Assessment: Critical Analysis of Cross-Cultural ResearchReeb79
Introduction to Special Section on Cross-Cultural Research on Parenting and Psychological Adjustment of Children
Published online: 27 November 2009
� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Abstract Parental factors such as control, rejection, and
inconsistency have been reported as associated with psy-
chological maladjustment. The papers in this Special Sec-
tion are based on a multi-national study examining the
association between these parental factors and adolescents’
psychological disorders in nine western and eastern coun-
tries, differing in family connectedness. Questionnaires
assessing these factors were administered to 2,884 male and
female adolescents. In this paper we discuss the parental
factors and describe the methodology. We hypothesize that
parental factors, family connectedness, and the association
between these factors and adolescents’ mental health differ
across cultures. In the papers that follow, we present the
results and discuss their implications.
Keywords Parental control � Rejection � Inconsistency � Mental health � Culture
Since Freud, parents’ behavior has become a central factor
in our understanding of children’s mental health. Both
excessive satisfaction and extreme neglect of the child’s
needs may impair the psychological development of the
child (Freud 1923/1962). Since then, many parental factors
have been studied and associated with children’s psycho-
logical adjustment. Baumrind (1966, 1991, 2005) sug-
gested two orthogonal dimensions, high-low warmth and
high-low control, and Schaefer (1965) suggested another
two similar orthogonal dimensions (warmth-hostility and
detachment-involvement). Rohner (1986, 1999) focused on
the acceptance–rejection dimension. The literature about
these factors maintains that authoritarian and permissive
(Baumrind 1966), hostile and detached (Schaefer 1965)
and rejecting parenting (Rohner 1986) have a negative
impact on children’s psychological adjustment. Whatever
the parenting style, inconsistency and incoherent parenting
is another important factor associated with children’s
psychological disorders (Dwairy 2007; Dwairy et al. 2006).
This introduction to the Special Section reviews the
literature on parenting across cultures. We present Baum-
rind’s and Rohner’s approach to the study of the relation-
ship between parenting variables and children’s
psychological adjustment. In addition, this introduction
provides the initial empirical indications of the association
between inconsistent parenting and children’s psychologi-
Baumrind’s Parenting Styles
Baumrind (2005) indicated two orthogonal parental fac-
tors: responsiveness (warmth) and demandingness (con-
trol). Three major parenting styles emerged from her
studies: authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative.
Authoritarian parents emphasize control and obedience and
do not promote the child’s autonomy (Baumrind 1966;
Reitman et al. 2002). They enforce discipline through the
use of punishment and expect children to obey their orders
without arguing. The nurturing skills (warmth) of these
parents are low, while the control skills are high. They
rarely use words of comfort, and are unlikely to demon-
strate affection or to praise their children.
Permissive parents enable their children to make their
own decisions and regulate their own behavior. They do
M. Dwairy (&) Ora St. 3b, P.O. Box 14710, Nazareth Elit 17000, Israel
e-mail: [email protected]
J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19:1–7
not behave as a figure of authority, and tend to be warm
and supportive. The nurturing skills of parents who adopt
the permissive style tend to be moderate to high, while
their control of their children is poor (Baumrind 1991,
2005; Reitman et al. 2002).
The authoritative parenting style is somewhere between
authoritarian and permissive parenting. Children reared in
this style are not completely constrained; they are allowed
a reasonable degree of latitude in their behavior. Authori-
tative parents do enforce limits in various ways such as
reasoning, verbal give and take, clear-cut instructions, and
positive reinforcement. Authoritative parents tend to have
good nurturing skills and exercise moderate parental con-
trol to allow the child to become progressively more
autonomous (Baumrind 1966, 1991, 2005; Reitman et al.
The authoritative parenting style has been associated
with better psychological adjustment of the children
(Baumrind 1991, 2005; Steinberg et al. 1991, 1992a, b).
Children of authoritative parents have a high level of self-
esteem and tend to be self-reliant, self-controlled, secure,
popular, and inquisitive (Buri et al. 1988; Wenar 1994).
(For review of parental styles, see Maccoby and Martin
In the literature on parenting, there are various over-
lapping and ill-defined concepts referring to authoritarian-
ism, such as controlling, strict, dominating, coercive,
restrictive, regimenting, intrusive, interfering, demanding,
and asserting their power. At the other end are terms such
as permissive, granting autonomy, indulgent, egalitarian,
democratic, and laissez-faire (Rohner and Khaleque 2003).
