Despite ample evidence for the benefits of parental autonomy support and the harms of parental psychological control to Chinese adolescents’ well-being, little is known about what foreshadows these parenting behaviors among Chinese parents. The current research addressed this gap in the literature. It tested the hypothesis that parents’ endorsement of self-development socialization goals (i.e., regarding a positive sense of self in terms of holding optimistic attitudes toward oneself, feeling autonomous in one’s actions, and establishing one’s independence from others, as important for adolescents to develop) and adolescents’ school performance may interact to predict parental autonomy support and psychological control in urban China. Three hundred and forty-one Chinese seventh graders (mean age = 13.30 years, 58 % female) and their parents (186 mothers and 155 fathers) participated. Parents reported on their own and their spouses’ endorsement of self-development socialization goals; adolescents reported on parental autonomy support and psychological control; and adolescents’ grades were obtained from school records. Significant interactions were found between parents’ socialization goals and adolescents’ grades in predicting parenting behaviors. When adolescents were doing well at school, the stronger parents’ endorsement of self-development socialization goals, the greater their autonomy support and the lesser their psychological control; when adolescents were doing poorly at school, regardless of parents’ socialization goals, their autonomy support was relatively low and their psychological control was relatively high. These findings highlight a tension between parental concerns over adolescents’ self-development and academic success, which needs to be resolved to promote autonomy support and prevent psychological control among urban Chinese parents.
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Data collection for this research was supported by Direct Grant 2020938 of the Chinese University of Hong Kong; data management and literature search were supported by General Research Fund 451809 of Hong Kong Research Grants Council. We thank all participating parents and adolescents, and Eva M. Pomerantz, Florrie Fei-Yin Ng, Cecilia Sin-Sze Cheung, and Lili Qin for their valuable feedback on an earlier version of this article.
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Wang, Q., Chan, HW. & Lin, L. Antecedents of Chinese Parents’ Autonomy Support and Psychological Control: The Interplay Between Parents’ Self-Development Socialization Goals and Adolescents’ School Performance. J Youth Adolescence 41, 1442–1454 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9760-0