Korean Working Mothers' Parenting Style in Korea and in the United States: A Qualitative Comparative Study

By Im, Hyesang; Kim, Eunjung et al. | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Korean Working Mothers' Parenting Style in Korea and in the United States: A Qualitative Comparative Study


Im, Hyesang, Kim, Eunjung, Sung, Kyungsuk, Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore the similarities and differences of cultural influences on the parenting styles of Korean working mothers who live in South Korea versus Korean American working mothers living in the U.S. Four major themes were identified: (a) expression of affection for children, (b) parental control, (c) feelings for children, and (d) feelings for themselves. The findings indicate that acculturation to the American culture affected the Korean American working mothers to grant higher self-regulation to their children and to have more positive feelings for their children ana themselves.

Key Words: Working Mothers, Parenting, Korean, Korean American

Rapid industrial development and increasing participation of women in the workforce have introduced new norms to the women's responsibilities in the household Gang et al., 2009). As the population of working women grows in South Korea, so does the number of women finding alternative childcare such as day care facilities, babysitters, or relatives. However, there still exists a belief in the traditional family system that expects women to fully devote themselves to performing the tasks of parenting and household chores (Poire, 2006). Further, Korean women in South Korea typically find personal worth in raising children as tnis contribution traditionally has been highly valued by the society (Lee, 2003). For working mothers who cannot stay with their children all the time, situation may contradict their society's definition of a good mother and personal cultural values. Therefore, being a working mother may function as an obstacle in building a sound parenting attitude.

According to the researchers who previously studied working mothers in South Korea, those mothers showed a number of unique aspects in their parenting attitude compared to full time domestic mothers. Some positive aspects observed were that Korean working mothers had confidence in their self image as career women and tried to support their children better by taking advantage of their strong financial position (K. E. Kim, 2008). However, the majority of the working mothers in South Korea reported a higher than normal stress level and felt guilty about being away from their children during work hours and getting help from their mothers or mothers-in-law for childcare (Jung & Roh, 2005; M. J. Kim, 2006). In addition, most Korean working mothers experienced a lack of support from Korean society and the workplace, such as limited access to chilacare facilities and inflexible work hours (M. J. Kim, 2006). These findings support the idea that Korean working mothers may encounter more difficulties than advantages. According to the Korea National Statistical Office (2005), 38.4% of married women quit their jobs at least once in their career lives, while 77.5% of the reasons for resigning were related to parenting hardships as a working mother in South Korea. It has been common for American working mothers to have difficulties with combining the roles of mother and career woman (Killien, 2001). The working mothers did not just have double responsibilities from the two roles, but they also had to manage relationships both at work and at home. Therefore, the working mothers felt a higher level of conflict compared to full time domestic mothers or career women with no children (Harcar, 2007). In the United States (U.S.), women are more likely to feel conflict between their family roles and occupational roles than men because the women tend to shoulder significantly more of the household and child care responsibilities than their spouses (Weber, 1999). Some working mothers in the U.S. felt guilty about not giving enough attention to their children, spouse, or work (Harcar, 2007). However, there reported no significant relationship between conflict and job turnover in the U.S. (Posthuma, Joplin, & Maertz, 2005). Nichols and Roux (2004) studied the experiences of postpartum mothers in the U. …

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