Regardless of the specific term used, authoritarian
(Baumrind 1991; Bigner 1994; Forward 1989; Whitfield
1987) and permissive parenting (Baumrind 1991; Bigner
1994; Wenar 1994) are associated with children’s mental
health problems, whereas authoritative parenting is asso-
ciated with better mental health and well-being (Buri et al.
1988; Lamborn et al. 1991).
Rohner’s Acceptance–Rejection and Control Theory
According to Rohner’s parental acceptance–rejection the-
ory, parenting styles can be placed on a continuum between
acceptance (warm and affectionate) and rejection (cold,
hostile, and indifferent), based on how warm they are
towards their children (Rohner 1999; Rohner et al. 2005).
The perceived rejection is a major parental factor, associ-
ated with several personality dispositions of children such
as hostility, conduct problems, depression, emotional
unresponsiveness, dependency, low self-esteem, low self-
adequacy, emotional instability, and a negative worldview.
It has been claimed that this association is universal
‘‘regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeco-
nomic status, and other such defining conditions’’ (Khale-
que and Rohner 2002, p. 87). Adolescents’ reports of
higher parental rejection explained approximately 27 to
46% of the variance in their reports about psychological
adjustment (Kim et al. 2006).
Rohner’s theory also examines parental control, ranging
from permissiveness to strictness (Rohner et al. 2005).
Permissive parents do not control their children’s behavior
and allow them to do things their own way. Restrictive
parents enforce many rules and limit their children’s
autonomy. The relationship between parental control and
children’s psychological adjustment depends on the type of
control. Control that inhibits psychological development is
associated with depression, whereas behavioral control that
regulates the child’s behavior was associated with fewer
conduct problems (Barber et al. 1994) and better academic
achievement (Lamborn et al. 1991).
Both Rohner and Baumrind recognize the important role
played by warmth or acceptance, and by the authoritarian
or controlling parental dimension. In fact, studies on par-
enting and psychological disorders of children have
focused on two factors: rejection and control. Parental
rejection undermines self-esteem and promotes a negative
self-concept, a sense of helplessness, which are the build-
ing blocks of depression (Garber and Flynn 2001). Parental
control reduces perceived mastery and personal control
(Chorpita and Barlow 1998; Weisz et al. 2003), and
induces perceived helplessness (Garber and Flynn 2001).
Despite the recognition that parenting has a significant
influence on children’s mental health, we should be aware
that parenting is only one among many factors (e.g., social
and biological) that affect mental health. In a meta-analytic
study, parenting accounted for 8% of the variance in child
depression (McLeod et al. 2007), less than 4% in child
anxiety (McLeod et al. 2007), and less than 6% in exter-
nalizing problems (Rothbaum and Weisz 1994). Parental
rejection was more strongly related to depression (McLeod
et al. 2007) than was parental control, which was more
related to anxiety than was parental rejection (McLeod
et al. 2007).
Parenting and Culture
Culture is the primary source of information that guides
parental practices (Goodnow 1985). It determines basic
educational values, age-appropriate behavior, and parental
practices. Child-parent relationships differ across cultures
because parents behave according to the values and norms
endorsed in their own culture. Most studies examining the
socio-cultural role of interpersonal relationships have used
the concept of individualism vs. collectivism (Berry et al.
2 J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19:1–7
1992). In collective cultures and ‘‘tight’’ (Pelto 1968) or
‘‘uncertainty avoidance’’ cultures (Hofstede 2001), parents
tend to be more authoritarian and to emphasize obedience
and adherence in order to maintain the harmony of the
collective. On the other hand, parents in more liberal and
individualistic cultures tend to give their children more
freedom and to foster their individuality and separateness.
They encourage and view personal objectives and auton-
omy as signs of maturity. Despite these cultural differ-
ences, there are few studies on parent-adolescent
relationships from a cross-cultural perspective. Most pub-
lished studies on this relationship have dealt with American
adolescents (Youniss and Smollar 1985; Bogenschneider
et al. 1998), with little attention paid to various ethnic
groups living in the U.S. (Spencer and Dornbush 1990).
