Abstract: Parental Training and Children's Non-Cognitive Skills: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Among Chinese Immigrant Parents (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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242P Parental Training and Children's Non-Cognitive Skills: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Among Chinese Immigrant Parents

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Fuhua Zhai, Ph.D., Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Qin Gao, Ph.D., Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose:

Non-cognitive skills have been demonstrated as critical in children's development and predictive of outcomes through childhood to adulthood. Besides school environment, the important role of parenting, especially that of immigrant parents, in the development of children's non-cognitive skills has received increasing attention in recent years. Largely due to the disruptions in their social support network as well as the stress and struggles in their own life, many immigrant parents rely on their traditional practices of child discipline.

As an 8-week social group model that has been designed and implemented among immigrant parents, Operation Parenting provides culturally enriched support to help parents improve their parenting skills and coping with the behavioral issues of their children. This study examines the impact of Operation Parenting on parents' parenting skills and children' non-cognitive skills, and whether the improvement in children's non-cognitive skills, if any, can be attributed to the improvement in parents' parenting practices.


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 group to participate in the upcoming Operation Parenting groups or to the control group to be on the waiting list for the next Operation Parenting groups after data collection for this study. Pre- and post-test data were collected in both intervention and control groups. There were 116 parents who had non-missing data on outcome measures.

The outcome measures on parents' parenting skills include positive parenting (i.e., self-efficacy and nurturance) and harsh parenting (i.e., psychological aggression, physical assault, and neglect). Children's non-cognitive skills are measured by social-emotional and behavioral outcomes, including antisocial behaviors, anxiety/depression, immature/dependency, and peer conflict. OLS regressions are conducted, controlling for parent, child, and household characteristics. A mediation analysis is further conducted to examine whether the improvement in children's social-emotional and behavioral outcomes can be attributed to the improvement in parents' parenting skills.


Preliminary results show that, compared to parents in the control group, parents in Operation Parenting have significantly higher parental self-efficacy and nurturance and lower harsh parenting. Children of parents in the intervention group also have significantly lower antisocial behaviors and anxiety/depression compared to children of parents in the control group. A mediation analysis shows that approximately 20% of the reduction in children's antisocial behaviors and anxiety/depression measures can be attributed to the reduction in parents’ use of harsh parenting.

Conclusions and Implications:

As an RCT, this study provides rigorous evidence on improving children's non-cognitive skills through a parental training program among Chinese immigrant parents in the U.S. Given that only parents but not children participated in Operation Parenting, the finding from a mediation analysis suggests that parenting skills and practices, which can be improved through parenting training programs, are key rather than peripheral to their children's non-cognitive development. The findings can inform researchers, social workers, and other human service practitioners about providing culturally competent services to better serve the rapidly growing immigrant communities.