Family involvement varies significantly between cultural barriers.

Do Culture and Lifestyle Affect Parent-Child Relationships?

by Angeliki Coconi

In a world as diverse as this one, cultural differences play a huge part in how members of a family get along… in the United States, the chances are you’re going to find a whole range of culturally different families just living in the same neighborhood! And cultural differences aren’t just evident between American citizens and immigrants. The same differences also affect parent-child relationships between European-Americans, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Different Types of Discipline

Based on research carried out by Laurence Steinberg, discipline really does vary in culturally different households. Ethnic minorities are seen to be more “my way or the highway” authoritarian than their Caucasian neighbors, while white families are generally more authoritative. Though these two words sound pretty similar, the difference is simple -- authoritarian parents are demanding but unresponsive to their kids, while authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. What does this mean? Well, an authoritarian parent might say, “Go to bed now or you’re grounded for two weeks.” The authoritative parent will take an approach more like, “Don’t you think it’s getting late?” holding onto rules but sympathizing with their little one’s feelings. The more responsive and approachable you are as a parent, the higher the kid’s self-esteem is likely to be. Steinberg also found that the kids with an authoritative style of parenting generally benefit more socially and academically.

Independence vs. Interdependence

This difference is especially obvious between Caucasian families and Asian families. According to research carried out by Wang and Leichtman, while white parents will generally try to raise their little one with the importance of independence in mind, teaching the little monkey how to express himself as an individual and do things by himself, Asian families nurture with interdependence in mind -- group solidarity and family harmony -- discouraging the idea that being independent and unique is the main thing to achieve in life. Rather, they should do what is best for the family.

Parental Involvement and Expectations

This plays back to the point on independence. Research has shown that ethnic families -- Asian families in particular -- tend to be more academically involved, while Caucasian families are more emotionally involved. From an early age, white children are more likely to hear, “What do you want to do?” while certain ethnic kids will hear “Now you are going to do that.” This is all to do with expectations -- Caucasian families expect their children to gain more and more independence as they go along -- even if it saddens them when their little boy rejects all their advice by the time the teenage years kick in! Other cultures gear their children more toward a certain goal that they deem correct, and for this reason have certain expectations of them, which they will often stick to.


Different cultures in America play a huge part in how children are raised all over the country. It’s interesting to uncover these differences that stem from years and years of tradition and lifestyle differences. From extremely early on, parents influence their children in so many different ways, and differing parenting styles will determine a great deal within the parent-child relationship.

About the Author

Angeliki Coconi started writing in 1999 with the theater comedy "Loop," produced in Athens. In 2001 she wrote and produced another comedy, "Modern Cinderella." In 2006 she was awarded a Master of Science in literature from the University of Edinburgh. In 2009 Coconi obtained the Postgraduate Certificate in Screenwriting from Napier University of Edinburgh.

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