The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

A Study of Parenting Values, Philosophies, and Strategies Among Korean-Immigrant Parents

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 9:00 AM
Executive Center 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Junghee Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
William Donlan, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Lew Bank, PhD, Senior Scientist, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Jangmin Kim, BSW, Student-Master's, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Hyuny Clark-Shim, BA, Student-Master's, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Purpose: For immigrant parents, parenting can become challenging due to language related difficulties and differential acculturation patterns with children. Koreans in the U.S. are perceived as a successful immigrant group and receive less attention from social work researchers and practitioners, although there is growing concern about high suicide rates and mental heath needs among Korean-Americans. In order to improve culturally relevant parenting supports for Korean immigrants, this study is part of a larger effort to modify an evidence-based parent management training curriculum to be culturally/linguistically relevant for use with Asian Americans. This study seeks to identify how Korean values/philosophies are manifested in parenting strategies among Korean-immigrant parents.

Method: In summer 2011 at a metropolitan area in Northwestern U.S., a total of 30 focus group participants were recruited using announcements in local newspapers and radio, brochures in Korean markets, and promotion efforts by Korean-speaking community health workers at local Asian community service centers. Focus group discussions averaged 120 minutes and were audio/video recorded. In order to best address participant acculturation status, four separate focus groups were implemented including English- vs. Korean-speaking immigrant mothers and fathers. Recordings were transcribed and inductively analyzed by bilingual/bicultural research team members. Using intensive, consensually driven data analysis processes, thematic patterns emerged from each group discussion.

Result: Contrasting orientations on education as fun vs. achievement were identified; among less acculturated Korean parents, educational achievement is primarily viewed as an indicator of current and future status, which leads to conflict between parents and children. Korean culture places less value on encouraging critical thinking and questioning of authority in children, and more on memorization, which implies less questioning and more just following instructions from authority figures including parents. Thus, children are expected to demonstrate high levels of respect in interactions with parents. Korean parents often confront the issue of how much freedom they should allow their children and how much to allow children to challenge parental rules in this new cultural setting that gives children more autonomy. Korean parental disciplinary practices appear to be more authoritarian and harsh, but this can vary depending on age of child, generation of parent, and gender interaction. Korean-immigrant parents perceive that in U.S. culture praise is excessively and indiscriminately given to children, which can lead to conflict with their children who may anticipate more praise as they have experienced in classrooms and non-immigrant family settings. In traditional Korean culture, fathers tend not to actively participate in parenting. Korean-immigrant mothers, frustrated with their questioning children, often ask fathers’ active involvement in negatively disciplining children; and fathers feel pressured to be the disciplinarian.

Discussion: Efforts to improve culturally relevant parenting supports for Korean immigrants call for greater understanding of Korean values/philosophies, which play significant roles in parenting and parenting strategies. With increased understanding of parental strategies stemming from Korean culture and the complexity of immigrant family lives in the U.S., community-based efforts to develop effective strategies that support Korean-immigrant parents and mitigate parental and youth stressors can provide important support for these immigrant families.