The Effects of Family Resources and Social Support on Family Functioning Style among Korean Immigrant Families in the U.S

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ABSTRACT

The well-being of thefamily and its adequate functioning are essential for the quality of life. This study investigated the effects of family resources and social support on family functioning style among Korean immigrant families in the U.S. Results showed that family resources strongly affected all five domains offamily functioning style including commitment, cohesion, communication, competence, and coping, whereas social support significantly predicted communication and coping. The results of this study remind us of the critical role played by family resources in healthy family functioning of immigrant families.

Family well-being and adequate functioning are essential not only for individual development but also for the overall quality of life. As a continuing preoccupation, many studies have investigated family functioning both theoretically and empirically (e.g., Dunst, Trivette, and Deal,1988; McCubbin and McCubbin, 1988).

Early research on family functioning centered on white, Protestant, middle-class, intact nuclear families, which is considered typical of the dominant culture in the U.S. Over the past decade, research has been extended to other groups. There is much to learn about ethnic minority families in general and Korean immigrant families in particular. Despite the fact that Koreans are one of the fastest growing Asian groups in the United States (Min, 1998), little emphasis has been given to Korean immigrant families. Even if these families are studied, they are typically considered as homogeneous and static units (Uba, 1994). Therefore, discussions of Korean immigrant families have been dominated by the notion of the traditional Asian family, whose functioning is grounded in Confucian principles (Kitano and Daniel, 1995).

Previous research with ethnic minority families has usually relied on two-group studies to testify how "culture" explains dif ference in family process variables between these groups and preferably European Americans. However, it is important to account for diversity within ethnic groups by moving away from a comparative approach. In this study, relationships among family resources, social support, and family functioning style in Korean immigrant families were explored as a way to understand the adaptive patterns of family experiences for this group.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS AND CONCEPTS

Dunst, Trivette, and Deal (1988) defined family functioning style as unique ways of performing both expressive and instrumental family functions. It includes diverse ways of dealing with life events and promoting growth and development of individuals and families. It also refers to a combination of existing strengths and the capacity to use these strengths to mobilize or create resources necessary to meet needs (Olson, Larsen, and McCubbin, 1983). Research (Pearlin and Schooler, 1978) on coping mechanisms for various circumstances supports this contention. They suggest that families also have various types of strengths and competencies that collectively define their unique family functioning style. These styles reflect the flexible ways in which families fundamentally cope and grow. Thus, family strengths should be fully represented when illuminating family functioning style.

In itself, immigration could be considered as an important upheaval leading to dramatic social and ecological changes and adaptation of family life. According to an ecological perspective, family functioning relates to many environmental factors. Bubolz and Sontag (1993) stated that environment consists of the wholeness of the physical, biological, social, economic, political, cultural, and structural surroundings for human beings and the context for their behavior and development. In the area of family research, ecology theory sets the foundation for testing the impact of prescribed environments on individual and family functioning.

Adequate family functioning has to do with the socioeconomic resources available to ethnic group members, such as housing, employment, health care, and education. …