Investigating the Validity of a Multirater Assessment of Family Functioning in China

Article excerpt

The validity of a multirater assessment of family functioning in 1-child Chinese families was examined using the Relationship-Specific Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (RS-CFAI), developed based on the Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (Shek, 2001, 2002). Data were collected from 506 families in Beijing consisting of 2 parents and 1 child. The Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) models and the dyadic-level CFA models were tested in the framework of the multitrait multirater strategy to demonstrate the validity of the RS-CFAI. The results indicated that there are 3 factors (activity, affect, and control) in the RS-CFAI within different family subsystems. The social relations model (SRM) was also used to explain the characteristics of the 1 -child family, providing evidence of the convergent and discriminative validity of the RS-CFAI. The goodness-of-fit of the SRM and CFA models indicates that the RS-CFAI is a valid tool for assessing family functioning among 1 -child families in China.

Keywords: family functioning, directed-relationship items, China, one-child family.

China's population continues to grow every year despite the one-child policy that has been enforced since the early 1980s. According to a recent report from the China Population Information and Research Center, in 1995, 20.72% of 320 million Chinese families had only one child. This number had increased to 80 million by 2003 (Zhai, 2003) and reached more than 100 million in 2008. Chinese families have experienced significant structural changes over the past three decades, with the core family structure of husband, wife, and one child constituting a triangular relationship model.

Some Chinese researchers have investigated the psychological well-being, personality, school adjustment, parental relationship, and problem behavior implications of the Chinese one-child family (Zhang, 1997) as well as the obvious differences between a Chinese family and a Western family (Li, 2004). When one is attempting to understand the dynamics within a one-child family, family functioning is a highly comprehensive indicator and "a very complex phenomenon which can be assessed in a variety of ways" (Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983, p. 171).

With the rapid development of research on the one-child family in China, a standardized assessment tool became necessary. Shek (2001, 2002) found that the factor structures differed when Western instruments were used in China, and therefore developed the Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (C-FAI) in 2002. This was one of the first indigenous self-report instruments for the Chinese family. Siu and Shek (2006) established the psychometric properties of the C-FAI, including its dimensionality, reliability, and validity, and showed that the C-FAI can be used to assess family functioning in the Chinese population.

In the domain of report-based procedures, the most commonly used instruments relating to family functioning include the Family Fjivironment Scales, the Family Assessment Measure, the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scales III, and the C-FAI. All family assessment instruments have two major aims: The first is to provide information about relationships within the family that may help an outsider to understand how the family is functioning, and the second is to provide a view of problematic aspects of family functioning (Cook & Kenny, 2006).

In reality, these models may be unnecessarily complex because the dimensions of family functioning may actually be clearer and more parsimonious. This argument has gained considerable support in a range of studies in the domain of interpersonal processes (Olson, 1993; Wiggins & Broughton, 1985). In subsequent exploratory research cross-instrument analyses indicated that three general factors (affect, activity, and control), rather than the many components assessed by these instruments, best describe relationships (Condoli & Jacob, 1993). …