This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Hoi Shan Cheung (firstname.lastname@example.org) as our member in spotlight. Dr. Cheung is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Division of Social Sciences at Yale-NUS College. She has a long-standing interest in studying how parent-child attachment at various developmental stages may influence children’s social development. Part of her work involves observing parents and children interact in naturalistic settings, and examines how parenting behaviours may have different meanings and correlates in non-Western cultures. Her current research looks at how the quality of parent-child attachment may buffer the effects of bullying and victimisation in school. Other research interests include parents’ use of disciplinary practices and corporal punishment, parent-peer dynamics in adolescence, social stratification and children’s academic self-concept and aspirations, as well as academic stress in childhood.
1) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?
My current research interest on attachment theory and parent-child relationship was cultivated as far back as 2004, when I started working as a Research Officer at the Singapore Children’s Society (SCS), a local non-government organization. During my four-year stint (during which time, I became a parent myself), I was involved in studies on parental discipline, infant attachment, and children’s social and emotional well-being. Few scholars conducted research on these topics in Singapore at that time, and sadly, this is still the case in the present day. Under the tutelage of Professor John Elliott, who was then the Chairman of SCS’s Research Committee, I became increasingly aware of the shortcomings of using research findings from other cultural contexts (notably North America) to guide our policy decisions for children and families in Singapore. I felt that I had to do my part to contribute to the local data pool, so that we could plan programs that are culturally relevant and effective. That motivated me to pursue my postgraduate degree in Developmental Psychology at the National University of Singapore, and Professor Elliott became my thesis advisor.
2) What is your current research project? What makes your excited about it?
In 2016, I was the lead author of a paper in Child Development that described how existing measures of maternal sensitivity may not fully capture the essence of sensitive parenting in the Singaporean context, where parents and children tend not to overtly express their positive emotions towards each other. As a result, a higher degree of maternal sensitivity was found to predict poorer peer relationships in preschool. We speculated that minimizing the emotional component in the assessment of parental sensitivity may be more appropriate in the Singaporean culture, and findings from recent re-coding work seem to tentatively support this hypothesis. We are now working on a manuscript and will be ready to share this new set of results soon. Taken together, these findings highlight the need to be mindful of the applicability of constructs and measures when we conduct cross-cultural research on parenting.
Moving forward, I have now embarked on a new study that looks at children’s experiences with bullying and victimization in school in relation to their attachment representations. I am also planning another mixed-methods study to examine how parenting concepts such as warmth, control and the use of physical punishment are interpreted by parents and children in Singapore.
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