Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Influence of Authoritarian and Authoritative Parenting on Children's Academic Achievement Motivation: A Comparison between the United States and Japan

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Influence of Authoritarian and Authoritative Parenting on Children's Academic Achievement Motivation: A Comparison between the United States and Japan

Article excerpt

Parenting processes in Asian cultures and their influences on child outcomes remain a central focus of inquiry in the child development literature. However, much of that research has tended to generalize the findings on child socialization dynamics and child academic outcomes across Asian societies. The pertinent literature has often neglected to consider the fact that although cultural similarities exist across Asian societies, there are also differences, albeit sometimes subtle. Many authors (e.g., Brown & Iyengar, 2008; Choi, Kim, Kim, & Park, 2013; Roskam & Meunier, 2009; Smith & Moore, 2012) have argued that because specific individual and contextual characteristics influence the child socialization process, it is faulty to assume that the relationship between parenting and child outcomes is generalizable across or even within cultures because similar socialization practices may present vastly dissimilar results across cultures.

Although numerous studies have documented the association between parenting and a wide range of child academic outcomes in Asian societies, less work has focused on Japanese children. Bassani (2003) contended that research is lacking with regard to family and child socialization processes in Japan. This line of research is relevant and particularly necessary in contemporary Japanese culture because the broader Japanese culture has changed rapidly over time and become relatively more individualistic and westernized than many other Asian societies (Bassani, 2003; Hamamura, 2012). Japanese culture has, in recent decades, experienced social transitions akin to those occurring in the United States. For example, Japan, like the United States, in recent decades has experienced major social changes in family relations as manifested by a decline in birth rates, decreased family size, and increased prevalence of divorce and urbanization; the corresponding changes in attitudes, values, and parenting practices are of particular concern and in need of study (Bassani, 2003; Hamamura, 2012). Hamamura (2012) noted that Japan has increasingly moved away from some of its family and parenting traditions. For example, there is a shift from a focus on child conformity and obedience to the promotion of independence and autonomy in children. Accordingly, when given a choice between seeing a dying parent and attending an important business meeting, more Japanese today would go to the business meeting. (Hamamura, 2012, p.14)

Bassani's (2003) Japanese interviewees cited a lack of parental mentoring and 'training' as common weaknesses among contemporary Japanese parents. For instance, no matter their age, all participants that were young Japanese parents were not properly socializing their children because they were too distracted with work and going out with friends (Bassani, 2003). Bassani (2003) also indicated complaints about a decrease in good manners as evidenced by the regular use of disrespectful language among children at home and school. They complained that today's Japanese children are 'spoilt,' like their American peers, which eroded parents' ability to teach and discipline their children.

School is a key socialization agent in children's development. Although controversial, the Japanese educational system has in recent decades introduced policies that have shifted traditional teaching and learning strategies in the direction of that of the United States. For instance, the policy of yutori kyoiku--translated as "education free from pressure" or "relaxed education"--(Ito, 2006; Kishi, 2007) was introduced to reduce the stress and burden previously placed on children by their studies. The policy allowed for reduced class time, greater curricular flexibility, creativity, and independent thinking, and created more opportunity for extracurricular activities and community service (Shirota, 2012). The shift was directed at alleviating the well-documented customary pressurized structure of rote memorization or "cramming" (Gakushu Shidou Yo-ryo, 2002; Kishi, 2007; Tsuge, 2008; Wada & Burnett, 2011), a dynamic often referred to as "exam hell" (Matsutani, 2012). …

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