Family Interaction Relationship Types and Differences in Parent-Child Interactions

By Chao, Mei-Ru | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, August 2011 | Go to article overview

Family Interaction Relationship Types and Differences in Parent-Child Interactions


Chao, Mei-Ru, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


In any society, an individual forms many relationships with their surrounding environment, but the earliest, longest, and most important one is the family relationship. Recently, in family interactions research, the influence of the content of one's local culture has become a focal issue.

In the research on parent-child interactions, the first experimental design was the Strange Situation Test, developed by Ainsworth, Waters, and Wall (1978). They classified the attachment behavior in parent-child interactions into three types: anxious-avoidant attachment (type A), secure attachment (type B), and anxious-resistant attachment (type C). Subsequently, using combinations of a person's self-image (positive or negative) and image of others (positive or negative), Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) classified attachment behavior into four types: secure attachment, preoccupied attachment, fearful-avoidant attachment, and dismissing-avoidant attachment and initiated further research on parent-child interaction types. Current investigations into parent-child interactions are therefore focused on communication and interactions with affection, in addition to upbringing. Trenholm and Jensen (1992, 2004) presented parental mediation as one of the parent-child interaction types, pointing out that parents' explanations of things would also influence children's perceptions and explanations of those things. Parental support and involvement with children are two among seven factors in the Parent-Child Relationship Inventory Scale constructed by Gerard in 1994. The findings of Trenholm and Jensen in their research (1992, 2004) and of Gerard (1994) are consistent with those gained in the research conducted by Gerrits, Goudena, and Aken (2005); all these authors state that the parent-child interaction involves both communication and affection.

When compared with studies of Western family interactions, will Chinese family interactions show the same trends? Researchers have divided world culture value systems into individualist and collectivist, and Chinese society is classified as collectivist. Steinberg, Brown, and Dornbusch (1994) and Youniss (1994) found that parents tended to teach their children the cultural values of the society they live in, which help children get used to social norms. Family is deeply influenced by culture and it is important to interpret family interactions in relation to the cultural content of the society they are in. In this research, Chinese family interaction relationship types constructed by Chinese culture will be investigated and the differences in parent-child interaction relationship types will be discussed.

DIMENSIONS OF FAMILY INTERACTION RELATIONSHIP TYPES

Harmonious and Inharmonious Affection

Huang (2005) defined harmony as the shared value and the common way of thinking by a culture. Obedience symbolizes interpersonal harmony for Chinese people. Chang and Li (2000) found that Chinese participants tended to obey individuals' or society's wishes in order to maintain family harmony. Hence, in China, children's obedience to their parents forms the harmonious and inharmonious dimensions of family interaction relationship types.

Explicit and Implicit Expression

Teyber (2000) wrote that individuals repress and hide their negative emotions for fear of losing the people they depend on and relate to. Children may be afraid of losing their parents' love. Teyber further claimed that children will repress their anger toward their parents or even turn it onto themselves, which is one of the main symptoms of children who develop hypochondriac tendencies. Having no outward expression does not imply having no feeling. Conversely, there might be strong positive emotions which are hidden, attributed to constraint. Chinese are usually considered a constrained race (Gao, Ting-Toomey, & Gudykunst, 1996). Because of the influence of traditional culture, Chinese tend to express their love using actions instead of words.

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