Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

College/School

College of Education and Human Services

Department/Program

Family Science and Human Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Olena Nesteruk

Committee Member

Soyoung Lee

Committee Member

Lyndal Bee Lian Khaw

Subject(s)

Parenting, Parent and child, Korean American women, Immigrants--United States

Abstract

Guided by the theoretical frameworks of family development and family systems theories from the life course perspective, the present study explored how Korean American mothers make sense of their child launching experiences in immigration context, and describe the family dynamics around parenting and parent-child relationship during the life transition. Focusing on the developmental task of child launching, thus, this study examined the topic that has received scarce attention in scholarly literature – culturally specific experiences of parenting and parent-child relationship from the perspective of Korean immigrant mothers in midlife.

To delve into the lived experiences of Korean immigrant mothers, this study employed a phenomenological approach throughout the entire research process of collecting and analyzing the data. Through the analysis of semi-structured interviews with middle-aged Korean immigrant mothers (N=10), nine sub-themes emerged under the three broader main themes of reflections on past parenting experiences, extended parenthood during child launching transition, and evolving parent-emerging adult child relationship. The nine subthemes were 1) a hybrid of Korean and American parenting approach; (2) parenting challenges in the immigration context; (3) personal growth through parenting; (4) coping with feelings of loss after child’s home-leaving; (5) parental support due to child’s financial instability; (6) parental involvement despite child’s growing autonomy; (7) maintaining family ties through close living arrangements and frequent contact; (8) managing intergenerational conflicts through communication; and (9) establishing adult-to-adult relationships through an adjusted parenting approach.

The study findings suggested a complex and dynamic approach to understanding the interconnectedness among acculturation, parenting approach, and parent-young adult child relationship over time. In specific, this study highlighted the multifaceted impact of the immigrant context on acculturation and parenting experiences throughout childrearing and child launching periods. Through personal growth and the acculturation process during their parenting and child launching transitions, Korean immigrant mothers have gradually adjusted their parenting into a distinctively ‘Korean American’ parenting approach. Despite the extended parental support for their young adult children, in reaction to their children’s growing independence and maturity, the mothers have further adjusted their parenting approach. The mothers’ efforts to maintain family ties through frequent and close interactions with their young adult children, in turn, contributed to better relationship management and further acculturation among the participants. Those study findings have implications for future research on immigrant families and culturally attentive practice for immigrant parents in midlife.

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