Children's Perceptions and Definitions of Family in China, Ecuador, Turkey, and the United States

Qiu W., Schvaneveldt P. L., ŞAHİN V.

JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE FAMILY STUDIES, vol.44, no.5, pp.641-663, 2013 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 44 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.641-663
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


With rapid economic development and modernization, changes may be occurring among younger generations in regard to their attitudes towards family life and marriage. This research project is a cross-cultural comparison of how the broader social and cultural contexts have impacted the ways children perceive and define family functions, family structure, and roles within families. The sample included a total of 231 children aged 5 to 12 years and their parents from four countries: China, Ecuador, Turkey, and the United States. Mixed methods including qualitative interview questions, dyadic scenarios using dolls as manipulations with children, and a parent questionnaire were utilized for measurement. Regardless of the different social and cultural contexts influencing their lives, children who participated in this study were found to form similar understanding of family functions and parental roles. A universal theme influencing children's perceptions of family was family as an ultimate source of survival, providing shelter, nutrition and protection. Distinct differences were found among the four cultures regarding children's acceptance of traditional and non-traditional family structure and forms. Findings of this study provide important clues about how family-related concepts are being perceived and defined by children from vastly different cultures. In addition, this exploratory study provides a means of understanding culturally based shifts from traditional to diverse attitudes and practices across generations.