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Attitudes toward Family Obligations among American Adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European Backgrounds
by Andrew J. Fuligni, Vivian Tseng, May Lam
Attitudes toward Family Obligations among American Adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European Backgrounds
Andrew J. Fuligni, Vivian Tseng, May Lam
Updated: February 27th, 2013
Child Development, July/August 1999, Volume 70, Number 4, Pages 1030-1044
Attitudes toward Family Obligations among American Adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European Backgrounds
Andrew J. Fuligni, Vivian Tseng, and May Lam
This study was designed to examine the attitudes toward family obligations among over 800 American tenth (Mage = 15.7years) and twelfth (Mage = 17.7years) grade students from Filipino, Chinese, Mexican, Central and South American, and European backgrounds. Asian and Latin American adolescents possessed stronger values and greater expectations regarding their duty to assist, respect, and support their families than their peers with European backgrounds. These differences tended to be large and were consistent across the youths' generation, gender, family composition, and socioeconomic background. Whereas an emphasis on family obli- gations tended to be associated with more positive family and peer relationships and academic motivation, ad- olescents who indicated the strongest endorsement of their obligations tended to receive school grades just as low as or even lower than those with the weakest endorsement. There was no evidence, however, that the eth- nic variations in attitudes produced meaningful group differences in the adolescents' development. These findings suggest that even within a society that emphasizes adolescent autonomy and independence, youths from families with collectivistic traditions retain their parents' familistic values and that these values do not
have a negative impact upon their development. '
American families with Asian and Latin American
backgrounds often have been described as possessing a collectivistic orientation that emphasizes family members' responsibilities and obligations to one an- other. This tradition of familism should play a signif- icant role in the lives of children in these families, es- pecially as they enter an adolescent period that is defined by American society as a time for increased individual autonomy and involvement with peers. Yet there have been few studies of whether youths from Asian and Latin American families actually share their cultures' emphasis on filial duty or how this sense of obligation may vary according to factors such as gender or the nativity of adolescents and their parents. Moreover, little is known about how an em- phasis on family responsibilities and obligations may be associated with other aspects of the youths' devel- opment such as their family interactions, peer rela- tionships, and academic achievement.
Cultures with a collectivistic orientation empha- size the goals and interests of the group over those of individual members (Triandis, 1995). The decisions, behavior, and self-definition of individuals within such a tradition are expected to reflect the needs, val- ues, and expectations of the larger group (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988). Perhaps the most salient domain for the expression of these values is the family. A critical aspect of a collectivistic ideology i~ a Strong concern for the fate and well-being of one's kin, and family members within collectivistic cultures often are ex- pected to support each other and to assist in the main- tenance of the household (Kagitcibasi, 1990; Lee,
1983; Triandis, 1990). The needs of the family usually have priority, and individual members often are asked to downplay their own needs and desires if they con- flict with those of the larger family (Huang, 1994).
Asian and Latin American families in the United States often have been characterized as placing a greater importance upon familial duty and obligation than their counterparts with European backgrounds. Many traditions within Asian cultures, such as Con- fucianism, emphasize family solidarity, respect, and commitment (e.g., Ho, 1981; Shon & Ja, 1982; Uba, 1994). Likewise, a devotion and loyalty to family is often an imperative for individuals within Latin Amer- ican cultures (e.g., Chilman, 1993; Vazquez Garcia, Garcia Coll, Erkut, Alarcbn, & Tropp, in press).
Numerous observers have discussed how Asian and Latin American families attempt to socialize their children into these traditions by expecting the chil- dren to assist and respect the authority of the family. For example, it is not uncommon for children to be asked to perform chores such as shopping for food, cooking meals, and assisting with the care of other family members (Caplan, Choy, & Whitmore, 1991). As family togetherness is highly valued, children should be present for daily meals, holidays and spe- cial occasions (Mordkowitz & Ginsburg, 1987). Chil-
01999by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved. 0009-3920/99/7004-0018
dren are obligated to make sure that they see and spend time with extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Similar chores and duties exist for children of most cultural backgrounds, but these obligations are usually cited as being espe- cially great among Asian and Latin American families.
Children also are taught to respect the authority and wishes of the family. As in families from other collectivistic traditions, authority within Asian and Latin American households is often hierarchical (Fal- icov, 1983; Lee, 1983). Children are expected to respect the authority of grandparents, parents, and even older brothers and sisters by seeking the opinions of their elders and following their advice on important matters (Huang, 1994; Shon & Ja, 1982; Uba, 1994). Respect for the family also can be exhibited in a more indirect manner. For example, children often are ex- pected to do well in school and other endeavors in order to provide honor to the family (Chao, 1995). Children also may be asked to make personal sacri- fices by sublimating their wishes and desires for the greater good of the larger family.
The obligations of children from Asian and Latin American families extend into their lives as adults. Children ideally should remain at home until mar- riage and, even then, they should not move far away from their parents (Triandis, 1990; Uba, 1994). Spend- ing time with the family remains an imperative and adult children are still expected to join the family for meals and holidays. Young adult members of Asian and Latin American families are sometimes obligated to continue to assist their families by contributing por- tions of their earnings to family members or by even talung in their parents when the parents become un- able to care for themselves (Feldman, Mont-Reynaud, & Rosenthal, 1992; Zinn, 1994).
Whereas the descriptions of the socialization prac- tices within Asian and Latin American families are numerous, there have been few studies of whether children within these families actually share their cul- tures' traditional emphasis on family support and re- spect. Most research has concentrated on more gen- eral collectivistic values among young adults and college students, rather than the specific family re- sponsibilities that are salient in the lives of broader samples of children and adolescents. On the one hand, Asian and Latin American adolescents may embrace their duties because they believe in the im- portance of helping their families deal with the chal- lenges of American society (see Cooper, Baker, Poli- char, & Welsh, 1993; see Freeburg & Stein, 1996, for examples among college students). To the extent that such family assistance contributes to the self-images of those from collectivistic cultures, Asian and Latin
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1031
American children may endorse familistic values as part of the development of their ethnic and cultural identities (Gaines et al., 1997; Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Vizquez Garcia et al., in press).
