In both countries, kids who felt connected to their parents, who felt an obligation to their parents and who wanted to please them tended to do better academically.
"Kids who have these high-quality relationships, who feel they can trust their parents and who feel close to their parents, also feel more responsible for their parents," Pomerantz said. "This sense of connection and closeness plays a role in academic achievement."
Also in both countries, researchers found kids tended to become less interested in school over time.
Yet, only for the American kids did the declining interest translate into lower academic engagement, Pomerantz noted.
"Like American children, Chinese children are also losing interest in school, but they keep up their engagement," Pomerantz said. "They don't find school to be super enjoyable as they used to when they were younger, but they are still putting in the effort and the time into studying, making sure they are paying attention, memorizing their school work."
So what's an American parent to do?
In China, the sense of responsibility to the family comes not only from the parents, but the wider culture, so teaching filial piety probably won't work, she said.
Even so, U.S. parents can set high expectations and make sure kids know what those expectations are, she said.
That doesn't mean being your child's best buddy, but being there to teach, guide and set limits as needed.
"The more that parents invest in their children and have positive relationships with them, the more they are creating this sense of reciprocity," she said. "We need to communicate from very early on to our children, 'You are a responsible member of the family. I'm willing to do things for you, but it's not just about me serving you'."
Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said it's not surprising that Chinese stu
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