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Subjective well-being among New Zealand Chinese and New Zealand Europeans: Does intergenerational communication matter? James H. Liu and Susan Gee Victoria.

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Presentation on theme: "Subjective well-being among New Zealand Chinese and New Zealand Europeans: Does intergenerational communication matter? James H. Liu and Susan Gee Victoria."— Presentation transcript:

1 Subjective well-being among New Zealand Chinese and New Zealand Europeans: Does intergenerational communication matter? James H. Liu and Susan Gee Victoria University of Wellington Sik-hung Ng City University of Hong Kong

2 Acculturation and Adaptation While much of cross-cultural psychology has emphasized cultural differences, researchers on acculturation have focused on the global movement of peoples across cultural boundaries and the psychological process of adaptation. This literature tends to emphasize cultural hybridity (merging of aspects of two cultures) rather than differentiation, and has found that bicultural self- construal is typical among immigrant populations.

3 Increasing Asian (Chinese) Population in New Zealand In New Zealand (NZ), the most rapidly growing ethnic group is Asian, most particularly Chinese. Chinese now constitute about 2.5% of NZ’s population of 4 million. Many of these are new immigrants who have arrived in the last 10 years and live mainly in the cities of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. This has been a sustained trend in NZ demographics.

4 Focus on Life Satisfaction/SWB Because many of these are new migrants, issues associated with aging have been under-researched. Here, we will focus on life satisfaction (or the subjective well- being-- SWB) of New Zealand Chinese and Europeans aged

5 Culturally realized pathways to SWB? Our research question is to ask whether a single universal model of life satisfaction is sufficient to describe relationships among variables in these two ethnic groups, or whether “cultural selfways” require alternative models of life satisfaction for ethnic subpopulations in a single nation.

6 Universal and Culture Specific Predictors of LS/SWB The international literature suggests that health and economic hardship (not wealth per se, but lack thereof) are cross-cultural predictors of SWB/LS. Social relations are also important, but unlike health and hardship, this factor can be operationalized in a variety of ways and could have culture specific effects.

7 Chinese Cultural Expectations for Intergenerational Communications Chinese and Europeans may hold different expectations regarding communication among family members, especially concerning elderly parent or grandparent. Filial piety obligations and responsibility form the core of a strong commitment relationship for Chinese, that should be maintained regardless of cost. For intergenerational relationships among Chinese living in Western societies, part of the cost may be communication non-accommodation, with different values and practices across generations.

8 Western Expectations for Intergenerational Communication Among Westerners, by contrast, relationships with even close kin have a voluntary component, and so amount of contact with elderly family could be reduced if there is a substantial failure to communicate in a mutually satisfactory manner. (Even in Taiwan, data show that elderly parents prefer to live by themselves rather than with their adult children).

9 Cultural pathways for intergenerational commuication In traditional Chinese culture, accommodation is not necessarily the norm for intergenerational communication. Rather, educating and correcting their children is a lifelong project for Chinese parents. These expectations will influence SWB. We hypothesize that communication non- accommodation plays different roles for NZ Chinese compared to NZ Europeans.

10 Hypotheses HYP 1. The experience of communication non- accommodation is higher among NZ Chinese than NZ Europeans. HYP 2. Intergenerational communication with elderly family is perceived more as a obligation rather than as a desire among NZ Chinese compared to NZ Europeans HYP 3. Communication non-accommodation is negatively related SWB and desire for contact among NZ Europeans, but not NZ Chinese

11 Study 1. Intergenerational communication among the young and middle-Aged Characteristics of the Sample (Family members): NZ Europeans: 298, 137 young (avg age=17), 161 middle-aged (avg age=40), Mean residency=30 years NZ Chinese: 286, 136 young (avg age=17), 150 middle-aged (avg age=47) Mean residency= 18 years; 79% completely fluent in English, 32% in Chinese; 83% conversant in both languages.

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15 Intergenerational communication with elderly family for NZ Europeans

16 Intergenerational communication with elderly family for NZ Chinese

17 SUMMARY STUDY 1  Frequency of conversation with older family is the same in the 2 groups  Young and Middle-aged NZ Europeans ENJOY conversation with their older family more than NZ Chinese  NZ Chinese feel that it is their duty and responsibility to converse with older family more than NZ Europeans  NZ Chinese not as sensitive to non-accommodation on the part of older family (they endure or ignore these)  NZ Europeans reciprocated non-accommodation on the part of older family with avoidance reduced happiness  Both groups enjoy positive feedback from the elders

18 Study 2: Intergenerational Communication and well-being among middle-aged and older NZ Europeans and Chinese

19 Measuring Life Satisfaction/SWB Life Satisfaction Items (from James & Davies, 1986 and WHOQOL, 1998) These are the best years of my life The things I do are as interesting to me as they ever were Compared to other people, I get down in the dumps too often (r) I would not change my past life, even if I could How would you rate your quality of life? How often do you have negative feelings such as feeling down, despair, anxiety, depression? (r) Cronbach’s Alpha on Z-scores=.65

20 Measures of Hardship and Health Hardship (8 items, NZ Dept Social Welfare): cold in winter to keep heating bill down, made do without meat or main food item, wear worn out clothing when going out, accommodation run down, Alpha=.75 Health (7 items, WHOQOL,1998): physical pain, need for medical treatment, enough energy, ability to work and function in everyday life, able to get around, satisfied with sleep, etc., Alpha=.80

21 Measures of Interaction with Adult Children Accommodation (Alpha=.85): They will listen when I have a problem; They make me feel loved and care for. Non-accommodation (Alpha=.75): They can get on my nerves; We don’t understand each other; They can be too demanding Time for Interaction (Alpha=.69): I would like to spend more time together, but they are busy; I would like to spend more time together, but I am busy. Control of Time (Alpha=.90): We have an equal say in arranging when visits of time spent together will take place; We have an equal say in determining length of visits or time spent together; I know ahead of time when visits or time spent together will occur.

22 Communication with Adult Children by Older and Middle Aged NZ Chinese and Europeans

23 LS/SWB for Older and Middle Aged NZ Chinese and Europeans

24 Regression on LS/SWB for NZ Europeans

25 Regression on LS/SWB for NZ Chinese

26 Discussion While health and hardship were by far the strongest predictors of SWB, lending support for a universal model, different experiences of intergenerational communication affected SWB, in different ways for NZ Chinese and Europeans, even after controlling for many powerful variables. Chinese (other East Asians) treat interactions with family as an obligation and a responsibility. Even though they report more non-accommodation with family members, this does not affect their SWB. By contrast NZ Europeans reported less non- accommodation, but this reduced their SWB. Room for cultural selfways in a universal model


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