On the other hand, American society places such a strong emphasis on adolescent autonomy that teen- agers rarely spend time with their families. Instead, adolescents spend the majority of their hours socializ- ing with peers, working in part-time jobs for personal spending money, and participating in extracurricular activities (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1995; Larson, 1983). As a result, adolescents from Asian and Latin Ameri- can families may appear more like their European American peers than their own parents and place rel- atively low importance upon their obligations to as- sist and respect their family. Indeed, numerous ob- servers have posited that familial duties will be one of the most significant sources of conflict between par- ents and children within Asian and Latin American families (e.g., Zhou, 1997).
The lack of empirical work on the views of children and adolescents also limits our understanding of the extent to which beliefs regarding family obligations differ among Asian and Latin American youths them- selves. Foreign-born parents, having been raised in Asian and Latin American societies, may be more likely to emphasize traditional familistic principles in their childrearing than American-born Asian and Latin American parents (Gibson & Bhachu, 1991; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1995). In addition, adolescents from immigrant families often are asked to assist the parents with dealing with the outside world because of the youths' greater familiarity with the English language and American customs (Sung, 1987; Zhou, 1997). As a result, youths with immigrant parents may place more importance upon assisting and respecting their families than those with native- born parents. In fact, the importance of family obliga- tions may weaken through the generations so that the views of Asian and Latin American adolescents even- tually become indistinguishable from those of their peers from the European majority.
Adolescents' attitudes toward family obligations also may vary according to their gender, family struc- ture, and socioeconomic status. Given the prevalent sex-typing of household duties, girls may place more importance upon assisting their families than do boys (Goodnow, 1988). Adolescents from single-parent fam- ilies may play a greater role in assisting the family, be- cause their families often lack the assistance of addi- tional adults (Barber & Eccles, 1992). In addition, poorer families may require their adolescents to play a greater role in assisting the family than in wealthier families. Yet it is unclear whether there will be varia- tions in attitudes toward family obligations accord- ing to these two latter factors, as the existing evi- dence for the impact of marital and socioeconomic status upon household responsibilities is inconsis- tent (Goodnow, 1988).
In addition to examining variations in adolescents' views regarding their family obligations, it is critical to explore how these attitudes are associated with other aspects of their development such as their fam- ily interactions, peer relations, and academic achieve- ment. Experience with supporting and assisting the family may have salutatory effects on development, as it provides adolescents the opportunity to develop responsibility and may reflect a close family that cares for and assists one another (Goodnow, 1988). The family cohesion that is reflected by a sense of obliga- tion and respect also may translate into more positive relationships with peers and better educational ad- justment. Many Asian and Latin American students, particularly those from immigrant families, attain success in school partly because of an obligation they feel toward their families (Gibson & Bhachu, 1991; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1995). Immigration often is undertaken with the explicit intention of cre- ating better lives for the children, and youths within these families often feel that they owe it to their par- ents to put great effort into their studies (Chao, 1996; Mordkowitz & Ginsburg, 1987).
At the same time, very high levels of family obliga- tions may have less positive effects on adolescents' development than more moderate levels. Youths who believe very strongly in their filial duty may have more difficulty in school, because the effort they spend ful- filling their obligations takes away from the time needed for homework and studying for tests (Hen- derson, 1997). In addition, spending a great deal of time on household chores or being with family mem- bers may prevent adolescents from becoming active members of their peer groups. It is not unreasonable to suspect that adolescents who place an extremely high importance on their family obligations may be less involved in social relationships outside of the home.
Finally, associations between an emphasis on fam- ily obligations and other aspects of adolescents' de- velopment may produce group differences in family interactions, peer relations, and academic achieve- ment. For example, some observers have suggested that the poorer academic performance of some Latin American students may be partially due to a compet- ing demand to support and assist the family (see Vazquez Garcia et al., in press, for a description of this argument). It also is possible that a strong emphasis on the family may result in Asian and Latin American youths having extremely close relationships with their parents and siblings at the expense of becoming less involved in peer relationships outside of the home. There have been few studies that have directly tested whether ethnic differences in adolescent devel- opment can be attributed to cultural variations in family assistance, support, and respect.
This study was designed to examine expectations and values regarding family obligations among Amer- ican adolescents from Filipino, Chinese, Mexican, Cen- tral and South American, and European backgrounds. The extent to which adolescents believed their views differed from those of their parents was explored, as were variations in the youths' attitudes according to their nativity, gender, family structure, and socioeco- nomic background. The implications of an emphasis on family obligations for other aspects of adolescents' development were also examined in this study. In particular, the possibility that extremely high levels of expectations and values would have less positive as- sociations with development than more moderate levels was explored. Finally, the extent to which eth- nic variations in attitudes produced group differences in adolescents' development was assessed.
Over 1,000 tenth (M age = 15.7 years) and twelfth (M age = 17.7 years) grade students, representing more than 80% of those enrolled in participating schools, completed questionnaires as part of an ongo- ing study of the development of adolescents in an eth- nically diverse community in northern California. over 90% of the participants completed self-report questionnaires during their social studies classes, whereas the remainder completed surveys that were mailed to their homes. Adolescents' reports of their ethnic backgrounds revealed that over 80% (N = 820) of the participating students were from five ethnic backgrounds: Chinese (N = 103), Filipino (N = 312), Mexican (N = 120), Central and South American (N = 95), and European (N = 190). The sample was evenly balanced across gender and grade level (boys: 46%, girls: 54%; tenth graders: 52%, twelfth graders: 48%).
Adolescents' reports on their own nativity and that of their parents were used to derive the youths' gen- erational status. As shown in Table 1,29% of the ado- lescents were of the first generation, having them- selves immigrated to the United States. An additional 44% of the students were of the second generation, having been born in the United States, with at least one of their parents having been born elsewhere. The remaining 27% of students were of the third genera-
Table 1 Sample According to Ethnic Background and Generation
Third Ethnic Background N First Second or Later
Filipino 312 135 169 8 Chinese 103 18 51 34 Mexican 120 26 63 31 Central/South American 95 43 47 5 European 190 12 31 147
Total 820 234 361 225
tion or greater, with the student and both parents hav- ing been born in the United States. The distribution of generational status varied across ethnic groups. Ado- lescents from Filipino and Central and South Ameri- can backgrounds were most likely to be of the first two generations, those from European backgrounds tended to be of the third generation and greater, and students from Mexican and Chinese families were more evenly distributed across generational statuses. (Although the sample size was sufficient to examine generational differences for the overall sample, the ethnic variation in the number of youths within each generation made it possible to detect only large-sized interactions between generation and ethnicity.)
