews, this measuring tool will enable individuals to proceed on a much-needed path of self-discovery and/or recovery from the influence of childhood family experiences. Furthermore, through the discussion and reflections among family members in any specific area of childhood family experiences that may have deeply affected their own lives, marital relationship or family relationships, the process could potentially bring consolation, confirmation and constructive dialogue to improve family relationships and bless the next generation—the children.
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About the Authors
Dr. Sharon H.C. Chiang: Minister of Evangelical Chinese Church of Seattle, Children and Family Ministry; e-mails: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Arthur K. Ellis: Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Global Curriculum Studies, Seattle Pacific University; e-mail: email@example.com