The relationship between parents and their children in
collective societies is closer and more mutually dependent
than in individualistic societies. In a regional study that
examined the inter-connectedness between adolescents and
their parents, Arab adolescents were found to be more
connected to their parents than American adolescents
(Dwairy et al. 2006).
The influence of parenting on the psychological
adjustment of children differs across cultures. Contrary to
reports indicating that authoritarian parenting has a nega-
tive influence, some researchers found that the authoritar-
ian parenting style has a positive impact among African
Americans in terms of assertiveness and independence
among girls (Baumrind 1972), and in terms of high-level
competency in a high-risk environment (Baldwin et al.
1990). Some researchers found that authoritarian parenting
has a positive influence among Asians and is associated
with better academic performance and achievements than
the authoritative style (Chao 2001; Leung et al. 1998;
Steinberg et al. 1994).
Baumrind (1996) emphasized that the consequences of
authoritarian parenting depend on cultural context and on
how it is perceived by the child. Many other studies indi-
cate that the influence of parental control depends on how it
is perceived by the child: Korean adolescents in Korea
perceive parental behavioral control as an indication of
acceptance, whereas Korean American adolescents per-
ceive higher parental behavioral control as a manifestation
of lower parental acceptance (Rohner and Pettengill 1985).
Among the Chinese, parental control is not viewed nega-
tively as restrictive and dominating, but as an organiza-
tional strategy, contributing to the harmonious functioning
of the family (Chao 2001) and is associated with caring and
love (Rohner and Pettengill 1985; Tobin et al. 1989).
Randolph (1995) thought that for African Americans
authoritarian parenting is associated with caring, love,
respect, protection from the dangers of the streets, and with
making life easier for the child. Kagitcibasi (1970, 2005)
considered parental control and warmth to be compatible in
many collectivistic cultures. It seems that authoritarian
parenting is consistent with the values of respect for par-
ents and adherence to them, prevailing in the collective
Dwairy’s Inconsistency Hypotheses
Unlike the negative effect of authoritarian parenting on
western adolescents, in a regional study carried out in eight
Arab countries, authoritarian parenting was not found to be
associated with adolescents’ psychological disorders
(Dwairy et al. 2006; Dwairy and Menshar 2006). Why does
authoritarian parenting have a negative impact on western
adolescents but not on Arab and other non-western ado-
lescents? In answer to this question, Dwairy et al. (2006)
suggested the inconsistency hypothesis, claiming that it is
the inconsistency between authoritarian parenting and the
liberal socio-cultural environment in the west, rather than
authoritarianism per se, that lies behind the negative impact
on adolescents’ psychological adjustment. When
authoritarian parenting is consistent or in harmony with the
socio-cultural environment, such as the authoritarian/col-
lective Arab or Asian cultures, authoritarian parenting per
se has no such negative impact. In support of the incon-
sistency hypothesis, Dwairy et al. (2006) found that the
inconsistent pattern of parenting that combines authoritar-
ian and permissive parenting was associated with psycho-
logical disorders of Arab adolescents.
Inconsistency in the child’s social environment is fre-
quently mentioned as one of the factors that may confuse
the child and impair learning and socialization processes
(Wenar 1994). Hersov (1960) pointed out that inconsis-
tency between maternal and paternal parenting styles may
increase separation anxiety and school phobia. Dadds
(1995) reported an association between inconsistent par-
enting and conduct disorders, and Patterson (1982) noted
that inconsistent parenting is associated with conduct
To examine the effect of the inconsistency factor in
parenting, Dwairy (2007) developed a scale for inconsistent
parenting and conducted preliminary research to validate
the scale and investigate the association between inconsis-
tent parenting and adolescents’ psychological disorders.
The results among Arab adolescents support the inconsis-
tency hypothesis. That is, inconsistency measures were
associated with psychological disorders, while none of the
authoritarian parenting measures were associated with
psychological disorders. The association between incon-
sistency and psychological disorders was more salient
among those adolescents who were more connected to their
parents than among those who were less so. This finding
J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19:1–7 3
suggests that inconsistent parenting is more damaging in
collective (more connected) societies than in individualistic
ones. Interestingly, Dwairy (2007) found no interaction
between the effects of inconsistency and authoritarian par-
enting, suggesting that inconsistency has its own indepen-
dent association with psychological disorders, with and
without authoritarian parenting. Dwairy suggested that in
addition to parental rejection and control, parental incon-
sistency should be dealt with as an important parental fac-
tor, influencing the psychological adjustment of children.
