Chinese Mothers and Adolescents’ Views of Authority and Autonomy: A Study of Parent–Adolescent Conflict in Urban and Rural China


  • This research was conducted as the author’s dissertation study at the University of California at Berkeley, and was supported by a University of California Regents Graduate Fellowship to the author. I thank Elliot Turiel, Susan Holloway, and Kaiping Peng for their helpful advice. I am grateful to the participating mothers and adolescents who took time from their busy lives to share with me their views about daily parent–adolescent conflict. I thank Xingyu Pan and Yijie Wang who helped me facilitate the data collection. I also thank Alona Roded for her input on the data analysis.

concerning this article should be addressed to Min Chen-Gaddini, Child and Adolescent Development Department, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA 95192. Electronic mail may be sent to


Eighty-five dyads of eighth-grade adolescents (mean age = 14.15 years, SD = 0.39) and their mothers in China (30 dyads from urban one-child families, 27 from urban multiple-children families, and 28 from rural multiple-children families) were interviewed individually. They described daily parent–adolescent conflicts, justified their perspectives on disputes, and evaluated conflict resolutions. The results indicated that across urban and rural areas, for both one-child and multiple-children families, adolescents differed significantly from their mothers in their views of parental authority and individual autonomy. The results also showed several regional differences, pointing to the importance of considering the specific context in which conflicts occur.