Maternal mental health, education, acculturation, and social support as predictors of the parenting of Asian American and Asian immigrant mothers

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Currently 5% of the American population is of Asian descent, and Asian families are among the fastest growing groups of immigrant families in the United States. However, the family science literature has few studies of the parenting practices of Asian American and Asian immigrant mothers, including factors that may contribute to differences in the way these parents are raising their children. To address this gap, the current study used an ecological/risk and resiliency framework to examine factors that may predict the parenting involvement, parenting practices, and parenting aggravation of mothers from Asian heritage. Specifically, this study examined the role of three potential protective factors--maternal education, acculturation, and social support--and one potential risk factor, maternal depressive symptoms, in predicting mothers' expectations for their children's academic achievement, involvement in children's home and school activities, provision of cognitive stimulation and emotional support, use of harsh discipline, and aggravation in the parenting role. This study employed secondary data analysis using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, Third Grade Database. The sample included 462 mothers of Asian descent who were born in the United States or foreign countries, and who had a third grade child. Mothers were interviewed by telephone or in person. Multiple regression analyses examined the role of maternal depression, education, acculturation, and social support in predicting the seven measures of parenting. Findings revealed that more depressive symptoms were predictive of greater parenting aggravation and lower emotional support for the child. Higher maternal education was linked to higher academic expectations and greater cognitive stimulation of the child, as well greater family involvement in school activities. One measure of acculturation, mother's use of English in the home, was associated with greater school involvement, lower use of harsh discipline, and less parenting aggravation. Finally, social support emerged as one of the strongest predictors of parenting behavior, and was related to more involvement in home and school activities, more cognitive stimulation and emotional support, and less use of harsh discipline. Implications of the findings for fostering positive parenting among mothers of Asian heritage are discussed.