A Study of Parenting Values, Philosophies, and 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.