Fathering and Children's Sex Role Orientation in Korea

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine variation in aspects of contemporary Korean fathering, such as warmth and involvement (frequency and task share), and its relationship to children's sex role development. One hundred and twenty-nine Korean families (fathers, mothers, and their 11- to 13-year-old children) completed standardized questionnaires addressing childrearing practices, parental involvement, spousal support, and sex role orientations. Statistical analyses of the data revealed that warmth of fathering and father involvement (frequency and task share) were not significantly associated with children's sex role orientations. However, girls' femininity was significantly related to fathers' masculinity.

Over the past three decades, fathers have increasingly been recognized as significant contributors to their children's development. Specifically, fathers' impact on children's sex role development and gender identity has become an important topic (Biller, 1981). Research has highlighted the influence of nurturant and competent fathering on sex role development.

Studies on fathering in Korea are limited and have primarily focused on fathers' role in the cognitive development, emotional development, academic accomplishment, and moral development of children. Little is known about Korean fathering and its influence on children's sex role development. Furthermore, most studies have focused on early childhood (Jeong & Choi, 1995). In general, Korean research has examined children's sex role development using the deficit model (i.e., the impact of father absence). Few studies have investigated the relationship between children's sex role development and fathers' involvement in child-rearing, especially with older children, such as preadolescents and early adolescents.

Sociocultural factors have been identified as important contributors to sex role development (Block, 1973; Maccoby, 1988). The primary socialization agents for children are their parents (Lamb, 1975). In traditional Korean society, parental roles have been based on Confucian philosophy, which offers ethical teachings for human relationships. According to Confucianism, there are "Five Cardinal Relationships: those between ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brothers, and friends. Of these five relationships, the father-son relationship occupies the key position in the social fabric" (Ho, 1987, p. 228).

In Confucian teaching, children are to obey and respect their parents. Yet, filial piety is more imperative for boys than girls. Confucian culture has had a strong influence on sex roles, producing the stern and extroverted male, and the loving, introverted, and submissive female. This has resulted in the development of physical and psychological boundaries between men and women in Confucian societies. The paternal role is basically that of strict, unemotional educator and disciplinarian, while the maternal role is that of nurturer. Thus, there are recognized differences in fathers' and mothers' child-rearing involvement.

Within this cultural context, the present study examined the relationship between fathering and the sex role development of 11- to 13-year-olds in Seoul, Korea. The specific research question was as follows: Is there variation in children's sex role orientations by parents' sex role orientations, father involvement (frequency and task share), and parental warmth?

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Theories on Sex Role Development and the Father's Role

By three years of age, many children have begun to develop a sex role identity. According to Berk (1991), "as soon as basic gender categories are established, children start to sort out what they mean in terms of activities and behavior" (p. 517). Why and how do they develop these differences in sex role identity and attitudes? What is the role of parents in the sex role development of their children? …