Exploration of the Relationships between new Immigrants' Children and Different Creativities: The Mediating Role of Cultural Distance

Ping Hsun Tsai, Te Wei Chiu, Yu Lin Chang, Jen Ho Chang, Hsueh Chih Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In recent years, the number of new immigrants' children has been increasing. Recent research suggested that the number of children from bicultural families in Taiwan increases year by year (Ministry of Education, 2019); especially for middle school students. According to the Ministry of Education, the proportion of children of new residents in the middle school education settings has exceeded 10% (Ministry of Education in Taiwan, 2019). Past studies consistently revealed that the new immigrants' children had lower academic performance than Han's children. However, they had better creative performance due to their multicultural environment. For example, Chen (2010-2011) and Chang et al. (2014) found that middle school students from new immigrant families have a stable advantage in creative performance. This result also supports the argument that multiculturalism promotes creativity. However, some issues need to be clarified. First, these studies mostly regarded the new residents of different ethnic groups as the same group. They did not classify them according to regional culture, nor did they consider the impact of differences in their cultural distance. According to the "experience of social diversity theory" of Goclowska and Crisp (2014), not all multicultural experiences can positively impact individual creativity. Some factors that affect the quality of multicultural experiences need to be considered, such as cultural distance. Cultural distance refers to the degree of value diversity between an individual's two cultures. When the cultural distance is appropriate, the individual will have the opportunity to experience the conflict between the two cultural values and integrate values and bicultural identity. In this study, we used the objective cultural distance established by Hofstede and Bond (1984) and Hofstede et al. (2010) as an indicator of cultural distance. It constructs a database of cultures of various countries by comparing six critical cultural dimensions: Individualism vs. collectivism (IDV), masculinity vs. femininity (MAS), and long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation (LTO), power distance index (PDI), uncertainty avoidance (UAI), and indulgence vs. restraint (IVR). As a standard to measure the cultural differences and value orientations of different countries. Second, in terms of measuring the creative potential of general participants, it can be broadly divided into open-ended divergent thinking tests and closed-ended creative problem-solving. Past studies often used a single creativity index to analogize all creativity performance. However, many studies have shown that different creativity tasks differ in the nature of the tasks (e.g., Wakefield, 1989) and involve different processes (Lin et al., 2012; Lin & Lien, 2013). In summary, these studies did not consider the new immigrants' cultural differences, and most of them only used a single type of creativity assignment as an indicator, resulting in divergent results and unable to reach a consistent and complete conclusion. Thus, in the present study, we distinguished new immigrants students from different cultural distances (Southeast Asian immigrants/China immigrants) and various types of creativity (closed/open-end creativity). In addition, previous studies have shown that students' learning achievements and family social and economic backgrounds are positively associated with creativity (e.g., Dai et al., 2012). To avoid these confounding variables, we also measure and control students' academic performance and family socioeconomic status. Finally, we used 472 middle school students (102 new immigrants: 49 Southeast Asian immigrants/53 China immigrants) to examine the differences of these students in their background variables (family background/academic performance) and different types of creativity (closed/open-end creativity). We expected that cultural distance would be related to greater creativity. The participants' ethnic group (Han children: Both parents are Taiwanese, and new immigrant children: One or more of their parents are from China or Southeast Asia) are used as prediction variables. Participants' closed-end creativity task: Insight problem and open-end creativity task: Divergent thinking task are the criterion variables. In addition, the participants' "parental socioeconomic status," "parental education level," and "academic performance" are control variables. Consistent with past research, the results showed that children from new immigrant backgrounds were inferior to Hans children in family background variables such as parental socioeconomic status and parental education level. However, in terms of academic performance, when we distinguished the children of new residents from different ethnic groups, only Southeast Asian immigrants performed worse. In contrast, China immigrants were closer to Han's children. In terms of creativity, after controlling for background variables, the creative advantages of the two groups of new immigrants' children were only shown in the open-ended creativity task. Southeast Asian immigrants had a better trend in terms of flexibility and originality. China immigrants had the most advantage in originality. In summary, we found that immigrant children's strengths in creativity mainly appear in the performance of open-end creativity, and their advantages are not the same for students from China and Southeast Asian backgrounds. In terms of cultural distance, through the Hofstede objective cultural distance calculation formula, the cultural distance of the new ethnic groups of each nationality was finally calculated. According to the near-far value: Indonesia (43.97), China (55.82), Vietnam (56.49), Thailand (62.67), Malaysia (75.68), Philippines (83.14). Overall, the objective cultural distance of new residents in Southeast Asia (average cultural distance = 64.82) was farther than that of new residents in China (cultural distance = 55.82). This result was also similar to the previous literature. The correlation analysis between cultural distance and the two types of creativity showed that ethnic cultural distance was only positively correlated with open-end creativity, but not related to close-end creativity. In other words, cultural distance is more related to open-end creativity. More importantly, through mediation analysis, we found that cultural distance plays an important role between new immigrant children and open-end creativity. Mediation analyses revealed that cultural distance mediated the influence of new immigrants on open-end creativity (fluency). This result highlighted the influence of cultural background and values on the creative performance of new immigrants' children. This also supports the theory of social experience diversity (Goclowska & Crisp, 2014). In addition, although China immigrants are closer to the Han's children in cultural distance, they still had better originality performance (open-end creativity). Through additional mediation analysis, we also found that the superior performance of language subjects (Chinese and English) contributes to their originality. We propose a possible explanation. China immigrants and the local students are culturally close, especially the common language system, so that their performance in language subjects is the same as that of ordinary students. This also means that for China immigrants, in addition to multicultural experience, the convenience of a common language may also contribute to the advantage of open-end creativity indicators. This study reveals the influence of cultural distance on the creativity of new inhabitant school children and supports the multicultural experience of Goclowska and Crisp (2014). If future research can be based on this, it will be more comprehensive and in-depth on the various psychological value conflicts caused by different cultural distances on new residents and school children and analyze the process and factors of its impact. It will help the creative development of children of all ethnic groups in Taiwan's diverse society and exploring the strength of new residents' children, and enhancing their outstanding performance and motivation. It can also serve as a niche for domestic multicultural education. In conclusion, this research can clarify the relationship between multiculturalism and creativity and make recommendations based on the research results to become the basis for subsequent research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-252
Number of pages18
JournalBulletin of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • closed-ended creativity
  • cultural distance
  • new immigrants' children
  • open-ended creativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploration of the Relationships between new Immigrants' Children and Different Creativities: The Mediating Role of Cultural Distance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this