Abstract：An important issue in early socialization and human development is how parents exert control in parent-child interaction and how children comply with parental direction. Moreover, it is commonly believed that maternal control strategies may be affected by social-cultural contexts and their changes. Due to the dramatic social change in urban China over the past decades, for example, compared with their counterparts in the 1990s, contemporary parents may use less coercive or power-assertive control strategies to encourage child autonomy. As a result, there may exist differences between urban parents and migrant parents with a rural background in their control behaviors. Nevertheless, little is known about migrant parents’ control strategies and their relations with children’s compliance behaviors. Thus, the primary purpose of the present study was to examine the control strategies used by urban and migrant mothers and their relations with children’s compliance. We were also interested in gender effects given that urban mothers might be more likely than migrant mothers to emphasize gender equality in childrearing.
The participants in the study included 122 mother-child dyads (46 from migrant families). Mother-child interactions and maternal and child behaviors in a clean-up sessions in the laboratory were videotaped. Maternal control strategies (gentle control, direct control, forceful control) and children’s compliance behaviors (committed compliance, situational compliance, noncompliance) were coded. Repeated measure, MANOVA, correlation analysis, and hierarchical regression analysis were conduct.
The results first showed that both urban and rural-to-urban migrant mothers used more direct control strategies than other strategies. Migrant mothers used more forceful control and less gentle control than urban mothers. The results also showed that maternal control strategies were significantly correlated to children’s situational compliance in the two groups. Specifically, migrant mothers’ gentle control and direct control strategies were positively related to children’s situational compliance, and urban mothers’ gentle control and forceful control were positively related to children’s situational compliance. Finally, family type and gender had moderating effects on the relations between maternal forceful control strategies and children’s compliance behaviors. Simple slope analysis showed that migrant mothers’ forceful control was positively associated with committed compliance in boys and negatively associated with committed compliance in girls. Migrant mothers’ forceful control was also negatively associated with noncompliance in boys. The relations between urban mothers’ forceful control and their children’s compliance behaviors were not moderated by child gender. These results suggest that social, economic, and cultural background factors may play a significant role in shaping parental control strategies and their functions in child development. Parenting practices interventions should take into account the economic and cultural features of the group the parents belong to, and also the children’s characteristics (e.g., gender).