Chinese Immigrant and European American Parents’ Emotional Expressions in Childrearing Activities: Cultural Norms of Emotions


Both European Americans and Chinese immigrants value emotional expressions that are true to inner feelings, and adhere to social norms dictating appropriate expressions for different situations. However, the two groups differ in how they coordinate the values of being faithful to inner feelings and to social norms. The European American culture values an individual’s genuine expressions of emotions over allowing social norms to unduly dictate one’s behavior. The Chinese culture values social norms over explicit, individualized expressions of inner feelings. This study hypothesized that Chinese immigrants may be less likely to express inner feelings in social situations that are heavily regulated by cultural norms, and more likely to express feelings in lightly regulated situations. European Americans may differ less in emotional expressions across social situations due to the greater emphasis on self-consistency. Parent interviews about their childrearing practices were conducted, and two childrearing activities, sleeping and privacy-related activities, were selected for analysis according to cultural norms. Findings indicated that the two ethnic groups had different patterns in how their emotional expressions changed according to situation, and the patterns fit their respective cultural norms. Contrary to prediction, while the self-consistent orientation of European Americans was supported in that they were more likely to voluntarily express feelings in both activities, the European American parents also changed their emotional expressions to fit social situations through variations in positive versus negative expressions. The discussion centered on the interactions among social situations, measures of emotional expressions, and cultural norms.

Author Information
Yvonne Yihsing Liu-Constant, Lesley University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2019
Stream: Challenging & Preserving: Culture

This paper is part of the IICEHawaii2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon