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Korean J Women Health Nurs > Volume 7(4); 2001 > Article
Korean Journal of Women Health Nursing 2001;7(4):518-535.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.4069/kjwhn.2001.7.4.518   
An Ethnography of Child-Rearing Experiences of Korean Mothers Living on Koje Island
S Y Lee
Nursing practices should be based on the understanding of human beings. In order to understand human beings, it is important to study the lifestyles and thoughts of people in their natural environment. In this sense, the cultural aspects of a society need to be studied for a culture-bound nursing service. Child care, which is an important element of nursing, is also strongly influenced by the culture of a society. Therefore, a cultural study is necessary to understand the child-rearing practices of any society. The major purpose of this dissertation is to provide basic foundations for developing a culture-based theory for nursing intervention through studying traditional cultural elements of child care in Korean society. The study examined child-rearing practices in a small village on Koje Island in the southern part of Korea. It utilized ethnographic methodologies including participatory observations and in-depth interviews. The study participants were 9 Korean mothers living on Koje Island. The average age was 52. The data were collected between July in 1998 and December in 1999. The average number of interviews per person was 7-8, and the duration of each interview was approximately 2 hours. The data were analyzed using the Spradley Analytical Method. The following 9 major child-rearing aspects of mothers on Koje Island were discovered as a result of the study: 1. Firstly, mothers on Koje Island were mostly concerned about the "Old Birth Goddess' Curse", especially during their child's early years. This concern was evidenced by their careful behavior when their child was very young and by their praying to the Old Birth Goddess not to be jealous of their babies. 2. Secondly, they wished their children to live a different and better life than themselves. It was represented by their strong motivation toward their children's education as well as their expectation for their children's success. In traditional Korean culture, Korean people think that the rise and fall of the household depend on their offsprings. Therefore, Korean mothers wish their children attain to a higher level of social status through education. 3. Third, mothers are concerned about their children's righteousness. Mothers on Koje island expect their children to live with discretion, justice, strength, respect, harmony, and to do their best in life. 4. Next was an 'anticipation of their children's happy marriage'. The attributes of this category were an 'anxiety about their children's married life', and 'an expectation of a good spouse for their children'. Because Korean people believe that only a son can continue the bloodline of a family, especially Korean mothers have a great concern of the possibility of their daughters not having a son after marriage. Also they have different expectations toward their daughter-in-laws than son-in-laws. 5. Korean mothers also derived their satisfaction from their son. It was characterized by 'excessive affection toward their son', 'dependency on their son', and 'being afraid of their married daughter having a girl like themselves'. Korean society has been a patriarchy. Therefore, a son is beloved as someone who will take care of his old parents, be in charge of ancestral rites, and provide a daughter-in-law who can conceive a son. 6. The sixth category concerned 'the differences in their expectations for their children'. The attributes in this category were 'different expectations depending on their children's gender', 'different expectations depending on their children's ability', and a 'great sympathy toward children with low abilities'. Korean mothers expect their son to become better than their daughter. 7. The seventh category was related to their 'roles in child-caring practices'. Traditionally a child was raised in an extended family system in Korea So it was not the sole duty of a mother to bring up the child. Korean mothers used to receive much help rasing children from their in-laws, and family members. On the other hand, many children grew up by themselves, because their mothers were very busy taking care of housework. Furthermore, many children also grew up in poverty. 8. Mothers also had issues related to 'conflicts in child rearing'. They were characterized by 'lack of understanding', 'rudeness of children', and 'giving vent to one's anger'. 9. Finally, mothers regretted not doing their best in child-rearing practices. It was characterized by a 'bitter feeling of repentance', 'feeling irritated', and 'feeling of unsatisfaction'.

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