Chinese Parental Involvement and Adolescent Learning Motivation and Subjective Well-Being: More is not Always Better

Abstract

Parental involvement in education has been positively associated with children’s academic development and well-being, but whether high parental involvement, regardless of its form, always yields desirable results in adolescent development remains debatable. The purpose of this study was to investigate the integral contributions of parental involvement, autonomy support, and psychological control in predicting adolescent learning motivation (i.e., achievement goals and academic engagement) and subjective well-being (SWB) by implementing a person-centered approach. Participants included 3378 Chinese adolescents (Mage = 15.60, SD = 1.55; 1513 boys), who completed a survey. Results revealed four parenting profiles: high control‒low involvement (Profile 1; 7.55%), moderate all (Profile 2; 50.65%), high all (Profile 3; 4.00%), and high autonomy support–moderate involvement (Profile 4; 37.80%). Adolescents in Profile 4 were more adaptive, more engaged, and happier than those in other profiles; and those in Profile 1 were more maladaptive, a condition relating to poorer development. Although adolescents in Profile 3 also perceived both high involvement and autonomy support from parents, they actually exhibited levels of learning motivation and SWB similar to those in Profile 2 and experienced higher performance-avoidance goals, negative affect, and lower life satisfaction relative to Profile 4. Findings suggest that more perceived parental involvement is not always better because the effectiveness of involvement partly depends on the approach that parents take.

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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

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RL conceived of the study, participated in its design, interpretation of the data and coordination, drafted and revised the manuscript. MY participated in the design and coordination, helped to draft the manuscript, and participated further revision. HL and YC participated in its design, helped to analysis the data and draft and revise the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Meilin Yao.

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Li, R., Yao, M., Liu, H. et al. Chinese Parental Involvement and Adolescent Learning Motivation and Subjective Well-Being: More is not Always Better. J Happiness Stud 21, 2527–2555 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00192-w

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Keywords

  • Parental involvement
  • Autonomy support
  • Psychological control
  • Achievement goal
  • Subjective well-being