Does the Chinese construct of guan export to the West?

Sunita Mahtani Stewart, Michael H. Bond, Betsy D. Kennard, L. M. Ho, Riffat Moazam Zaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


This study reverses the usual process of assessing universality by examining whether a construct originating in non-western cultures has functional relevance in the West. The construct of guan or "training" was proposed by Chao (1994) as reflecting important Chinese parenting practices also shared by other Confucian cultures. She proposed that this construct is more relevant to the understanding of outcomes among Asian-American youth than constructs that have been developed in the West, such as "authoritative" parenting. The association among the behaviours incorporated in this construct and other "universal" parenting styles such as parental warmth has not been previously reported. Nor has there been a previous report of the prevalence and perceived desirability of guan behaviours from Western individuals. Participants in the present study were US (N = 118), Hong Kong (N = 171) and Pakistani (N = 98) nursing students. In all three cultures, guan items had adequate internal consistency (Cronbach's alphas ranging from.69 to.76), associated positively with parental warmth (Pearsons' r ranging from.37 to.52), and were seen as attributes of ideal parents. Mothers in all three cultures were perceived as showing more guan than fathers show. The associations between parental guan and the outcomes of perceived health, relationship harmony and life satisfaction were significant for the Asian participants. Tests of guan's functional relevance in the West had equivocal results with weak associations to positive outcomes in the West compared to Asia. However, the differences between cultures did not reach statistical significance. When the cultures were merged, parental training perceptions predicted a significant proportion of the variance in outcomes. Mothers' guan predicted self-esteem in their children, whereas fathers' guan predicted life satisfaction. Although guan may have emerged from a Chinese cultural context, it appears to function similarly in many cultural systems, and may represent the Asian face of authoritative parenting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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