Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1293-1304

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Shared Agency with Parents for Educational Goals: Ethnic Differences and Implications for College Adjustment

  • Esther S. ChangAffiliated withSoka University of America Email author 
  • , Jutta HeckhausenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California
  • , Ellen GreenbergerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California
  • , Chuansheng ChenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Education, University of California


This study proposed and confirmed three ways in which college students can perceive shared agency and two ways in which they can perceive non-shared agency with parents when pursuing educational goals in college. Differences and similarities were examined among participants from four ethnic backgrounds (N = 515; 67% female): East Asian American, Southeast Asian American, Filipino/Pacific Islander American, and European American. Results indicated that Asian American youth reported higher levels of non-shared agency with parents (i.e., parental directing and noninvolvement), lower levels of shared agency (i.e., parental accommodation, support, or collaboration), and poorer college adjustment compared to European Americans. However, ethnic similarities were found whereby perceived shared agency in education with parents was associated with college adjustment. Multiple mediation analyses also indicated that our model of shared and non-shared agency with parents explained differences in college adjustment between Asian and European Americans, though more strongly for comparisons between European and East Asian Americans. Our results suggest that parents continue to be important in the education of older youth but that continued directing of youth’s education in college can be maladaptive.


Late adolescents Asian Americans Parenting practices Parental educational involvement College adjustment