The students' socioeconomic background varied according to ethnicity such that adolescents from Chi- nese and Filipino families were the most likely to have parents employed in semiprofessional and profes- sional occupations (fathers: 51% and 42%; mothers: 44% and 50%, respectively), followed by adolescents from European, Central and South American, and Mexican families (fathers: 37%, 26%, and 17%; mothers: 36%, 28%, and 20%, respectively). Parental education levels also varied, such that adolescents of Chinese, Filipino, European, and Central and South American backgrounds were more likely to have parents with some college education than those of Mexican backgrounds (fathers: 72%, 88%, 60% 69% and 28%; mothers: 65%, 91% 59% 57% and 32% respectively).
The adolescents of different ethnic backgrounds also varied in the terms of their family structure and composition. Almost one third (29%) of the students of Mexican background lived in single-parent homes as compared to lower proportions of adolescents from the other ethnic backgrounds (European: 25%; Central/South American: 23%; Filipino: 19%; Chi- nese: 16%). Filipino adolescents tended to have the most siblings living at home (M = 1.32), followed by youths with Mexican, Chinese, Central and South
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1033
American, and European backgrounds (M = 1.22, 1.16,1.15, and 0.97, respectively). Living with grand- parents tended to be an infrequent occurrence for most youths (Mexican: 6%; Chinese: 8%; European: 10%; Central/South American: 11%), except for those from Filipino families (18%).
New measures were created for this study in order to tap youths' attitudes toward specific family obliga- tions that are particularly salient in the lives of adoles- cents. After conducting a series of focus groups with adolescents and surveying existing literature on filial piety and family obligations, three scales were cre- ated to assess the youths' views regarding: (1)current assistance to the family, (2) respect for the family, and (3)future support to the family as adults. Some of the items used in these scales are similar to those in other measures that assess attitudes toward kin collectiv- ism, such as the scales created by Triandis (1991) and Hui (1988), and used in a recent study by Rhee, Ule- man, and Lee (1996). Separate factor analyses of the three scales indicated that each set of items loaded onto a single factor; the exact items are listed along with their factor loadings in Table 2. Youths com- pleted each measure twice: The first version asked about the adolescents' perceptions of their parents' views and the second asked about the adolescents' own attitudes.
Current assistance. A measure was created to as- sess adolescents' expectations for how often they should assist with household tasks and spend time with their family. Using a scale ranging from 1("almost never") to 5 ("almost always"), adolescents indi- cated how often they and their parents expected the youths to engage in 11activities such as "help take care of your brothers and sisters," "spend time with your family on the weekends," "run errands that the family needs done," and "eat meals with your fam- ily." The measure possessed good internal consisten- cies for both perceived parents' and students' expec- tations (as: parents = 33, students = .87) and was similarly reliable across the different ethnic groups, with as ranging from .79 to .87.
Respect for family. A second scale was created to measure adolescents' beliefs about the importance of respecting and following the wishes of other family members. Using a scale ranging from 1("not impor- tant at all") to 5 ("very important"), adolescents re- sponded to seven items such as "show great respect for your parents," "follow your parents' advice about
Table 2 Factor Loadings of Adolescents' Values and Expecta- tions Regarding Family Obligations
- Spend time with your grandparents, cousins,
aunts, and uncles
- Spend time at home with your family
- Run errands that the family needs done
- Help your brothers or sisters with their
- Spend holidays with your family
- Help out around the house
- Spend time with your family on weekends
- Help take care of your brothers and sisters
- Eat meals with your family
- Help take care of your grandparents
- Do things together with your brothers and sisters
Respect for Family
- Treat your parents with great respect
- Follow your parents' advice about choosing
- Do well for the sake of your family
- Follow your parents' advice about choosing a job
or major in college.
- Treat your grandparents with great respect
- Respect your older brothers and sisters
- Make sacrifices for your family
- Help your parents financially in the future
- Live at home with your parents until you
- Help take care of your brothers and sisters in the
- Spend time with your parents even after you no
longer live with them
- Live or go to college near your parents
- Have your parents live with you when you get
what to do after high school," and "respect your older brothers and sisters." The measure possessed good internal consistencies for both perceived parents' and students' values (as: parents = .79, students = .82) and was reliable across the different ethnic groups (range as = .69-.85).
Future support. A third scale assessed adolescents' beliefs about their obligations to support and be near their families in the future. Using a scale ranging from 1("not important at all") to 5 ("very important"), ad- olescents indicated how important it was that they engage in six behaviors such as "help your parents fi- nancially in the future," "spend time with your par- ents even when you no longer live with them," "help take care of your brothers and sisters in the future," and "live or go to a college near your parents." The scale was internally consistent for both perceived par- ents' and adolescents' values (as: parents = 20, stu- dents = 31) and possessed good reliabilities within each ethnic group (range as = .72-32).
Parent-adolescent conflict. Adolescents' perceptions of conflict with their parents was measured using the Issues Checklist (IC), developed by Prinz, Foster, Kent, and O'Leary (1979) and Robin and Foster (1984). This measure has been used in numerous studies of parent-child relationships during adolescence (e.g., Steinberg, 1987, 1988). Students indicated whether any of 12 specific topics (e.g., spending money, chores, and cursing) were discussed with their mother and father in the last 2 weeks. For each topic that was dis- cussed, the intensity of the discussion was rated from 1("very calm") to 5 ("very angry"). To be consistent with previous research (i.e., Steinberg, 1987), a mea- sure of the incidence of parent-adolescent conflict was computed by summing the number of discus- sions rated as containing anger (2 or greater). Stu- dents completed two versions of the checklist, one in reference to each parent. This scale possessed good internal consistencies (as: father = .80, mother = .79) and similar reliability for the adolescents from all five ethnic groups (range as = .70-.83).
