Abstract: Parenting Skills and Perceived Social Support: Impact of a Social Group Model Among Chinese Immigrant Parents of Children with Behavior Problems (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Parenting Skills and Perceived Social Support: Impact of a Social Group Model Among Chinese Immigrant Parents of Children with Behavior Problems

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Fuhua Zhai, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Qin Gao, Ph.D., Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: 

Largely due to the disruptions in their social support network as well as the stress and struggles in their own life, many Chinese immigrant parents rely on their traditional practices of child discipline, including physical discipline, especially in dealing with their children's behavior problems. Moreover, the traumatized separations and disrupted attachments experienced by immigrant parents and children have received increasing attention from the media and local communities, including those of so-called "satellite babies" who were sent to their parents' home countries as infants/toddlers to be cared for by extended family members until school ages. However, few interventions have been designed and rigorously evaluated to help immigrant parents improve parenting skills in coping with children's behavior problems. This study examines the impact of Operation Parenting, an 8-week social group model that has been designed and implemented among Chinese immigrant parents to provide culturally enriched support and help parents improve their self-efficacy in parenting and coping with the behavioral issues of their children.


This randomized controlled trial (RCT) recruited Chinese immigrant parents who were concerned by their children's behavior problems using a convenience sampling method in a Chinese community in New York City. Parents were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. Pre- and post-test data in both intervention and control groups (12 in each group). The control group received Operation Parenting after data collection. The outcome measures on parents' problem-solving and parenting skills and perceived social support have been widely used in many other cross-cultural studies with great validity and reliability. OLS regressions are conducted among 116 parents who have non-missing data on outcome measures, controlling for parent, child, and household characteristics.  


Results show that, compared to parents in the control group, parents in the Operation Parenting group have significantly improved parental nurturance (e.g., attitudes and behaviors related to warmth, affection, and support toward children) and perceived social support from significant others (e.g., spouses/partners) and friends. The effect sizes range from 0.36 to 0.44. Operation parenting also significantly reduces parents' beliefs in spanking as well as their frequencies of harsh parenting, including psychological aggression, physical assault, and neglect, with effect sizes ranging from -0.60 to -0.18. Moderating analysis does not find evidence that these effects of Operation Parenting vary significantly by parents' marital status, education, and employment status, or child gender and age.  

Conclusions and Implications:

As an RCT, this study provides rigorous evidence on the impact of Operation Parenting on parents' parenting skills and perceived social support. Operation Parenting has been developed and implemented by clinical social workers based on their long-time work experiences with Chinese immigrants in their own communities. Implemented in a group setting, Operation Parenting has low cost, especially compared to individual and family counseling, and can be easily expended to other social service agencies through the training of group leaders and facilitators. The findings can inform researchers, social workers, and other human service practitioners about providing culturally competent services to better serve the rapidly growing Chinese immigrant communities.