US, Chinese children differ in commitment to parents over time

May 11, 2011
University of Illinois psychology professor Eva Pomerantz (left), student Lili Qin and their colleagues found that American children's sense of obligation to their parents and desire to please them by doing well in school declined in the seventh and eighth grades, while Chinese students generally maintained their feelings of obligation and increased their motivation to please their parents with their academic achievements. Qin holds a Chinese greeting card offering the recipient good luck with academics in the new year. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

According to a new study, American, but not Chinese, children's sense of responsibility to their parents tends to decline in the seventh and eighth grades, a trend that coincides with declines in their academic performance.

The study, in the journal Child Development, found no difference between American and Chinese students' of responsibility to their at the beginning of the seventh grade. The American children's sense of obligation to their parents and desire to please them by doing well in school declined over the next two years, however, while the Chinese students generally maintained their feelings of obligation and increased their to please their parents with their .

"These different trends are notable because when children were able to maintain a sense of responsibility to their parents, they were not only more motivated and engaged in school, but also earned better grades over time," said University of Illinois psychology professor Eva Pomerantz, who led the study. "Chinese children's maintenance of a sense of responsibility to their parents may protect them against the decline so common among American middle schoolers in their engagement and achievement in school."

The study, which also included researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Beijing Normal University, involved 825 students in suburban Chicago and suburban Beijing.

In four sets of surveys given over two years beginning in the seventh grade, researchers asked the students about their attitudes toward parents and school. The researchers also tracked the students' grades.

"These findings are important because they suggest that one reason American children become less engaged in school during adolescence is that they do not feel a sense of commitment to their families," Pomerantz said. "Because of the benefits for children academically, we need to identify how parents can foster a sense of responsibility in children."

More information: "Changes in Early Adolescents' Sense of Responsibility to Their Parents in the United States and China: Implications for Their Academic Functioning," Child Development.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.