CHILDREN'S PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS WITH MOTHERS, FATHERS AND FRIENDS: A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY
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The purpose of this study was to cross-culturally examine children's perceptions of their relationships with mothers, fathers and friends among South Korean and European-American children. During middle childhood and preadolescence, although parent-child relationships are presumed to be the primary source of social support, friendships become increasingly salient; provisions for closeness and interdependence begin to shift from parents to friends. Researchers, however, have mostly examined mother-child and father-child relationships and friendships in isolation. The present study examined children's mother-child and father-child relationships and friendships as relationship networks in terms of various latent relationship constructs (social provisions; negative interactions; power distance). Of particular interest was whether the traditional emphasis on the family system in the South Korean culture would reveal distinct patterns of children's relationships with their mothers, fathers and friends. Participants included the South Korean and the European-American children ages 10 to 11 years old from two-parent families in the Seoul and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. Variable-centered and person-centered approaches were employed to address individual differences (latent classes) on relationship qualities. Results revealed both cultural dissimilarities and similarities. Cultural differences were found in the mean levels of affection, conflict, and punitive aspects. The South Korean children perceived more social provisions from their mothers and fathers than from their friends, whereas the European-American children perceived similar levels of social provisions from their mothers, fathers and friends. Despite the changes in today's South Korean society, the South Korean family system continues to play a major role in providing social provisions for South Korean children. Cultural similarities were found regarding the patterns of relationship networks on power distance in both of the South Korean and European-American samples. Structural Equation Modeling also revealed structural invariance in terms of the manner in which the relationship constructs were associated with children's satisfaction with their mothers and fathers. In addition, considerable heterogeneity was revealed in affection, punitive aspects, and power distance. Taken together, findings from the present study highlight the importance of considering cross-cultural perspectives as well as person-centered approaches in the examination of relationship qualities.