Nickolette Hanzigiannis

Major: Psychology
“A Comparison of Mothers’ Expressions of Warmth Towards their Young Children: Does Culture Matter?”

Nickolette Hanzigiannis

The Asian immigrant population in the United States is growing rapidly. Despite this growth, and the significant role of parents in their children’s adjustment, little research has examined Chinese and Korean immigrant parenting of young children. Parenting warmth has been shown to be associated with positive social-emotional and behavioral outcomes in children. However, cultural differences in parental warmth have been reported.

This study will examine and compare the ways in which warmth is conceptualized and expressed among Korean immigrant, Chinese immigrant, and European American mothers of pre-schoolers through a semi-structured interview. Specifically, the research proposes to examine and compare the three groups of mothers on: (1) their rating of the importance of expressing love and warmth towards their children; (2) their reasons for expressing love and warmth towards their children; and (3) their specific practices of love and warmth towards their children. The project will be the first to use an emic, qualitative approach to capture parental warmth expressions in three different cultures.

How did you find your mentor for your research project?
I had previously worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Dr. Charissa Cheah’s Culture, Child, and Adolescent Development Laboratory for two semesters before conducting this project.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
While exploring parent-child interactions, I decided that I would like to focus on how parents express warmth towards their young children and how these expressions may vary cross-culturally.

Is this your first independent research project?
Yes, this is the first research project of my own.

Do you get course credit for this work?
I received course credit for this work by registering for PSYC 397 and 490.

How much time do you put into it?
I can not put a number on the time I am currently spending working on my project. Research builds on itself. I am constantly finding new literature to familiarize myself with and new tasks to complete to keep my project moving along. If you are interested and passionate about your research topic, you find yourself not counting the time spent working on it.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
My mentor, Charissa Cheah, suggested that I apply for an Undergraduate Research Award. Several students in my lab were current URA scholars at the time, so I also asked them about their experiences.

Was the application difficult to do?
The application was very straightforward with detailed directions about the requirements. The most difficult part was consolidating all of my thoughts into the space allotted.

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
Being an expert in cross-cultural developmental psychology, Dr. Cheah was extremely helpful in suggesting ideas to further explore and in helping me articulate my thoughts.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
Thus far I would say the most challenging part is consolidating the facts while I am writing about my topic. The way parents express warmth can vary greatly and so can the measurements used to capture the construct of warmth. There are endless things I can mention, but I have to continuously redirect myself to be concise and clear.

What was the most unexpected thing?
The most unexpected thing is how different conducting your own research is than anything you do in any other class. It is obviously much more intensive when you have to apply the concepts you have learned.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
Even though this work is different, I am grateful that I took PSYC 331 and 332. I feel that the Psychology major at UMBC has familiarized me with all the concepts I need to know ranging from knowledge of statistics and SPSS software to the differences between academic writing versus professional writing.

What else are you involved in on campus?
I am currently President of the UMBC Equestrian Club and an active member of their IHSA Show team!

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Find a mentor and get started! I feel that a lot of students are afraid of the workload, but what they do not think about is that they are formulating the research questions around topics they are interested in. You become very invested in your work and it can be a lot of fun.

What are your career goals?
I plan to apply to School Psychology programs in Fall 2014.

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