Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Manny J. Gonzalez

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Work


Adolecents; Chinese Americans; mental health; Parental Control; parenting; socialization


The primary aim of this qualitative study was to describe the ways in which Chinese-American young adult children perceive their parent(s) and/or primary caregiver(s)' expressions of psychological and behavioral control. It also explored how they believed these types of control affected their emotional and social well-being over time. Given that it is documented that their parents are demanding, and that this may be the reason their mental health outcomes are poorer than non-Asians, this exploration was needed. This research sought to provide a better understanding of the emotional and social development of Chinese-American young adult children as it relates to parental psychological and behavioral control.

A non-probability sample of twenty Chinese-American young adult children between the ages of 18 and 25 were recruited from a large public college to participate in an in-depth, structured interview. Findings from this study showed respondents characterizing their parent(s) and/or caregiver(s)' expressions of psychological control in the following ways: High expectations of school grades, negative evaluations of their academic performance, indifference in response to their academic achievement, limited conversations to school-related issues, desire for them to become a doctor or lawyer, withholding love, obedience, negative evaluation of their character, nagging, instilling guilt, disappointment and physical punishment. Respondents also described parental behavioral control-- and this type of control included, but was not limited to: the strict use of grandparents/babysitters in the absence of parents, matriculation in extra academic or tutoring classes, participation in structured afterschool activities, maintaining their family's reputation, filial piety, finding a companion/life partner and living at home as a young adult.

Findings suggest that parental psychological control had a negative impact on respondents' emotional well-being. Respondents felt stressed about their parent's expectation to excel in school and annoyed about conversations limited to their academics. Respondents also indicated feeling annoyed because their parents told them what to do. Moreover, they mentioned feeling unhappy about not being able to have open conversations with them and their demanding expectations in general, especially those involving school. In addition to these feelings, respondents felt scared of failing to uphold their parent's high expectations and described feeling as if they were not good enough because of their high expectations, especially those related to school. Respondents appeared tearful or holding back tears mostly while talking about their parent's lack of effort to find out what they wanted. A longing for their attention in this respect was also evident when they spoke about feeling lonely. While parental psychological control had a negative effect on respondent's emotional well-being, it did not have the same influence on their social well-being. This finding was evident when respondents did not disclose engaging in delinquent or sexually promiscuous behaviors while characterizing their parent(s) and/or caregiver(s) psychological control.

This study found that parental behavioral control had a positive impact on respondents' social well-being and a negative influence on their emotional well-being. Respondents were living productive lives, especially as young adults and they illustrated this by describing how they socialized with friends, attended or graduated from college, moved away or planned to move away from home and/or visited family once they became young adults. At the same time, however, respondents reported feeling angry, particularly during adolescence because their parent(s) made them stay home.

This study found respondents' discussing their caregiver(s) experiences with oppression and poverty. For this reason, even if findings from respondents' interviews appear to display features of parental psychological and/or behavioral control, clinical practitioners and educators need to be cautious about labeling Chinese and Chinese immigrant parent(s) and/or caregiver(s)' behaviors in these terms because it does not account for how their behaviors may be influenced by political oppression, harsh economic circumstances, family upbringing and individual personalities.