Decisions about child rearing practices: A study of Asian Indian parents in the U.S.

Date of Completion

January 2006


Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




Parents continuously make numerous decisions about child rearing while raising their children. In making these decisions the parents' culture serves as a guiding framework. However, when parents immigrate from one culture to another, they have to negotiate the conflicting demands and values of the two cultures when making decisions about child rearing. This study investigated the cultural dilemmas that the Asian Indian immigrant parents face while raising their children in the U.S. Specifically, the study focused on the decision making processes of these parents as they resolve the dilemmas raised by competing expectations between their traditional culture of origin and the host Western culture concerning child rearing practices of discipline, sleep arrangements and regulation, feeding, baby massage, toilet training, day care arrangements, religious rituals, father participation, and role of the extended family. Participants in the study were first generation Indian parents of 30 preschool/kindergarten children. They were interviewed with help of a semi-structured interview schedule focusing on decision making. The parents also separately completed standardized measures of acculturation, parenting stress, and family support. Qualitative analysis of the interviews revealed the culturally relevant themes underlying the parents' decisions. There were certain issues for which parents completely adhered to their Indian roots. These included sleep arrangements (parents favor cosleeping), hand-feeding the older child, massaging the infant, role of grandparents, and the day care arrangements. In contrast, the issues for which the parents seemed to adopt the American thought were age of toilet training (including the use of diapers), father participation in child care beginning right from the child-birth, and medical issues. Discipline and socialization of the child are the two areas where parents were attempting to strike a balance between the two ideologies. Although no significant correlations were found between acculturation, parental stress and social support the themes in the interviews revealed the connections between the decision-making, stress and social support experienced by the parents. Implications of these findings for parent education programs have been discussed. ^