Perceived Parent-Child Relational Qualities and Parental Behavioral and Psychological Control in Chinese Adolescents in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Family researchers and practitioners have commonly described parenting in terms of the degree of control and autonomy given to the child by the parents. Despite the popular use of the term in the literature, researchers have argued that it is necessary to differentiate different types of parental control (Barber, 1996, 2002; Steinberg, 1990), including both psychological and behavioral. Psychological control refers to "parents' attempt to control the child's activities in ways that negatively affect the child's psychological world and thereby undermines the child's psychological development" (Smetana & Daddis, 2002, p. 563) which includes constraining verbal expression, invalidating feelings, personal attack, guilt induction, love withdrawal, and erratic emotional behavior. Barber (1996) pointed out that psychological control is a "neglected construct" in parenting and that "there is little research specifically measuring psychological control and its covariates" (p. 3313).

On the other hand, behavioral control refers to "rules, regulations, and restrictions that parents have for their children" commonly conceptualilzed in terms of parental monitoring (e.g., Pettit et al., 2001; Smetana & Daddis, 2002). Unfortunately, while monitoring means surveillance and/or tracking (Dishion & McMahon, 1998), it has been commonly operationalized in terms of parental knowledge of children's activities (Crouter & Head, 2002; Kerr & Stattin, 2000). Stattin and Kerr (2000) argued that parental monitoring (i.e., surveillance) is different from parental knowledge of children's activities because parental knowledge does not necessarily involve monitoring activities and that children's voluntary disclosure of information is crucial.

Conceptually speaking, there is a need to recognize the multi-dimensional nature of parental behavioral control (Smetana & Daddis, 2002) and to differentiate between parental monitoring and parental knowledge of children's activities. An integration of the existing research findings shows that at least five different aspects of parental behavioral control (i.e., parental attempt to control and manage the child's behavior) should be differentiated: (1) parental knowledge (i.e., how much the parent knows about the situation of the child); (2) parental expectations (i.e., parental rules and expectations of the parents); (3) parental monitoring (i.e., parental surveillance and tracking and whether the parent takes the initiative to understand the child); (4) parental discipline (reward and punishment of the child in relation to parental expectations); and (5) global parental control with reference to some of the existing models of parenting, such as parental demandingness (e.g., Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

Among the studies that have examined parental behavior and psychological control, few have examined parental control and parent-child relational qualities. In their review of the related studies in this area, Crouter and Head (2002) criticized the fact that "many studies of parental monitoring or knowledge have examined possible antecedents without reference to the quality of the parent-child relationship" (p. 473) and argued that "it is impossible to conceptualize the possible antecedents of parental monitoring or parental knowledge without acknowledging that the quality of the parent-child relationship is the fundamental platform that gives rise to them" (p. 472). Based on the common belief that adolescents do not want to be controlled, it would be expected that higher parental control would be related to poorer parent-child relational qualities. Unfortunately, this expectation has not been rigorously tested. On the other hand, because parental psychological control involves intrusion into the psychological world of the child, it is expected that this would impair parent-child relational qualities. Again, few studies have examined the relationship between parental psychological control and parent-child relational processes. …