Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Parenting Self-Efficacy among Japanese Mothers

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Parenting Self-Efficacy among Japanese Mothers

Article excerpt


Researchers seeking the key to Japanese children's social adjustment and high achievement find evidence that Japanese mothers are sensitive and responsive in interactions with their children, and that they effectively support their work in school (e.g., Hess et al., 1986; Holloway, 1988; Stevenson & Stigler, 1992). However, compared with mothers in other industrialized countries, Japanese mothers express little confidence in their parenting abilities (Bornstein et al., 1998; Kazui, 1997). For example, nearly half of mothers in one survey (Shwalb et al., 1995) described themselves as "not very confident" or "not confident" about childrearing. Similarly, in interviews with mothers of toddlers and preschoolers, Ujie (1997:482) found that many were "anxious and lacked confidence in their childrearing practices" which in turn made them "unable to cope decisively and firmly with their children's opposition and assertion." Some observers view mothers' lack of parenting confidence as one of the most serious problems facing families in contemporary Japan (Shwalb et al., 1997).

According to self-efficacy theory, individuals with low self-efficacy lack the impetus to engage in sustained effort in the face of challenging circumstances (Bandura, 1997). If this is true, it is difficult to understand why Japanese mothers seem so ready and able to undertake the difficult task of parenting. A possible explanation for this apparent paradox is that individuals living in "collectivistic" societies do not try to maintain a positive evaluation of themselves (Heine et al., 1999; Kitayama et al., 1997). Rather, such individuals are oriented toward self-improvement, which motivates them to engage in critical self-evaluation and to express less confidence in their own abilities. According to this perspective, "self-confidence and self-esteem, so clearly positive and necessary determinants of success in North America, simply do not seem to be as valued in Japan" (Heine et al., 1999:779; Heine et al., 2000). If this reasoning is applied to the domain of parenting, it could explain why Japanese mothers apparently function effectively in spite of their low parenting self-efficacy.

A first step in understanding whether or not parenting self-efficacy is an important determinant of parenting behavior in Japan is to learn more about the elements that may sustain or undermine it. We examined the association between parenting self-efficacy and women's education level, their satisfaction with current sources of social support, and their representations of their childhood relationships with their mother and father. These three potential sources of self-efficacy were selected because they are identified in theoretical accounts as important contributors to parenting efficacy and have been empirically linked to parenting self-efficacy in studies conducted in various societies (Oettengen, 1995).

Parenting Self-Efficacy

The construct of self-efficacy refers to "beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (Bandura, 1997:3). Self-efficacy represents a judgment of personal capability and differs conceptually from self-esteem, which is a judgment of self-worth. And unlike locus of control, which pertains to expectancies about whether or not certain actions produce particular outcomes, self-efficacy refers to beliefs about whether one can actually produce certain actions (Bandura, 1997). Individuals with high self-efficacy in an area exert effort relative to that area, persevere in the face of difficulty, and respond resiliently to adversity; additionally, they are less prone to self-defeating thought patterns, and experience less stress and depression than those with lower self-efficacy. According to research conducted in the United States and Europe, individuals high in parenting self-efficacy are more optimistic, authoritative, and consistent in their interactions with their children than are those with less confidence (Bandura et al. …

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