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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is Research on Fathering Too U.S. Centric?

APA In Fathers in Cultural Context, edited by David Shwalb, Barbara Shwalb, and Michael Lamb, chapter authors review the latest research on fathering in cultures across a variety of countries throughout the world. As reviewer Michael Connor summarizes, there are several topics discussed in the book including gender roles, historical accounts of fathering in the country of focus, contemporary fathering, notions of fatherhood, fathering activities, family structures, parenting styles, and father-child interactions. Connor takes issue, however, with the book's Western/European slant. He notes that chapter authors did not use the explicit experiences of fathers from the cultures they write about. In the editors' own words: "Research is guided by theory, but if the theory continues to derive exclusively from the US-Europe, the fathering literature cannot avoid some degree of … U.S.-centrism" (p. 396).

Do you agree with the editors, that the fathering literature cannot avoid some degree of U.S./Western centrism? Why or why not? How does this comment apply more broadly to the literature in psychology? What is the solution?

Read the Review
ReviewFathers in Western/European Cultural Context
By Michael Connor
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(22)


Anny Fan

I like the writing style, it begins with a case description. It is attractive likes reading a novel. So far I read chapter 2, I think the case Qiu may not be a good representative of “Chinese” as he and his wife were both studying abroad. Although it mentions around 48 million Chinese people living overseas, it only represents around 3.6% of the population in China as at 2008 (source from wiki 1,333 million population in China in 2008). Without doubt, Qiu may be a good case to illustrate the integration of Eastern and Western cultures.
As mentioned by the authors, they have tried to survey the literature on Chinese fatherhood but his review was far from exhaustive (p.35). They also noted the “intracultural diversity” issue (p.20), as there are more than 20 provinces and some autonomous regions, such as Hong Kong, in China. Thus, it is hard to draw conclusion. I appreciate the detail description about the traditional Chinese culture, (such as Confucian classics, authoritarian strict parental discipline, emphasis on “guan” or training in child rearing and etc.), but it’s weak in elaborating the subjective experience of fatherhood. Nevertheless, “fatherhood” is a topic receiving less attention as compare to “motherhood”, the book can definitely arouse the interest of the readers about this topic.

Karen N. M. Lee

Fatherhood is no doubt an important topic. It is getting more 'complex' in performing a father's role in different societies due to different factors, such as rising numbers of single parent, working parents. However, traditional cultural differences in different societies cannot fully explain the different fatherhood issues. For example, according to the results of the 2011 Population Census in Hong Kong, there were a total of 81705 single parents in 2011. The number of single parents increased continuously over the past 10 years, from 61431 in 2001 to 81705 in 2011.The number of single fathers increased by 24.3% from 14216 in 2001 to 17665 in 2011 that there were 12407 working single fathers. The growing number of single parents, particularly single and working fathers, is getting more attention in Hong Kong society because it would create various household problems in rearing children. According to the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, some family problems, including domestic violence, poverty, and language barrier of ethnic minority due to cross-boundary marriage and immigration have been increasing in recent years. On the other hand, there is no one-child policy in Hong Kong, but in other provinces in China. How does this one-child policy affect fatherhood in China? Can the traditional Chinese culture only mentioned in book be used in fully explaining the single working father figures and family issues in Hong Kong and other provinces of China? How and why does the traditional Chinese culture apply differently in different provinces in China? Although Hong Kong is not the only province of China facing increased number of single father families, those fathers might experience difficulties or issues different from other provinces in China. This book is a very good introduction in attracting attention to the topic of fatherhood which has usually received less attention than motherhood. Further researches about fatherhood in different cultures and societies are essential in gaining more understanding about issues fathers facing in this era.

Rebecca W.M. Lau

This book and book review triggered my thoughts on the recent enforcement of "paternity leave" in Hong Kong since April 2013, which implied some changes on the view of father role in the Hong Kong Chinese culture. I recalled a news report asking the government officials for a reason of enforcing the "paternity leave", and the answer was "because we learned from the US and European countries that paternity leave would be beneficial to the family." ...It appears to me that U.S./Western Centrism is not only restricted to fathering literature, but also demonstrated in real fathering practices as people in Hong Kong have been deeply affected by the dominant western views and practices. So, somehow it seems difficult to avoid some degree of U.S./Western Centrism on fathering.

Yet, as the author said, "there are simply too many fathers from too many countries and so few pages", indigenous Chinese or some other cultural specific fathering practices have been under-represented in literature. Referencing to one or two cases as written in this book is certainly not enough for an in-depth understanding. Having said that, it is still good to obtain some idea from different fathering examples in this book as a start.

Felicia Lee

Case studies defintely add value to the depth to the understanding of the construct although it is not generalizable.

On the other hand, if the research is aim at generalization of the findings, conducting a quantitative research is more appropriate as long as caution is taken in the selection of samples so that the sample is representing the respective population.

In the case of research on fatherhood, it seems the issue is related to the selection of a representative sample that has all the important characteristics of the population from which it is drawn. Therefore, the researcher has to be able to identify the specific characteristic of the population, for example, the number of years that the father has been residing in the current city/country, birth place, years of education, religion, marital status and age etc. so that the result can be generalize for the population with the identified characteristics.

Wai Lin Fiona

This book is very interesting from cross culture prospectives. The chapters are organized by world regions, covering Asia and the Middle East, Africa, North and South America, Europe, and Australia, which is a very good coverage for providing a comprehensive overview about the development and differences of fatherhood in different countries to readers. Nowadays, because of the increasing number of working women, the traditional father roles as breadwinner, authority figure, man as the head of external affairs and woman as the head of internal affairs in a families are changing. In year 2000, according to a Research Report of a Baseline Survey of Students' Attitudes toward Gender Stereotypes and Family Roles, conducted by Department of Social Work & Social Administration The University of Hong Kong, it was found that Hong Kong father's role were preceived as breadwinner and head of external affairs. If couples devoiced, most of boys and girls participated in the survey thought children should not live with their father but mother after devoice. On the other hand, they felt if father would spend more time with them, that would help their development. Today, there are increasing number of full time fathers as you might found some social culbs for full time fathers in Hong Kong. Father's role in parenting has been undermined in the past few decades. The book is published at the right time now which could help readers to rethink the keys for successful fatherhood with the review of father roles from different cultures.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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