Parent-adolescent cohesion. Students completed the cohesion subscale of the Family Adaptation and Co- hesion Evaluation Scales (FACES) I1 inventory sepa- rately for each parent (Olson, Sprenkle, & Russell, 1979). Using a scale ranging from 1("almost never") to 5 ("almost always"), students responded to 10 questions such as "My mother [father] and I feel very close to each other," "My mother and I are sup- portive of each other during difficult times," and "My mother and I avoid each other at home" (re- versed). This scale also has been used in previous research on the changes in parent-child relationships during adolescence (Steinberg, 1987, 1988). This scale possessed good overall internal consistencies (as: father = 28, mother = 36) and was equally re- liable for the adolescents from all four ethnic back- grounds (range as = .83-.90).
Family discussions. Adolescents' responded to five items asking whether or not they discussed a number of different topics (future job plans, current classes, personal problems, future educational plans, future family plans) with each of their parents and with their siblings. The adolescents rated the frequency of these discussions from 1("almost never") to 5 ("almost al- ways"). This measure had good internal consistencies overall (as: mother = .83, father = .84, siblings = 36)
and possessed similar reliabilities across ethnic groups, with as ranging from .79 to 39.
Peer discussions. Adolescents responded using a scale that ranged from "almost never" (1)to "almost always" (5) to five items regarding the extent to which they discussed different issues with their friends. These items were identical to the ones they responded to for discussions with family members. The scale possessed a good internal consistency (a = $1) and similar reliabilities across ethnic groups (rangeas = .73-.86).
Peer time. Adolescents indicated the amount of time they spent socializing with peers on a typical weekday, Saturday, and Sunday. A weekly estimate of the amount of time spent with peers was computed by adding the Saturday and Sunday estimates to five times the weekday estimate.
Friendship value. Adolescents responded to three items that assessed their value of friendships: "How much do you like doing things with your friends?", "For me, making friends is . . .", and "How useful is the ability to make friends?" The items were rated on three different 5-point scales ranging from "a little" to "a lot", "not at all important" to "very important," and "not at all useful" to "very useful," respectively. The scale possessed a modest internal consistency (a = .69) and demonstrated fairly similar reliabilities across ethnic groups (rangeas = .58-.76).
Study time. A weekly estimate of the amount of time adolescents spent doing homework and study- ing for tests was computed based upon the students' reports for a typical weekday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1035
Educational aspiration and expectation. Students' as- piration and expectation for educational attainment were measured using two items in which the students were asked (1)how far they would like to go in school and (2) how far they thought they actually would go in school. Students answered using a 5-point scale where 1 = finish some high school, 2 = graduate from high school, 3 = graduate from a 2-year college, 4 = graduate from a 4-year college, and 5 = graduate from law, medical, or graduate school.
Grade point average. The year-end grade point av- erage (GPA) for 91% of the adolescents was computed using the students' course grades that were gathered from their official report cards. Self-reported grades were used for the remainder of the adolescents for whom report cards could not be obtained. GPA was measured on a traditional letter scale, including pluses and minuses, where F = 1, D = 3, C = 6, B = 9, and A = 12. There were no grades of A+.
Variations in Adolescents' Expectations and Values
Ethnicity, Grade, and Gender
Three-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted to determine the extent to which adoles- cents' beliefs about family obligations varied accord- ing to their ethnic background, grade, and gender. As shown in Table 3, youths from every Asian and Latin American group held significantly stronger values re- garding respect and future obligations to their fami- lies than did those from European backgrounds. Ad- olescents from Asian and Latin American families placed greater importance upon treating their elders with respect, following their parents' advice, and help- ing and being near their families in the future than did
Table 3 Adolescents' Expectations and Values Regarding Family Obligations
|Current assistance||3.23 (.76)||3.07 (.72)||2.89 (.72)||2.80 (33)||2.68 (.73)||17.43***||F, C > E; F > M, C/S***|
|Future obligations||3.27 (.84)||3.04 (.73)||2.92 (.95)||3.07 (.93)||2.44 (.92)||27.11'**||F, C,M, C/S > E***; F > M**|
Note: Ns = 791-802. All were 5-point scales; F values are based upon three-way ANOVAs that also included grade and gender. *p< .05; '*p < .01; ***p < .001.
youths from European families. Filipino youths placed the greatest importance upon familial respect, endorsing those items significantly more strongly than the Chinese and Latin American adolescents. Fil- ipino youths also indicated a greater emphasis on their future obligations than those with Mexican backgrounds. These ethnic differences in adolescents' values tended to be moderate to very large in size, ranging from .37 to 1.10 standard deviations.
Only Chinese and Filipino adolescents believed that they should spend significantly more time cur- rently helping and spending time with their families than their European American peers. The expecta- tions for current assistance reported by adolescents from the two Latin American groups fell between those with Asian and European backgrounds, and were significantly lower than the expectations re- ported by Filipino youths. Again, these differences were sizable in magnitude and ranged from .44 to .71 standard deviations.
Tenth- and twelfth-grade adolescents indicated sim- ilar expectations and values regarding their obliga- tions to their families, F(l, 783) = .89 to F(l, 772) = 2.86, ps > .05. There also were no gender differences in ado- lescents' attitudes and none of the grade or gender variations differed according to adolescents' ethnic background, F(1,781) = .25 to F(1,783) =3.06, ps > .05.
In order to estimate the independent effects of ad- olescents' generational and ethnic backgrounds, ado- lescents' generational statuses were dummy-coded and treated as covariates in analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) along with the youths' ethnic back- ground. Adolescents' generation was not associated with their beliefs regarding their family obligations above and beyond the effect of their ethnic back- ground, F(2, 786) = .24 to F(2, 795) = 2.23, ps > .05. Even after controlling for generational status, all of the previously reported ethnic variations remained significant, F(4,795) = 11.64 to F(4,797) = 22.63, ps < .001; Bonferroni contrasts of adjusted means, ps < .05.