Based on the cross-cultural differences in the association
between child-parents relationship and psychological
adjustment of children, Dwairy and colleagues conducted
the research reported in this Special Section in western
(individualistic) and non-western (collectivistic) countries
to study the association between family-child connected-
ness, parental control, parental rejection, and parental
inconsistency on the one hand, and psychological disorders
of adolescents on the other. To the best of our knowledge,
this is the first cross-cultural study on parenting that
addresses multiple parenting factors simultaneously and
brings together parental inconsistency with other parental
factors studied so far.
Research on parenting and children’s psychological
adjustment has so far been typically one-factorial: testing
one parenting factor at a time. This reductionism under-
estimates the interaction effect and the overlap that exists
between different parenting factors (Soenens 2007) and
mistakenly deals with each factor as an independent one.
As a result of this approach, the association found between
certain parental factors and children’s mental health was
not consistent and some times even contradictory. Our
multiple factor research is based on a systemic research
approach suggested by Dwairy (2006), according to which
we assume that the association between one parenting
factor and children’s mental health varies when it is tested
in conjunction with, or without, other parenting factors. For
instance, the association between parental rejection and
children’s mental health will depend on the presence or
absence of one or more additional genetic, parental,
familial, school, social, and cultural factors. Therefore, it is
important to study the association between each parenting
factor and psychological disorders in conjunction with
many other parenting factors and other relevant factors
such as familial, social, economical, and cultural factors.
We administered the questionnaires in nine countries: three
western countries (France, Poland, and Argentina), and six
eastern countries or societies (Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi
Arabia, Bedouins in Israel, Jordan, and India) to 1,358
male and 1,526 female adolescents (see Table 1). Their
ages ranged from 15 to 17 years and they were studying in
the 10, 11, and 12th grades (469, 1,477, and 938, respec-
tively). The questionnaires were administered at the
schools and it took 50–60 min in each class. In accordance
with each country’s law, the consent of the school inspector
and/or the parents was obtained. Participation was volun-
tary; however, there were no refusals. Except for the
samples from India and Bedouins in Israel, all the samples
included urban and rural subjects. More urban respondents
were included in the eastern sample (83.0%) than in the
western one (69.3%). The Indian sample comprised middle
and upper class students, studying in an English speaking
school in India. The Bedouins in Israel are Arabs who had
lived in the desert within a tribal social system until the last
few decades. After they moved to small villages, they kept
their traditional tribal culture, which is very authoritarian
and collective. Within the tribal hierarchical system the
men and the elderly have absolute authority over all the
tribe members. Disobedience to this authority may result in
significant punishment (Alkernawi 2000; Alkernawi and
Graham 1997; Cwikel and Barak 2002).
In addition to the questionnaires related to parenting and
psychological adjustment, the students were asked to
complete a demographic questionnaire concerning their
families. They were asked to report on the number of
siblings, their parents’ education, and to rate their family’s
economic level from 1 = very low and 5 = very high ‘‘as
compared to the other students in the school.’’
The mean number of siblings in the western and eastern
families was 1.94 and 5.00, respectively. The mean number
of fathers’ school years was 12.62 in the west and 12.93 in
the east, suggesting that the vast majority of the parents had
finished high school. The percentage of fathers with higher
education was 62.6% in the west and 62.7% in the east.
The percentage of mothers with higher education was
67.7.6% in the west and 54.9% in the east. The mean of the
family economic level was 3.13 in the west and 3.23 in the
Table 1 The sample according to country and sex
Country Male Female Total
1 France 92 117 209
2 Poland 132 177 309
3 Argentina 140 184 324
4 Kuwait 257 244 501
5 Algeria 170 165 335
6 Saudi Arabia 126 341 467
7 Bedouins/Israel 65 102 167
8 Jordan 245 96 341
9 India 131 100 231
Total 1,358 1,526 2,884
4 J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19:1–7
east. These levels do not indicate the objective differences
in economical level of the western and eastern families,
because the subjects were asked to compare the economic
level of their family on a subjective rating scale to the other
students in their own school.
