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“My culture is like comfortable clothing”: Parenting experience of first-generation South Korean immigrants in Aotearoa New Zealand

Although the parenting experience among first-generation South Korean immigrants in New Zealand has been documented, a further qualitative study was needed to understand the complexities of adjusting to New Zealand, where different parenting values and practices exist compared with South Korea. Through interviews with ten first-generation South Korean parents, this study explored the processes of participants re-evaluating their original values and practices. This study was guided by existing research on the cultural differences between Korea and New Zealand and theories of acculturation, immigrant parenting modification, dual route to value change, and cultural translation. Three themes were extracted through thematic analysis. First, participants appeared to have found some values and practices easier to adapt and change, and some were more effortful. For example, many participants tended to encourage their children’s autonomy and independence in academics and careers domain sooner or later. However, some participants found it difficult to encourage their children’s independence in the financial and self-care domain because these new practices clashed with their original values. For example, adolescent children paying rent to their parents clashed with the importance of accumulating jeong (정), while making young children do house chores clashed with their belief that children should devote their time for self-development. Second, parents and children’s bi-cultural socialisation emerged as a new parenting goal. Participants were concerned about them acquiring the New Zealand culture (e.g., family leisure life, involvement in their child’s school, and English fluency) and transmitting Korean culture to their children. Nevertheless, they seemed to have found practical, cultural, and language barriers to translate their values into action. In discussion, we discuss the importance of this issue and provide recommendations for immigrants. Third, many participants reported having enhanced their relationships with their children. Male participants reported increasing time spent with their children because New Zealand work and family lifestyles enabled it. In contrast, female participants appeared to have found the overlap between the mother’s role as a comforter in Korean culture and the New Zealand parents’ communication style, and they reported becoming more validating of children’s emotions and less demanding and controlling. Our findings support the theory of the dual route to value change and the hierarchical nature of the value system (e.g., independence vs jeong). Also, we found our participants demonstrating cultural translation process to maintain values, which involves creating new solutions when tension arose between Korean and New Zealand cultures (e.g., private tutoring, communication method to overcome language differences, and family trips). Supporting migrant parents may require extra attention to the family’s experience of reconstructing their ethnic identity, cultural socialisation to the mainstream culture and cultural maintenance as these lead to understanding their practices and behaviours. Also, migrant families may benefit from exploring creative solutions or applying the skills mentioned. At community and policy level, creating opportunities for participation in cross-cultural activities and increasing access to translation services can support migrant families. It is recommended for schools to invest time to clarify cultural expectations with newly migrated families.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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