Additional analyses were conducted in order to ex- amine whether generational differences in adoles- cents' beliefs varied according to their ethnic back- ground. In only one case did the interaction between adolescents' generational status and their ethnicity emerge as significant, F(4, 787) = 3.29, p < .05. Sepa- rate regressions conducted within each group indi- cated that first generation Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, and European adolescents reported a higher value of their future obligations than did their third-generation peers, bs = .20-.62. In contrast, Central and South
American youths from the first generation placed less importance on their future assistance to their family than did those from the third generation, b = -1.07.
Socioeconomic Background and Family Composition
ANCOVAs that included adolescents' ethnicity in- dicated that adolescents' beliefs about their family obligations were unassociated with their socioeco- nomic background and parents' marital status, the number of siblings in residence, and whether their grandparents lived with them, F(4, 750) = .44 to F(4, 742) = 1.49, ps > .05. Yet the difference between Filipino and Mexican youths in their expectations for current assistance, as well as the difference between Filipino and Central/South American adolescents in their value of respect, were reduced just enough to be- come no longer significant after controlling for these background variables, Bonferroni contrasts of adjusted means, ps > .05. The remainder of the ethnic variations, including the differences between Asian and Latino American youths and their peers from Eu- ropean backgrounds, remained significant even after accounting for the ethnic differences in these family background factors, F(4, 751) = 11.18 to F(4, 737) = 34.90, ps < .001; Bonferroni contrasts of adjusted means, ps < .05.
Only 1out of a possible 12 interactions between as- pects of adolescents' family background and their ethnicity emerged as statistically significant. Mexican and Central/South American youths from single- parent families reported slightly higher self-expecta- tions for current assistance (Ms = 3.09, 2.94) than those from dual-parent homes (Ms = 2.82, 2.79), whereas the reverse was the case for adolescents from Chinese, Filipino, and European backgrounds (single: Ms = 2.80, 3.12, 2.45; dual: Ms = 3.09, 3.25, 2.75), F(4, 726) = 2.52, p < .05.
Perceived Disagreement with Parental Expectations and Values
Within-subject ANOVAs were used to estimate whether adolescents believed that their attitudes dif- fered from those of their parents, and the extent to which this parent-adolescent difference varied by ethnicity, grade, and gender. Overall, youths believed that they had lower expectations for their current as- sistance to their family and placed less importance upon familial respect than did their parents, F(1,780) =
7.86 and F(1, 763) = 154.39, ps > .01-.001. As shown in Table 4, adolescents from all five ethnic groups re- ported only a slight difference with their parents about how often they should currently help out
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1037
Table 4 Adolescents' Perceptions of the Differences between Their Expectations and Values and Those of Their Parents
|Belief||M (SD)||M (SD)||M (SD)||M (SD)||M (SD)||F||Contrasts|
|Respect||-.22||(.52)||-.42||(.69)||-.27||(.75)||-.29||(.65)||-.41||(.71)||3.35**||E > F*|
|Future obligations -.02||(.68)||-.06||(.91)||0||(.94)||.19 (39)||.15 (.69)||2.62*||ns|
Note: Ns = 765-787. Differences are absolute differences, with negative values indicating greater parental endorsement; F values are for ethnic variations in the perceived differences and are based upon within-subject ANOVA; that alsd included grade and gender.
*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < ,001.
around the house and spend time with family mem- bers. Youths perceived a much greater disagreement with their parents over the importance of respecting and following the wishes of other family members; this disagreement was significantly greater among ad- olescents with European backgrounds than among those from Filipino families.
There was no overall difference in adolescents' re- ports of how much they and they parents valued their future obligations to their family, F(1,758) = 2.31, p > .05. Slight ethnic variations in this difference were ob- served-such that those from European and Central and South American families actually believed that supporting and living near their families in the future
Table 5 Partial Correlations between Adolescents' Expecta- tions, Values, and Developmental Outcomes
Note: Ns = 591-798. Partial correlations were estimated after con-
trolling for adolescents' ethnic background.
*p < .05; **p < .01; "'p < ,001.
were marginally more important to themselves than to their parents. Youths from the other three ethnic groups believed themselves to be in close agreement with their parents about their future obligations. These ethnic variations, however, were too slight to attain significance in the group contrasts.
The extent to which adolescents believed that their values and expectations differed from those of their par- ents did not vary according to adolescents' gender or grade level, F(1,763) = .02 to F(1,763) = 3.49, ps > .05.
Relations between Expectations, Values, and Other Aspects of Development
Partial correlations, after controlling for ethnic background, between adolescents' beliefs and aspects of their family interactions, peer relationships,- aca- demic adjustment are presented in Table 5.' Adoles- cents who possessed high expectations and values re- garding their obligations to the family generally reported more positive relationships with other fam- ily members. These youths felt more emotionally close to their mothers and fathers and were more likely to seek advice about their current lives and future plans from their parents and siblings. There was only one small association with conflict, as those ado- lescents who thought that they should spend more of their present time assisting their family also reported more frequent angry discussions with their fathers. Interestingly, youths who emphasized respecting and following the advice of their parents were no less
Due to the ethnic variations in adolescents' beliefs about their family obligations, partial correlations were estimated to avoid the occurrence of significant associations with the other outcomes that were due to simultaneous ethnic differences in both the beliefs and the outcomes. As it was, the partial and un- partialed correlations were virtually identical.
likely to report arguing with their parents than other adolescents.
There was no evidence that adolescents who placed great importance upon their family obligations were less involved in social relationships with other youths. Those who valued assisting, respecting, and following the advice of their family members spent just as much time with their peers as did other adolescents. Youths who believed that they should frequently help out and spend time with their family were actually more likely to value and seek advice from their friends, though these associations tended to be small in magnitude.
Adolescents with attitudes supportive of family obligations tended to be more academically moti- vated. Youths who believed that they should cur- rently assist and respect their family members tended to have higher aspirations and expectations for purs- ing their education beyond high school. Endorsing family obligations also was associated with spending more time studying each week. Even adolescents who believed that they should frequently help out with chores and take care of other family members re- ported spending more time doing homework and studying for tests. There was no linear association, however, between youth's beliefs about family obli- gations and the grades that they received at school.
