Socialization of morality as a cultural value in young children: Perspectives of first generation Korean American mothers
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This study examines first generation Korean American mothers' perspectives of moral values envisioned in either Korean or American culture or both, with emphasis on their socialization practices for their children reflecting the challenges of their ethnic reality within two disparate cultures in their everyday life. A qualitative methodology that included in-depth interviews, participant-observations of mother-child communicative interactions on specific topics (e.g., friendship, classroom behavior that considers a teacher's well-being), and maternal focus group interviews was used in this study. The findings show that maternal cultural value systems regarding the relations between self and others provide one of the most important socialization themes for children. While these mothers strive for success and acculturation in the United States as immigrants, they simultaneously struggle between the Korean cultural emphasis of dependent and harmonious relationships with others and the American values of individual confidence and independence. Mothers criticized the Korean culture in terms of forcing individuals to constantly lose the true nature of who they are as a person. Mothers also believed that the context in which negative behavior takes place can be rationalized as one that is acceptable or not depending on the context in which the behavior occurs. This finding suggests that morality as cultural value is not universal and is connected to belief systems of people, questioning the `cognitive developmental theory,' which assumes the universality of moral development as individuals' react to social environments. This study shows the difference between what people think about moral behavior and what they actually do in interaction with other people in real life. The fluid and varied experiences of the mothers in real life supports the criticism of the overgeneralized notions of ethnic identity, called `essentialism,' treating minority groups as fixed entities such as Asian Americans who are depicted as a `model minority' group. Ethnic identity is not a set of prescribed rules; instead it is individual history that is experienced and interpreted throughout one's life.
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