Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version


Document Type



Ren, L. (2015). Parenting young children in contemporary Chinese society: A mixed methods study (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of
 The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
 For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Carolyn Pope Edwards, Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Lixin Ren


The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine contemporary Chinese parents’ childrearing expectations, goals, and practices for their preschool-aged children. Participants included 154 parents with preschool-aged children (children’s mean age was 52.48 months with a standard deviation of 6.84) and 27 teachers recruited from seven preschools located in three small cities in northeastern China. In the quantitative phase, parents completed questionnaires measuring parental expectations (social-emotional and academic expectations), parenting styles, child social competence, and child pre-academic performance. The head teacher of each target child reported the child’s social competence and pre-academic performance. It was hypothesized that parental expectations would relate to child outcomes through parenting styles. Path analyses were conducted, and the results showed that parents with earlier expectations for children’s development of social skills reported higher levels of authoritative/clear guidance parenting, which, in turn, related to higher parent-reported child social competence. Similarly, parents who placed more value on social skills reported higher levels of authoritative/clear guidance parenting, and they reported children having higher social competence. However, parents’ academic expectations did not relate to child pre-academic performance through parenting styles. One aspect of parents’ academic expectations – the amount of value parents placed on academic achievement – had marginal moderation effect on parenting styles in predicting parent-reported child pre-academic performance. In the qualitative phase, ten mothers were selected from the 154 parents to participate in a semi-structured interview on parenting ideologies and practices. Thematic analyses of the interviews indicated that mothers valued their child’s psychological health, social skills, and emotional wellbeing more than academic performance, and mothers tended to use reasoning to discipline their child. Mothers explained their rationales behind their preference and choice. Finally, conflicts in parenting with grandparents posed challenges to mothers; however, despites the challenges, mothers actively reflected on their parenting and reached out for various resources, in hopes of becoming a better parent. Quantitative results and qualitative findings were synthesized. The qualitative findings helped interpret and explain the quantitative results. Findings of this study highlight the changes in Chinese childrearing ideologies and practices as a function of the social, political, and economic transition underway in China.

Advisor: Carolyn Pope Edwards