The relations between adolescents' values, expec- tations, and other aspects of their development tended to be similar for all adolescents, regardless of their ethnicity. Only 4 out of a possible 42 interactions between youths' attitudes and ethnic background emerged, and these differential associations did not fol- low a consistent pattern, F(4,736) = 2.44 to F(4,664) = 4.78, ps < .05-.001. High expectations for current as- sistance to the family was associated with higher co- hesion and discussions with mothers for adolescents from all groups, bs = .lo-.64, except those from Chi- nese families, for whom there were negative or virtu- ally no associations, bs = -.13, .05. Familial respect was positively associated with discussions with sib- lings among Filipino, Central and South American, and European adolescents, bs = .16-.41, but nega- tively associated among Mexican and Chinese youths, bs = -.19, -.34. Finally, a high value on fu- ture obligations was associated with more frequent discussions with siblings among Mexican, Chinese, and European adolescents, bs = .09-.42, and fewer discussions among Filipino and Central and South American youths, bs = -.21, -.33.
In order to test the hypothesis that extremely high expectations and values regarding family obligations
may have more negative implications than moderate beliefs, regressions were conducted to determine whether curvilinear functions accounted for varia- tions in adolescents' outcomes above and beyond the simple linear relation, after controlling for adoles- cents' ethnic background. Negative implications for high expectations and values were evident for the students' performance in school, though the curvilin- ear relations tended to be modest in magnitude. As shown in Figure 1, those who fell into the highest third in terms of their expectations for current assis- tance and their value of familial respect tended to re- ceive grades nearly as low as or even lower than those who fell into the lowest third, ps = .09, .14, ps < .05, .001. Adolescents possessing moderate levels of these beliefs attained the highest grades. A similar curvilin- ear pattern was evident for the relation between ado- lescents' value of their future obligations and their grades, although it was only marginally significant, p = .07, p <.06. These associations remained virtually the same even after controlling for adolescents' socio- economic background, ps = .09, .13, .06.
Significant curvilinear associations that suggested negative implications of very strong attitudes regard- ing family obligations did not emerge for any other outcomes, including adolescents' study time and ed- ucational aspirations and expectations.
Analyses also were conducted to determine whether the extent to which adolescents believed that they dis- agreed with their parents' attitudes was associated with other aspects of their development above and beyond the level of their own values, after controlling for adolescents' ethnic background. In only two cases was perceived disagreement independently associ- ated with adolescents' outcomes. Those who believed that they placed a lower value on familial respect than did their parents tended to feel less close to their
Current Respect Future
Figure 1 Adolescents' grade point average according to their beliefs about family obligations.
mothers (Ms = parent > adolescent, 2.88; parent = adolescent, 3.29; adolescent >parent, 3.38) and spent less time with their peers (Ms = parent > adolescent, 19.32; parent = adolescent, 22.77; adolescent > parent, 23.31) than did other adolescents, F(2,754) = 5.15 and F(2, 587) = 4.11, ps < .05-.01. Interactions also emerged such that the variations in cohesion with mother and time with peers according to perceived disagreement with parents were greatest among ado- lescents who placed low importance on familial re- spect, F(2,754) = 3.47 and F(2,587) = 3.41, ps < .05.
Ethnic Variations in Family Interactions, Peer Relationships, and Academic Adjustment
Given the relations between adolescents' beliefs about family obligations and other aspects of their de- velopment, analyses were conducted to determine whether the ethnic differences in their attitudes were associated with parallel ethnic variations in family interactions, peer relationships, and academic adjust- ment. As shown in Table 6, no ethnic differences emerged that followed the pattern of Asian and Latin American youths together being significantly greater
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1039
or lower than those with European backgrounds. Ad- olescents from all ethnic backgrounds reported fairly similar relationships with their families and friends. A few differences in family interactions emerged, with a tendency for Filipino youths to be among those who most frequently discussed personal problems and plans with parents and siblings. The most prom- inent ethnic differences emerged in aspects of adoles- cents' academic adjustment. Chinese and Filipino ad- olescents tended to study most often and held higher aspirations and expectations than their peers, and those from Chinese backgrounds possessed the high- est grade point averages. Latin American students were as motivated as their counterparts from European families, but the Mexican and Central and South American students tended to receive the lowest grades in their courses.
The strong attitudes of the Filipino youths toward their family obligations appeared to account for their tendency to seek more advice from their parents and siblings than adolescents from other groups, as well the differences in academic motivation between themselves and those from Central/South American families (see Table 6). But the majority of the ethnic
Table 6 AdolescentslFamily Interactions, Peer Relationships, and Academic Adjustment
Family interactions Mother conflict Father conflict Mother cohesion Father cohesion Mother discussions Father discussions Sibling discussions
Peer relationships Peer discussions Peer time Friendship value
Academic adjustment Study time Educ. aspiration Educ. expectation
M (SD) M (SD)
|M (SD)||M (SD)||F||Bonferroni Contrasts|
|F > M**; E > M***|
|F, C/S > C*|
|F,C/S, E > M*|
|M > E*; F > E**|
|F, C > CIS**;F, C > M,E***|
|F, C > CIS*; F, C > M,E***|
|F > CIS*; C > C/S**;|
|F, C >M,E***|
|C >F, M, C/S,E8**|
Note: Ns = 594-764. Bold contrasts indicate those ethnic differences that became nonsignificant, p > .05, after controlling for youths'
attitudes toward family obligations.
*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < ,001.
differences in educational adjustment could not be ac- counted for by variations in youths' attitudes toward family obligations. Most of the differences in study time, grades, and educational aspirations and expec- tations remained significant even after controlling for adolescents' values and expectations, Bonferroni con- trasts of adjusted means, ps < .05. Little evidence was found for even partial mediation, as the percent of variance accounted for by adolescents' ethnic back- ground was reduced by only one third for study time (36%), one quarter for educational aspirations and ex- pectations (26% and 23%), and virtually no reduction was observed for grade point average (3%). Most of these small reductions were likely due to the differ- ences between Filipino and Central/South American youths becoming nonsignificant.
