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Cultural Universality and Differences in Asian Students' Self ...

Cultural Universality and Differences in Asian Students' Self ...

Cultural Universality and Differences in Asian Students' Self

Cultural Universality and Differences in Asian Students’ Self-Concept Kit Tai Hau The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Since current measures and models of the self-concept have been developed primarily in Western cultural contexts, they have been criticized as being culturally bound up with the ideology of individualism and therefore potentially inappropriate for application to collectivist cultures. This article provides a comprehensive review of self-concept research with Asian students, in particularly Chinese students, to examine whether there are cultural differences in the hierarchical multidimensional factorial structure, the causal ordering between achievement and self-concept, the internal-external frame of reference model, and the big-fish-little-pond effect. The results with Asian students show that, in general, the Westerndeveloped theories are cross-culturally relevant and universally applicable to Asian students. For school-age children, self-concept is often considered one of the most important indicators of their academic achievement and social development. High self-concept is desirable not only because it is a positive outcome in and of itself, but also because it serves as an important mediator in enhancing other positive psychological variables and academic achievements (e.g., see review Marsh, Martin, & Hau, 2006). Among various cross-cultural motivational studies, research on Asian students has always been popular because of their outstanding performance in international comparisons (e.g., PISA, TIMSS; Leung, 2002; Stevenson & Lee, 1996; Sue & Okazaki, 1990). From this perspective, Asian students would be expected to have a more favorable self-concept than their Western counterparts. From the perspective of collectivist Asian culture, however, the Asian students might be expected to be humble and more socially oriented, leading them to hold a less favorable self-concept than their achievement level would predict. This discrepancy and the major relationships between self-concept and other important psychological constructs will be examined in this article. Empirical studies on the factorial structure, multidimensionality, causal-ordering, internal-external frame of reference, big-fish-littlepond effects, and other characteristics of the self-concept construct in Asian cultures are reviewed and compared to Western findings. This review extensively covers relevant self-concept studies on Asian and in particular Chinese participants over the last fifteen years. We include studies on closely associated and sometimes interchangeably-used achievement-related constructs such as selfefficacy and self-esteem, but we exclude research on self-construals like cultural identity and sexrole identity. In this review, we concentrate on studies using children and students as participants and cover research involving a diversity of research instruments and methodologies. Cultural Framework The study of students’ achievement and their motivation behavior in different cultural and ethnic groups has frequently been of great interest (e.g., Elliott & Bempechat, 2002; Hau & Ho, in press). The importance of such research, as pointed out by Pintrich (2003), is that the applicability–or lack thereof–of the existing motivation theories to different ethnic groups and cultures provides the chance to revise, accommodate, and expand the theories to make them more robust and more comprehensive. In the specific case of the self-concept, current measures and theoretical models of the self-concept have been developed primarily in Western cultural contexts, and they have been criticized as being culturally bound up with the ideology of individualism and therefore inappropriate for applying to people in a collective culture (e.g., Yang, 1991).

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