“The Role of Peer Social Network and Parental Involvement in Predicting Chinese Immigrant Children’s Socioemotional Adjustment”
Chinese immigrants must raise their children in a host culture with priorities and values that heavily contrast with their native culture. Moreover, Chinese immigrant parents may be less familiar with American culture and the social norms for initiating opportunities for their children’s social interaction with others. These challenges might be reflected in the degree to which parents initiate or monitor social interaction opportunities for their children, as well as what kinds of interactions they promote, which could have detrimental effects on their children’s social and emotional development. Better understanding of the social networks of Chinese immigrant children and the role that parents play can optimize such parenting practices and consequently children’s socioemotional development. This study will examine the social relationship networks of three to six year-old Chinese immigrant children in Maryland. Specifically, this research will examine: (1) the characteristics of Chinese immigrant pre-schoolers’ social networks outside of the school setting (e.g., size, demographic composition), (2) how involved parents are in initiating and monitoring their children’s play dates with peers, and (3) the associations between (a) the characteristics of children’s social networks and (b) their parents’ involvement in their social networks with (c) children’s socioemotional adjustment at school.
How did you find your mentor for your research project?
After my first semester at UMBC, I knew I wanted to get involved in research. I went to the Psychology department’s website and read every faculty members page to see whose research appealed to me. I was really interested in Dr. Charissa Cheah’s work so I e-mailed her and the next thing I knew, I was scheduled for an interview.
How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
Both of my parents immigrated to the United States, and growing up, I noticed a lot of differences between myself and other kids at school, especially how our parents approached our social lives. For instance, it really upset the 10-year-old me that I could not sleep over at my friends’ houses! For my project, I wanted to look at common characteristics in Chinese immigrant children’s social networks, how involved parents are when it comes to their children’s play dates, and how those two things are associated.
Is this your first independent research project?
How much time do you put into research?
I registered for 2 credits last semester, so I was required to complete 90 hours of lab work by the end of the semester—about 6 hours a week. I was in the lab about 4 hours during the week, though that changed from week to week depending on what assignments I was working on. I also went to a lot of home visits, which is when we actually collect our data. Those would take up 3-5 hours at a time on Saturday or Sunday mornings or afternoons. Now that I’m working on my own independent research in addition to the things I do as a research assistant, I know I’m going to need to put in extra time for my project.
Was the application difficult to do?
When I first sat down to look at the application, I was pretty overwhelmed and I had no idea where to start. I typed up some of my answers, hoping I at least somewhat sounded like I knew what I was talking about, and sent it to Dr. Cheah. I was pretty far off the mark, and that first draft was full of red marks and comments! Thankfully, Dr. Cheah gave me a lot of guidance so I was able to better understand what I needed to convey. After that, it was just a matter of forcing myself to sit down and work on it, work on it, and work on it some more. I spent a lot of time staring at my computer, wanting to bang my head on the table, but it really does not seem that bad when I look back. Writing is a huge part of research and is something that (in my experience) never gets easier, but the process flows more smoothly each time you do it. Plus, the relief you feel when you finish makes it all worth it!
How much did your mentor help you with the application?
When I went to Dr. Cheah with my project proposal, it was big and broad and vague and unsure. With her help, I was able to narrow it all down into something manageable. She talked me through pulling this idea from out of the clouds down into a project I could actually complete, which was amazing. Dr. Cheah helped me with the application itself by untangling this huge jumble of words I wrote and magically turning it into something coherent. Even though I completed the application myself, her guidance made a world of a difference.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
There is a difference between doing the bare minimum and actually getting involved. If you want to get involved, it takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but if you enjoy it, even the tedious parts can be fun. Also, be brave and volunteer for opportunities! I was always the quiet student in class, but my experience became a million times better when I stepped out of my comfort zone.