The Success of Taiwanese Fathers in Guiding Adolescents

Article excerpt

The expectation of fathers is being transformed in many countries (Baldwin, Faulkner, Hecht, & Lindsley, 2006). A generation ago, fathers were referred to as "forgotten contributors to child development" (Lamb, 1975). Today, however, expectations of North American fathers have changed from aloof breadwinner to the current view of a highly involved co-parent (Hofferth, 2003a). Throughout this evolution, the literature about fathering has focused mainly on involvement with younger children (Fagan, 2000; Roggman, 2004). Studies about fathers of adolescents are less common and emphasize coping issues like disagreement, autonomy, and quality of the parent-adolescent relationship (McGue, Elkins, Walden, & Iacono, 2005). As the number of dual income families in the United States continues to rise, the role of fathers in parenting practices has increased (Parke, 2002; Tamis-Le Monda & Cabrera, 2002). Generally, the growth of obligation has meant more participation in child guidance and led to a greater sense of satisfaction (Sciafani, 2004). Consequently, more attention needs to be paid to assessing father involvement and identifying his parenting competencies (Strom, Beckert, Strom, & Griswold, 2002; Strom, Amukamara, Strom, Beckert, Strom, & Griswold, 2001).

Cultural differences in paternal competencies are often influenced by economic characteristics and neighborhood contexts (Hofferth, Pleck, Stueve, Bianchi, & Sayer, 2002). However, when compared to mothers, fathers tend to exhibit distinct interaction styles that could influence generational impressions of competency in a wide range of cultures across the world (Shek, 2000). Although differences in father-adolescent interaction exist between cultures, more difference is usually evident within cultural groups (Beckert, Strom, & Strom, 2006). As world economics transform into global markets, distinct cultural traditions of a father's role are brought into question. The pattern of the modern father in the United States has impacted fathers of different ethnic backgrounds within the country (Hofferth, 2003b; Strom, Amukamara, Strom, Beckert, Strom, & Griswold, 2001). Other technologically advanced countries may be experiencing similar transitions (Baker & Le Tendre, 2005; Karraker & Grochowski, 2006).

Taiwan offers a unique opportunity to see the accelerated shifting of family roles. Taiwan has successfully transitioned from an agrarian, labor intensive economy of a generation ago, to a leading global market for information and technology today. Even with the emphasis on economic success, the family continues to be the most significant community organization in Taiwan (Law, 2002). The melding of economic growth and traditional families in Taiwanese culture has necessitated some drastic changes in many Chinese traditions. Within one decade, per capita income in Taiwan has doubled, with much of the new wealth attributed to approval of employment opportunities for women. In a single generation, the average family number declined from six children to the current norm of two children (Chien, 2003).

Traditional family values such as parental authority are being preserved in Taiwan (Chen & Lester, 2002). However, sweeping social, educational, and political changes may be altering how parents discharge this authority. In the past, fathers were characterized as strict and harsh, while mothers were seen as kind and responsive (Chao, 2000; Shek, 2000). To categorically describe Taiwanese fathers' parenting styles as "restrictive" or "controlling" falls short of the reality. (Lee & Sun, 1995). Specific aspects of restriction, control, and authority in Taiwanese parenting may vary (Shek, 2006). Empirical research has not identified the factors which contribute to individual differences among Taiwanese parents, but anecdotal evidence suggests that Taiwanese fathers could benefit from assuming a more significant role in guiding their children (Chen & Lester, 2002). …