chapter  6
Control in Context
Pages 13

The view that autonomy supportive rather than controlling parenting is “effective” is certainly at odds with the current zeitgeist of cultural relativity, which claims that there is no such thing as universally “good” parenting but rather that good parenting depends on the culture. A culturally relative position suggests that groups have different values and that it is impossible to tell what is going to be effective in families without knowing the specific values of a culture. In addressing this position, a first question pertains to whether the same types of parenting-for example, autonomy supportive or authoritative-have the same effects in different cultural groups. A second related issue with which researchers have grappled is whether the dimension itself-say, that of autonomy support-is the same in different cultural contexts. For example, those who are products of culture in the 50 states can typically understand and respond to questions about whether or not they value obedience in children. They can easily express their attitudes toward their roles as the ultimate authorities. Most parents in the United States have opinions regarding whether they believe children should obey parents without question or whether children should be encouraged to express their feelings and points of view. However, some theorists challenge the idea that the American notion of obedience translates into the same concept in Asian cultures (Chao, 1994). In other words, when parents from Asian cultures use the term obedience or endorse questionnaire items on the value of obedience, they may mean something different than when U.S. parents do the same. The idea of the cultural equivalence of concepts is crucial if one is to ask whether the same parenting practices are effective across cultures.