Social Indicators Research

, Volume 107, Issue 3, pp 483–508 | Cite as

The Mediating Role of Perceived Parental Warmth and Parental Punishment in the Psychological Well-Being of Children in Rural China



Research has documented that parenting practices, such as parental warmth and parental punishment, play a mediating role in linking individual (e.g., age, gender) and familial characteristics (e.g., economic status, marital quality) to the psychological well-being of children. However, few studies have validated these connections with respect to the Chinese population, especially those in rural areas of China plagued with unfavorable conditions such as poverty and lack of education. In this study, we investigated whether child (age, gender, and sibship size), and familial characteristics (family wealth, parental education, and marital quality) indirectly contribute to the children’s psychological well-being (as indicated by their self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems) through their perceived parental warmth and parental punishment. Using structural equation modeling, we analyzed data collected from 2,000 children (ages 9–13) and their parents in rural China. The results reveal significant, indirect relationships from family wealth and marital quality to these children’s externalizing problems through parental warmth and parental punishment. There are age and gender differences in the children’s experiencing internalizing and externalizing problems. Gender differences are also found in their perceived parental warmth and parental punishment. Directions for future research are discussed.


Chinese parenting Parental warmth Parental punishment Internalizing problems Externalizing problems Rural China 



The Gansu Survey of Children and Families (GSCF) is supported by a grant from the United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development (ESRC RES-167-25-0250). Earlier support for data collection came from The Spencer Foundation Small and Major Grants Programs, The World Bank, and NIH Grants 1R01TW005930-01 and 5R01TW005930-02. We thank Emily Hannum from the University of Pennsylvania, who is the principal investigator of the GSCF, for graciously permitting us to use part of the data for our study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program of Early Childhood and Family StudiesKean UniversityUnionUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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