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Tiger Parents or Sheep Parents?: Struggles of Parental Involvement in Working-Class Chinese Immigrant Families


by Desirée Baolian Qin & Eun-Jin Han — 2014

Background/Context: Research on Chinese immigrant parents tends to focus on their high levels of educational involvement and its positive impact on their children’s exceptional educational performances. Relatively little research has been conducted to understand the challenges Chinese immigrant parents face in helping their children with school and the resulting influence on parent-child relations and children’s adaptation.

Focus of Study: In this paper, we examined how immigration reshapes parental involvement in these Chinese immigrant families and its subsequent influence on parent-child relations.

Setting: The research was conducted in the metropolitan area of a northeastern city in the United States.

Participants: Our participants were 72 Chinese immigrant children and their parents.

Research Design: Our study utilizes longitudinal interview data with open-ended questions. Open, axial, and selective coding procedures were used in qualitative data analysis.

Findings/Results: Our findings suggest that when parents face multiple challenges in their adaptation after migration, they often experience a feeling of powerlessness especially in dealing with their children’s schooling. This then forces the children to be precociously independent. This dynamic puts strain on parent-child relations and has a negative impact on children’s adaptation.

Conclusions/Recommendations: It is important for schools and other social institutions working with Chinese immigrant families to reach out to parents by providing them with more information and resources to be more involved in their children’s education. Immigrant and local communities can also help by offering parent and youth programs to help improve parental involvement and parent-child relations in Chinese and other immigrant families.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 8, 2014, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17501, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 9:14:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Desirée Baolian Qin
    Michigan State University
    DESIREE BAOLIAN QIN is Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University. The main question underlying her work has been to understand how immigration, culture, gender, and ecological contexts (e.g., family, school, and peer environments) impact adolescent development. Her most recent work on family dynamics and mental health of high achieving Chinese and European American students was published in Journal of Adolescence.
  • Eun-Jin Han
    University of Seoul
    E-mail Author
    EUN-JIN HAN is currently a visiting professor in the Department of Social Welfare at Seoul Women’s University in Seoul, Korea. Her research interests include the role of socialization and family contexts that shape the development of biracial adolescents as well as of ethnic minority children, youth, and young adults in the United States. Some of her recent work on Chinese American adolescents was published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.
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