Parental warmth and socio-emotional adjustment in Brazilian, Canadian, Chinese and Italian children: A cross-cultural perspective

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The primary purpose of the study was to investigate the role of cultural context in shaping parental warmth and its linkages with children’s socio-emotional adjustment in Brazilian, Canadian, Chinese and Italian children. We were interested in several specific issues including (1) whether there were cross-cultural differences in parental warmth among the samples, and (2) whether the relations between parental acceptance-rejection and child outcomes were similar across cultures. In addition, we were interested in whether children perceived mothers and fathers differently with respect to the provision of warmth, and whether maternal warmth and paternal warmth made differential contributions to children’s developmental outcomes. Data for this study were drawn from a larger longitudinal cross-cultural project on children’s development of peer relationships in Brazil, Canada, China and Italy (Chen et al., 2004). Participants were comprised of 367 children (169 boys, 198 girls) in grade 6 from Southern Brazil; 301 children (132 boys, 169 girls) in grades 4 to 6 from Ontario, Canada; 265 children (129 boys, 136 girls) in grade 5 from Shanghai, P.R. China; and 355 children (199 boys, 156 girls) in grade 5 from Palermo, Southern Italy. The mean ages of children were 12.98 years (ranging from 11-16 years), SD = 1.33, in the Brazilian sample; 12.01 (ranging from 10-13 years), SD =.75, in the Canadian sample; 12.45 (ranging from 11-14 years), SD =.50, in the Chinese sample; and 11.04 (ranging from 10-12 years), SD =.32, in the Italian sample. Children were group-administered a peer assessment of social behaviour, the Revised Class Play (RCP, Masten, Morison, & Pelligrini, 1985), and a sociometric nomination measure. Children were also asked to complete a self-report measure of loneliness (Asher, Hymel & Renshaw, 1984), and perceived parental warmth, Children’s Report of Parent Behavior Inventory (CRPBI, Schaefer, 1965). Teachers were requested to rate each participant on his/her school-related social competence, academic achievement in language and mathematics, and learning problems, using the Teacher-Child Rating Scale (TCRS, Hightower et al., 1986). The results showed no significant differences in perceived parental warmth among children in the Canadian, Chinese and Italian samples. However, compared with children in these samples, Brazilian children reported significantly lower maternal and paternal warmth. In all four samples, children reported higher maternal warmth than paternal warmth. Although the relations between parental warmth and different aspects of children’s socio-emotional adjustment were largely similar across the four cultures, with parental warmth positively associated with children’s social competence, peer acceptance and academic achievement, and negatively associated with peer rejection, learning problems and loneliness, a salient cross-cultural difference is that the relations between parental warmth, particularly paternal warmth, and child adjustment variables were weak and mostly non-significant in the Italian sample. We also found a series of gender by parental warmth interactions in predicting child adjustment. In general, the relations between parental warmth and child outcomes were more evident for boys than for girls.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFamily relations issues and challenges
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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