Changes in family structure present technological societies throughout the world with unfamiliar challenges and opportunities for the care and development of children. There has been a rapid increase in the numbers of single-parent households, blended families, unmarried couples with children, gay and lesbian partners, and grandparents with responsibility for grandchildren when parents are unwilling or unable to fulfill their role (Population Reference Bureau, 2003). The diversity of these interactive constellations are often accompanied by unique stresses that make the obligation of parents, educators, and social agencies more complex as they try to support children in a broad variety of circumstances. The benefits and obstacles that characterize these situations are studied by researchers whose work sometimes results in shifts of public policy and interventions to improve family support (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2004).
Family cohesion, harmony, and healthy functioning are also implicated by other changes that attract less research attention. To illustrate, cross-cultural studies of families in Taiwan, Japan, and the United States (N = 5,386) have determined that differences in perceptions of parent and grandparent success are greater between generations than between cultures (Strom & Strom, 2002; Strom, Strom, Wang, et al., 1998). Accordingly, there is a great need to recognize that cohort populations may be more alike than are different age groups within the same nation or ethnicity. Appreciation of other cultures should expand to include an understanding of differences between generations within societies (Strom, Strom, Strom, Shen, & Beckert, 2004).
Generational differences in perception are motivating basic changes in Taiwanese family relationships. The custom has been that grandparents, parents, and children live together, guided by hierarchical governance based on gender and age. This practice is eroding because many young couples want their children brought up differently from the way they were raised. Therefore, parents are choosing to live apart from grandparents (Lee & Sun, 1995). This decision enables parents to feel less responsible for perpetuating some traditions, and minimizes interference from elders. The nuclear family presents parents with greater challenges for accountability and the need to respect the previously ignored views of children (Chen & Lester, 2002).
External sources have also motivated significant change in expectations of Taiwanese parents. Since 1997, the legislature has enacted a series of educational reforms intended to replace memory-dominated learning with creative thinking as the highest priority for classrooms (Lin, 1999; Republic of China Ministry of Education, 2001). Access to preschool and kindergarten is mandated, and legislation has placed parents on notice that their role includes becoming actively involved in helping to teach their children rather than assuming this task is reserved for teachers (Beckert, Strom, Strom, Yang, Huang, & Lin, 2004; Hwang, 2000). One aspect of these innovative reforms requires that schools provide continuous education for parents as their children advance from kindergarten through high school. The training of teachers is being revised to ensure that they understand how to collaborate with parents in adopting new methods for guiding children (Kuo, 2000; Sun-Lu, 2004).
The present study was conducted to help Taiwan schools implement the new policy of providing education for parents of adolescents. Parent classes are attended mostly by mothers, a practice that reflects the Asian tradition that they are the parent most responsible for child guidance and monitoring academic progress (Strom & Strom, 2002). Most Taiwanese mothers are employed and cannot be readily accessible to their children. Many try to compensate for their lack of time together by spending money on the children (Chen & Lester, 2002). …