Asian and Latin American adolescents possessed stronger values and greater expectations regarding their duty to assist, respect, and support their families than their peers with European backgrounds. These differences tended to be large and were consistent across the youths' generation, gender, family compo- sition, and socioeconomic background. Although an emphasis on family obligations tended to be associ- ated with more positive outcomes at the individual level, there was no evidence that the ethnic variations in these beliefs produced meaningful group differ- ences in the adolescents' development. These find- ings suggest that even within a society that empha- sizes adolescent autonomy and independence, youths from families with collectivistic traditions retain their parents' familistic values and these values do not have a negative impact upon their development.
The dramatic ethnic differences in the youths' atti- tudes, sometimes reaching more than a full standard deviation in magnitude, testify to the great impor- tance of family support and respect to those from Asian and Latin American families. The ethnic differ- ences could not be accounted for by variations in so- cioeconomic background and family composition, and these beliefs generally remained strong regard- less of whether the youths and their parents were born in their home countries or in the United States. The only attitude to decline across generations was the importance of assisting and supporting family members in the future when the adolescents become adults; this value dropped for all groups except for those from Central and South American families. It is likely that the parents of latter-generation youths have greater familiarity and comfort with U.S. society and do not need as much assistance from their adult children. Yet the cultural imperative of family sup- port remains strong even as the actual need for it de- clines, because third-generation adolescents from Asian and Latin American families still endorsed their future obligations more strongly than their Eu- ropean American peers.
The generational stability in adolescents' attitudes toward family obligations contrasts with previously observed generational differences in other beliefs and values, such as a decline in the importance of educa- tion and earlier expectations for behavioral auton- omy (Feldman & Rosenthal, 1990; Fuligni, 1997, 1998). Together, these findings suggest that the mean- ing of being "Chinese" or "Mexican" (or Filipino, Nic- araguan, and so forth) may change across successive generations of adolescents. Among adolescents from immigrant families, being Asian or Latin American appears to include valuing education, postponing dating and other social activities, and believing in the importance of assisting and respecting one's family. In comparison, the identity among youths from latter generations may focus mostly upon duty and obliga- tion to one's family and less upon academics and de- layed autonomy. Just as individuals may possess both individualistic and collectivistic attitudes (Sinha & Tripathi, 1994), latter-generation Asian and Latin Amer- ican youths seem to simultaneously desire greater au- tonomy and recognize the importance of maintaining a close bond with their families. The retention of the emphasis on family responsibility may be due to the significance of such collectivistic values for the self-images of those from Asian and Latin American families (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Recent evidence suggests that familistic attitudes are indeed integral to the identities of individuals from these cultural backgrounds (Gaines et al., 1997).
Adolescents believed it was more important to their parents than to themselves that the youths re- spect their elders, follow their parents' advice, and make sacrifices for the family. Issues of decision mak- ing are likely to be points of contention within Asian and Latin American families, leading the adolescents to become frustrated with the assertion of parental authority. As an Asian college student noted to Zhou and Bankston (1998), recalling her parents' rules about dating and socializing: "I had always hoped that my parents would someday open up just a little to realize that we are living in America and not in Vietnam" (p. 169). Yet it is important to note that is- sues of authority and decision making are common among other families as well, and that the youths from European backgrounds in this study perceived a similar discrepancy with their parents regarding the importance of respect. In addition, adolescents from all cultural backgrounds believed themselves to be in close agreement with their parents in regards to the importance of helping out at home, spending time with family members, and assisting the family in the future. The perceived discrepancy in views about re- spect, therefore, may be more a case of common parent- adolescent disagreement over the specific issue of de- cision making rather than a general clash of cultures within Asian and Latin American families.
At the individual level, youths' desire to assist and respect their family was associated with having close and communicative relationships with their parents and siblings. Adolescents' assumption of their family responsibilities also was associated with a desire to achieve at school. As has been reported in numerous ethnographies, adolescents from Asian and Latin American families are acutely aware of the great sac- rifices their parents made to come to this country (Gibson & Bhachu, 1991; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1995). The students often are reminded of this sacrifice on a daily basis as their parents work long hours in jobs that are sometimes below their level of training (Caplan et al., 1991). These youths likely feel that achieving in school is an important part of their family obligations and that their academic success will in some way assist the family's fortunes. Yet the associations between a sense of family obligation and academic motivation existed even among those from European American families, suggesting that believ- ing in the importance of assisting and respecting the family tends to be associated with better develop- mental outcomes even among groups for whom these traditions are relatively less important.
Emphasizing obligation and duty to the family did not compromise adolescents' peer relationships. Youths with high values and expectations regarding their ob- ligations spent just as much time socializing with their friends and were actually slightly more likely to value and seek advice from their peers. These adoles- cents probably make friends with other youths who hold similar values regarding the family. Observers have noted the existence of distinct peer groups within Asian and Latin American communities in which the adolescents closely align themselves with their families' traditions. For example, the "Mexi- canos" noted by Matute-Bianchi (1991) in a commu- nity on the central coast of California intentionally differentiated themselves from the more "American- ized" adolescents of Mexican descent through their visible expression of their Mexican heritage, their ac- tive use of both Spanish and English, and their in- volvement in cultural clubs and activities. The exist- ence of peer groups such as the Mexicanos enable adolescents to develop rich and fulfilling social rela-
Fuligni, Tseng, and Lam 1041
tionships while they pursue their cultural identities within the context of a strong connection to their fam- ilies. Rather than compromising peer relationships, the sense of family obligation held by these adoles- cents likely provides a shared value system upon which they can base their friendships.
