Research on Asian Immigrants Conducted by Psychology Professor Ruth Chao

By Robert Bastone , Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

In an effort to gain a better understanding of how parenting style impacts the adjustment of Asian immigrant youth, Psychology Professor Ruth Chao is currently conducting a longitudinal study of high school students and their immigrant parents. The Multicultural Families and Adolescents Study (MFAS) will follow students of Chinese-, Korean-, Filipino-, and European-descent through the 9th, 10th and 11th grades.

MFAS is funded by a large grant (for $1.8 million) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NICHD) awarded to Dr. Chao, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. Currently, the MFAS research team includes 18 undergraduate students, in addition to a Post-doctoral researcher, Staff Research Associate, and three graduate students.

The study will examine the consequences of parenting style, parental involvement in school, and parent-child relationships for adolescents’ behavioral adjustment, school performance, and substance use. The study also attempts to define the cultural processes underlying parenting through an examination of parental beliefs (i.e., parents’ goals and ideologies), culturally-specific parenting practices emphasizing the Confucian notion of “guan” (a Chinese character denoting “to govern” as well as “to love”), and also adolescent's interpretation of their parents’ practices. A multi-method design is incorporated based on (1) paper-and-pencil surveys of 400 Chinese-American, 400 Korean-American, 400 Filipino-American, and 400 European-American adolescents in their classrooms, (2) telephone surveys with the parents of these adolescents, and (3) more in-depth, open-ended qualitative interviews of both adolescents and their parents conducted in their homes.

The results of the study should be available following the study’s expected completion in August, 2006. The project is funded for five years and is currently in its third year.

Dr. Chao has been a faculty member of the Psychology department since 1997, following three years as a faculty member at Syracuse University. She received her BA in Psychology from UC Irvine, an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of Notre Dame, and her PhD in Educational Psychology from UCLA. She has published in highly-regarded journals including Child Development, the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, and Ethos, and has also published a comprehensive review of the parenting of Asians in the Handbook of Parenting. Currently, Dr. Chao is a board member of the Global Parenting Education Group, a non-profit organization conducting parent education intervention programs in China and other countries. She is also on the editorial boards of leading scholarly journals including, Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Research on Adolescence. Her recent research interests also focus on the language acculturation of immigrant families, specifically examining the consequences of adolescents’ language fluency and cultural brokering for their relationships with their immigrant parents.

For students interested in this area of Developmental Psychology, CHASS offers two undergraduate courses in culture and human development (PSYC 165 & PSYC 169), as well as graduate courses (PSYC 258) that include Immigrant Children and Families, Cultural Perspectives of Parenting, and Cultural Perspectives of Childhood Socialization.

For more information on the study, please visit the Multicultural Families and Adolescents Study website. For class information and requirements please refer to the UCR General Catalog for course dates and times.

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