Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Ralph LaRossa

Second Advisor

Dr. Phillip Davis

Third Advisor

Dr. Jung Ha Kim

Abstract

Previous family researchers have found that parents who share different demographic backgrounds construct unique parenting styles and beliefs. Although such studies contribute to understanding how parenthood is socially constructed, the information about how parents internalize cultural information and everyday experiences to raise children is missing in the extant literature. To fully comprehend the social construction of parenthood, the linkage between the mind and the behavior of parents within specific social structures needed to be studied. I thus conducted conjoint interviews with 24 Japanese couples and 24 American couples who were raising four-to-six year old daughters and sons to examine how culture and cognition produce parental philosophies and family relationships. By using cognitive sociology as a theoretical framework and grounded theory methods as a mode of analysis, I found that the parents’ construction of parenting beliefs and practices basically depended on how they thought about four analytically distinct relationships: (1) their relationship to their parents; (2) their relationship to their children; (3) their relationship to their marital partner; and (4) their relationship to other people in society. Although fathers and mothers in Japan and the United States talked in general about these four aspects, in the process of doing so they offered unique views on each aspect. Japanese parents tended to view their parents as role models, believe that children and parents teach and learn from each other, consider gender ideology to be the foundation of parental partnership, and rank understanding others' feelings as the most important skill for children. Thus, their parenting philosophies were manufactured through reciprocal relationships with other people. In contrast, American parents tended to want to become better parents than their own parents, prefer to influence and control their children’s lives, consider equality to be the foundation of their parental partnership, and encourage their children to become independent. Therefore, their parenting philosophies were manufactured through self motivation. Through the cross-national comparisons of parents’ cognitive processes, I also discuss: the levels of parental expectations and pressures; the issues around the gender relations within a family; and the roles of international parenting books in a globalizing world.

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Sociology Commons

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