In one area, however, an extremely high value of family duty and obligation was associated with less positive adolescent development. Whereas a moder- ate emphasis on family obligations was associated with greater academic success, adolescents who indi- cated the strongest endorsement of their obligations tended to receive grades just as low as or even lower than those with the weakest endorsement. This mod- est relation existed after controlling for the students' ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the asso- ciations between adolescents' attitudes and their study time and motivation did not show parallel cur- vilinear patterns. Yet even at the same level of paren- tal occupation and adolescent motivation, there may be individual variations in family need and responsi- bility that were not assessed in this study. For exam- ple, Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco (1995) have reported how some adolescents from poor Latin American families feel the need to cut back on their studies during periods of acute economic crisis. One Mexican youth in their study, when asked to describe the thoughts of a girl in a picture who is holding school books while watching her parents labor in the fields, said: ". . . she is watching her parents working so hard .. . she feels like they have a big problem. She tries to help her parents, but she also has to study. In the end, she tries to help them" (p. 129). Education re- mains important to these youths, but the families may face more pressing needs that demand the students' attention. These periodic compromises, in turn, may cumulatively erode the students' progress at school over time.
The link between a very strong sense of obligation and lower school performance also may be due to other individual and family-level phenomena that are independent of ethnic and socioeconomic back- ground. For example, adolescents with the strongest endorsement of their obligations may have parents incapable of effectively managing the household or caring for themselves because of chronic illness or other liabilities. These adolescents may have siblings or grandparents with special needs that demand the youths' time and attention. Alternatively, the stu- dents may strongly emphasize their obligations as a way to affirm their self-worth and place in the family in the face of a lack of success at school (Steele, 1988). More research is needed to better understand this in- triguing finding, but the fact that the curvilinear asso- ciation existed even after controlling for students' ethnic background suggests that the explanations are not likely to be cultural in origin.
Despite the individual-level associations, there was no evidence that the strong emphasis upon fam- ily obligations among Asian and Latin American youths produced any major group differences in their development. These results help to clarify the collec- tivistic nature of relationships within Asian and Latin American families. Although children from these fam- ilies feel obligated to respect and remain connected to their families, they do not necessarily progress through the adolescent years with closer relationships with their parents and siblings than those with European backgrounds. Rather, the emphasis seems to be more on the importance of instrumentally supporting one another. Cooper et al. (1993) similarly observed that, whereas Chinese and Vietnamese college students placed a strong value on assisting their families, they felt the least comfortable talking about sexual- ity and dating with their parents. Like most Ameri- can adolescents, Asian and Latin American youths likely turn to their friends for advice on these and other personal concerns.
Emphasizing duty and obligation to family also does not seem to explain the large ethnic differences in adolescents' achievement at school. There was no evidence that the lower academic performance of the students' from Latin American backgrounds, or even the high achievement of Chinese students, were due to the youths' sense of obligation to assist and sup- port their family. It should be noted that the extent to which adolescents believed that they succeeded or had difficulties in school because of their family obli- gations was not specifically measured in this study. Future research would need to directly measure ado- lescents' views of how their obligations affected their educational efforts in order to determine the degree to which a sense of obligation actually assisted or pre- vented certain groups of students from achieving in school. Nevertheless, this study clearly indicates that the individual-level associations between family obli- gations and academic outcomes cannot be used to ex- plain the ethnic variations in achievement. Factors that contribute group-level variations in academic achievement, although not always clear, can be quite different than those that produce individual differ- ences (Kao, Tienda, & Schneider, 1996). For example, it has been noted that immigrant students from Latin America sometimes get channeled as a group into lower-level academic classes, even though they have already taken similar or even more advanced course- work in their home countries (Suarez-Orozco, 1991).
Although adolescents from Asian and Latin Amer- ican families clearly place great importance on their family obligations, the extent to which they actually act in accordance with their beliefs remains unclear. The links between beliefs and behavior are not al- ways strong and the demands of adolescent life in American society may make it difficult for youths to fulfill their perceived obligations. For example, in con- trast to youths in Asian societies, adolescents in the United States tend to spend a large portion of their time away from the family and socializing with peers in autonomous activities such as dating and attend- ing parties (Fuligni & Stevenson, 1995; Larson, 1983). Even when American adolescents work in part-time jobs, the income they receive tends to be for their own discretionary spending rather than for supporting their families (Greenberger & Steinberg, 1986). The contrast between American behavioral norms and their families' traditions are quite salient to youths from Asian and Latin American families: "To be an American, you may be able to do whatever you want. But to be a Vietnamese, you must think of your family first" (Zhou & Bankston, 1998, p. 166). Additional studies should employ techniques such as naturalis- tic observation and daily diaries in order to obtain de- tailed analyses of how Asian and Latin American ad- olescents negotiate the sometimes competing demands of their family and American society. Such assess- ments also would provide insight into whether the actual obligatory behaviors of youths have a more di- rect impact on other aspects of their lives than do their attitudes toward those behaviors.
Additional research also should be conducted on the socialization and implications of family obliga- tions before and after the adolescent years. Studying the acquisition of familistic values at earlier ages would shed light onto how these attitudes are first in- ternalized by children, as well as the role the values play in other aspects of children's development such as their ethnic identity (Gaines et al., 1997). Investi- gating family obligations during the years of young adulthood would provide insight into how the strength and manifestation of these attitudes change as adolescents move out of the teenage years and into postsecondary education or employment (e.g., Coo- per et al., 1993).
Despite the possible concerns of many Asian and Latin American parents who are raising a family in American society, their children appear to retain the traditional cultural values of assisting and respecting their family. The extent to which the adolescents act in accordance with their views remains to be seen, but the stability of the attitudes across the different gener- ations suggest that these beliefs serve an important function in the development of these youths. Rather than compromising adjustment in a society that em- phasizes individualism, remembering one's obliga- tion to the family may serve as a critical component in the developing identities of Asian and Latin Ameri- can youths.
Portions of this article were presented at the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Society for Research on Ado- lescence in San Diego, CA. Support for this research was provided by the William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Program. This manuscript was pre- pared while the first author was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California at Irvine, supported by a Goddard Leave provided by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University. The authors would like to thank those who assisted with the collection and processing of the data as well as the schools and their students for their participation. We also are grateful to Chen Chuan- sheng and Michelle Gelfand for reading an earlier version of this manuscript, and to Richard Schweder for his helpful suggestions.
ADDRESSES AND AFFILIATIONS
Corresponding author: Andrew J. Fuligni, Depart- ment of Psychology, New York University, 6Washington Place, 2nd Floor, New York, NY, 10003; e-mail: [email protected] . Vivian Tseng and May Lam are also at New York University.
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