All the questionnaires were translated from the original
language (English or Arabic) to the language of each
country and then back-translated. The translation was
carried out by professionals who knew both languages and
understood the rationale of each instrument. Except for
India, the questionnaires were administered to the subjects
in their mother tongue. In India, the questionnaires were
administered in English in English-speaking schools to
students coming from the middle and upper class.
Multigenerational Interconnectedness Scale (MIS;
Gavazzi and Sabatelli 1987, 1988, 1990). This scale con-
sists of three subscales intended to assess emotional,
financial, and functional connectedness between the ado-
lescent and his/her family.
Dwairy’s Parental Authoritarianism and Inconsistency
Scale (DPAIS; Dwairy 2007). The scale assesses parental
authoritarianism in conjunction with parental inconsis-
tency. The scale measures parental control and three types
of parental inconsistency: temporal, situational, and father–
mother inconsistency. The temporal inconsistency indi-
cates the changes in parental reactions to the same situation
from time to time. The situational inconsistency indicates
the changes in the parental reaction from one situation to
another. The father-mother inconsistency indicates the
differences between paternal and maternal reactions.
Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire PARQ
(Rohner and Khaleque 2003, 2005). The shortened form of
PARQ includes 29 items, each referring to father and
mother acceptance or rejection. The mean of the measures
on each group of items is considered to indicate paternal or
maternal rejection. The sum of the means of paternal and
maternal acceptance indicates parental acceptance and the
sum of the means of paternal and maternal rejection indi-
cates parental rejection.
The Psychological State Scale (PSS). This scale is based
on a larger scale of Psychological State (Hamuda and
Imam 1996). In the present study we measured three psy-
chological states: generalized anxiety, depression disorder,
and conduct disorder. Subjects were asked to rate their
level of endorsement of each item on a five-point scale.
The sum of all the 15 items is considered as a measure of
the general level of psychological disorders (PS), with a
low score indicating better mental health.
Our general hypotheses are as follows: (a) parenting (in
terms of control, acceptance–rejection, and inconsistency),
adolescents-parents connectedness, and adolescents’ psy-
chological adjustment differ across cultures and parents’
and family’s socio-economic level, and parents’ and ado-
lescents’ gender, and (b) there are cross-cultural differ-
ences in the association between parenting factors and
adolescents’ psychological adjustment.
The papers in the Special Section test more specific
hypotheses concerning adolescent-family connectedness,
parental control, parental inconsistency, parental rejection,
and the association between these parenting factors and the
psychological adjustment of youth. Four papers focus on
one parenting factor. Owing to the interactions and overlap
between the various parenting factors, the final paper
analyzes all of the factors together and examines their
associations to adolescent’s mental health.
In these papers we used ‘‘country’’ primarily as an
independent variable, as the statistical analysis progressed
we showed a clear clustering of this independent variable
into two cultural clusters: east and west. In order to con-
sider the moderator effect of culture (east vs. west) on
some nominal dependent variables tested we used moder-
ator ANOVA and reported the significance of the interac-
tion between the predictor (e.g., gender) and the moderator
(culture). In addition, in order to verify the internal validity
of family and parenting variables, in light of the assumed
differences between cultures, we conducted separate factor
analyses and internal consistencies (Chronbach’s alpha) in
the west and east.
The systemic integrative approach of our study, inte-
grating the parental inconsistency together with other par-
enting factors studied so far, and cultural diversity of our
sample and the large number of participants in our research
are considered among the strengths that make our findings
valid and credible, and generalizable across cultures. The
main shortcoming of our research is that it is based on
adolescents’ self-report questionnaires, with no way of
validating the results through parents’ self-reports. More
cross-cultural research is needed to validate the results
through other tools such as interviews, observations, and
other questionnaires, targeting both the parents and the
Acknowledgments I want to thank my colleague Mustafa Achoui who administered the scales and encoded the data in Saudi Arabia,
Algeria, and Kuwait, and Anna Filus (Poland), Neharika Vohra
(India), Martina Casullo (Argentina), Parissa Rezvan Nia (France),
Huda Nijm (Jordan), and Lana Shhadi (Arabs in Israel) for their help
in translating and administering the questionnaires and encoding the
data of their countries.
J Child Fam Stud (2010) 19:1–7 5
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