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Kai Lin Fu, Carolyn M. Barry, Ph.D., Rachel L. Grover, Ph.D., Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D.

Parental Psychological Control, Biculturalism, and Social Anxiety in East Asian American Emerging Adults

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Amidst a life stage on focused identity exploration, close relationship formation and maintenance and establishment of a career, emerging adults with social anxiety may find life particularly challenging (Krieg et al., 2016). Social anxiety stems from numerous factors, including parenting (Bandelow et al., 2004), which has been shown to matter even to emerging adults. Culturally-based factors contribute to parenting, and the development of anxiety. In the East Asian culture, for example, there is greater emphasis on achievement and greater practice of parental psychological control from parents of Chinese origin compared to those of European origin (Lin & Fu, 1990). We will examine the relations among parental psychological control and social anxiety for East-Asian American and European-American emerging adults, and how the relation between parental psychological control and ethnic identification may be associated with the prevalence of social anxiety, respectively. Since East Asian Americans who experience biculturalism likely have parents who utilize more control behaviors such as psychological control (Jing-Schmidt, 2012), we posited an exploratory hypotheses that bicultural identity will serve as a moderator of the relation between parental psychological control and social anxiety symptoms for East Asian Americans. There is potential that with greater biculturalism the positive relation between parental psychological control and social anxiety symptoms will be stronger than in any other combination. Since the process of acculturation can be quite stressful for some immigrants (Sirin et al., 2013) and cross-cultural differences exist in the display of emotion between Asians and the majority European Americans (Kirmayer, 2001), acculturation is likely to be related to social anxiety. Given the existing complexity of the proposed relations and the potential confounding role of acculturation, acculturation will be controlled for in the proposed study.  The poster presentation will be on the literature review, measures and hypotheses.

This study will examine previously collected data as part of the Multi-Site University Study of Identity and Culture (MUSIC; Weisskirch et al., 2013). The participants (N = 9,951) consisted of undergraduate students recruited from 30 universities across the United States. The faculty at each university site obtained participants through one or all of two methods of convenience sampling. First, psychology departments advertised the link to a survey website via e-mail or printed fliers. Second, students participated in the larger study for either a course requirement or extra credit in a family studies, business, sociology, education, nutrition or psychology course. The original study contained 57 different scales. For the purposes of this study, however, only the Bicultural Identity Integration scale (Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005), Paternal Psychological Control scale (Barber, 1996), maternal psychological control scale (Barber, 1996), the Stephenson Multigroup Acculturation Scale (Stephenson, 2000), and the Social Anxiety Interaction scale (Mattick & Clark, 1998) will be used.

Five hypotheses will be examined for this study. In all hypotheses, acculturation will be controlled. First, maternal and paternal psychological control will be positively related to emerging adults’ social anxiety symptoms, such that emerging adults who report higher levels of maternal and paternal psychological control will also report higher levels of social anxiety. Second, emerging adults from East-Asian cultural backgrounds will report higher levels of maternal and paternal psychological control than emerging adults from European-American cultural backgrounds. Third, East Asian American emerging adults, bicultural identity integration will be positively related to maternal and paternal psychological control. Four, self-reported ethnicity will moderate the relation between both maternal and paternal psychological control and social anxiety symptoms such that there will be a stronger relation between parental psychological control and social anxiety symptoms in East Asian Americans compared to European Americans. Last, an exploratory analysis will be conducted to examine bicultural identity integration as a moderator of the relation between parental psychological control and social anxiety symptoms for East Asian Americans only. The proposed study will be able to understand better the potential role of parental psychological control on the development of social anxiety in East-Asian Americans, and how bicultural identity integration may moderate these relations. Asian-American emerging adults have the unique experiences of having to integrate their collectivistic family values and individualistic societal values. Thus, it is important to examine the extent to which bicultural identity integration (of both Western and Eastern cultures) explain further the relation between parental psychological control and emerging adults’ social anxiety. If it is possible that parenting may be related to the development of anxiety, it is important to understand the relation and to establish effective and culturally sensitive interventions for East Asians to reduce the risks.





Bandelow, B., Charimo Torrente, A., Wedekind, D., Broocks, A., Hajak. G., & Ruther, E. (2004). Early traumatic life events, parental rearing styles, family history of mental disorders, and birth risk factors in patients with social anxiety disorder. European Archives of Psychiatry, Clinical Neuroscience, 254, 397-405.

Barber, B. K. (1996). Parental psychological control: Revisiting a neglected construct.Child Development,67, 3296-3319.

BenetMartínez, V., & Haritatos, J. (2005). Bicultural identity integration (BII): Components and psychosocial antecedents.Journal of Personality,73, 1015-1050.

Jing-Schmidt, Zhuo. (2012). Maternal affective input in mother–child interaction: A cross-cultural perspective. Chinese Language & Discourse.

Kirmayer, L. J. (2001). Cultural variations in the clinical presentation of depression and anxiety: Implications for diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62, 22-30.

Krieg, A., Xu, Y., & Cicero, D. C. (2016). Comparing social anxiety between Asian Americans and European Americans: An examination of measurement invariance. Assessment, Retrieved from

Lin, C. Y. C., & Fu, V. R. (1990). A comparison of childrearing practices among Chinese, immigrant Chinese, and CaucasianAmerican parents. Child Development61, 429-433. https://doi.org10.2307/1131104

Mattick, R. P., & Clarke, J. C. (1998). Development and validation of measures of social phobia scrutiny fear and social interaction anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy36, 455-470.

Sirin, S. R., Ryce, P., Gupta, T., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2013). The role of acculturative stress on mental health symptoms for immigrant adolescents: A longitudinal investigation. Developmental Psychology49, 736.

Stephenson, Margaret. (2000). Development and validation of the Stephenson Multigroup Acculturation Scale (SMAS). Psychological Assessment, 12, 77-88. https://doi.org10.1037/1040-3590.12.1.77




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