Impacts of Korean Fathers' Attachment and Parenting Behavior on Their Children's Social Competence

Article excerpt

Social competence is important for mental health, personal adjustment, and both social and academic success in childhood through to early adulthood (Boyum & Parke, 1995; Mendes, McDermott, & Fantuzzo, 2002). It plays a major role in what makes young children good citizens (Pruett, 2000). Children who do not establish appropriate social skills in early childhood may show the patterns of negative social competence that signal early potential risk for more chronic adjustment problems (von Klitzing, Stadelmann, & Perren, 2007). Given the growing number of young children in Korea, unfortunately, undergoing clinical treatment for difficulties in forming relationships with other people (Choi, Park, Park, & Shin, 2002), there is a need to investigate the significant factors that contribute to the development of Korean children's social skills.

Notwithstanding the growing recognition that children's social competence is best understood within the ecology of the family relationship (Anthony et al., 2005; Belsky, 1984; Parke et al., 2002), little attention has been paid to child-father dyads. Numerous researchers have investigated the variables related to mothers and how child-mother relationships affect children's social competence. In contrast, since there have been few studies on Korean father-related variables, child-father dyads are still poorly understood. Through their meta-analysis research, Rohner and Veneziano (2001) concluded that the father's influence on children's social competence is as great as, and occasionally, even greater than the mother's influence. Therefore, more research is essential for an in-depth understanding of Korean fathers' impact on their children's social competence. With awareness of the importance of fathers' influence and a lack of father-related research in Korea, our aim in this study was to examine whether Korean fathers' childhood attachment representations of their parents and their own parenting behavior significantly impact the social competence of five-year-old children, set to expand their social world as primary school students, and whether this impact would be affected by children's gender.

Korean fathers were traditionally distant breadwinners who shifted the responsibilities of child rearing to their full-time homemaker-wives. However, as the Korean economy has developed and society has a greater need for women to participate in the labor force, a growing number of married women have become employed (47.3% in 1998 to 54.3% in 2006, Korean Ministry of Labor, 2007). Mothers' work-related absences often result in the father playing a bigger role in his children's lives (Shaffer, 2008). The changes in the family structure, from an extended to a nuclear family and from a single- to dual-earner family, have transformed the traditional parents' roles. Moreover, the emergence of new social expectations regarding nurturant fathers has led Korean fathers to participate in parenting more than before (Chung, 2006; Lee, 2007). Unfortunately, in contrast to the reality in Korea, there are still some obstacles, such as conservative working environments or the patriarchal point of view embedded in a certain group of men, that prevent more paternal participation in parenting. In spite of these obstacles, social trends are toward fathers' roles becoming nurturing. Therefore, it is timely to conduct an empirical study showing the importance of fathers' impact on children's social competence, thus providing a meaningful basis for understanding child-father dyads in Korea.

Fathers are vital, but often overlooked, members of the family, who play a qualitatively independent role relative to mothers' role in the development of their children's social skills (Cummings, Schermerhorn, Keller, & Davies, 2008; Lamb & Tamis-LeMonda, 2004; Rohner & Veneziano, 2001; Saracho & Spodek, 2008). Paquette (2004) proposes that fathers have a significant influence on children's socialization, since when children receive stimulation for openness to the outside world from fathers it is primarily through physical play. …