"Parenting about Peace": Exploring Taiwanese Parents' and Children's Perceptions in a Shared Political and Sociocultural Context

Article excerpt

This study explored what Taiwanese parents would educate their children about peace and what children retained from parental teaching, as well as children's reported communication with parents about peace. In-depth interviews were conducted with 60 parents and one of their children. Based on the perceptions of children, the most influential learning children received from their parents in peace education is the aspect of negative descriptions of peace (what peace is not). Unique findings suggest that Taiwanese parenting about peace focuses more on teaching children personal cultivation and interpersonal harmony than introducing the ideas of international collaboration or universal rights. The findings suggest that the specific macrosystem of Taiwan may influence how parents educate their children about peace. One important implication for family practitioners is the necessity to take into account the traditional cultural values particular to the group they work with and to connect those to peace education when designing programs.

Key Words: children, parents, peace, peace education, perception.

Wars currently exist in many countries worldwide. Research has shown that war and political violence have many negative effects on the family and family members living with veterans suffering from trauma-related disorders (Isovaara, Arman, & Rehnsfeldt, 2006). Qouta, Punamaki, and El Sarraj (2008) described various war impacts on families, including those with unstable social and parent-child relations, strict, rejecting, and hostile parenting style perceived by children of severe military trauma, and other types of family dysfunction. Numerous empirical studies have also examined negative war effects on the physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of children and on their personal and social identity development (Barber, 2008; Zahr, 1996). Lasser and Adam (2007), in their review article regarding the effect of war on children, noted that the negative consequences of war, including disrupted stability, deleterious health effects, and disorganization of the family and community system, make war the most profound psychosocial Stressor on children and adolescent development. War and political violence can affect children in various ways because of the complexity of the phenomenon (Barber, 2008). Even children outside of a war zone are exposed to war through the media, and children routinely express confusion and negative emotions about war (Deng, 2008; Myers-Bowman, Walker, & Myers- Walls, 2005). It is not enough, however, just to examine war effects on children and apply remedial strategies. A preventative approach that aims at better preparing adults to educate children for a better, more peaceful world needs to be adopted. Mickel, Boyd-White, and Muldrow (2005) indicated that, "in order to achieve peace, intervention that results in the prevention of war and violence must begin at the level where learning and behavioral change occur most often - the family" (p. 30). Oyebamiji and Adekola (2008) also suggested that government and organizations should reequip the family with new knowledge so it is capable of its new role in maintaining peace in society through family life education. Walker, Myers-Bowman, and MyersWalls (2008) reported, however, that there are far fewer online guidelines available for parents to communicate with children about peace than there are for war. As family educators, we are interested in understanding how parents play a role in educating children about peace in family settings. Empirical studies including parent voices on this important issue are very rare. Further investigation could help parents and educators understand how parent messages might be received by their children. Vriens (1999) postulated a balanced concept of peace education, emphasizing the dialectical nature of the educational process, which sees children as both receivers and creators to reach the goal of a peaceful world. …