Generational Shift in Meaning of Parenthood Among Chinese Parents

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Ching Man LAM, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The project examines the historical trends of parenting and generational shifts in meaning of parenthood in the Hong Kong Chinese context. Although the importance of historical perspective in understanding a phenomenon has been well-recognized, attempt to study generational shifts in parenting is meager and is almost non-existent in Hong Kong. Contemporary parenting is characterized as fraught with problems – anxieties about children, anxieties about one’s own adequacy as parents, and worries about adverse consequence of parenting on children. Rhetoric abounds such as irresponsible parenting, overprotective parenting, anxious parents, “helicopter parents”, and “monster parents” are terms frequently found in mass media sounding alarms over contemporary parenthood. However there is little study attempt to trace how contemporary parenthood has become characterized as such. This study seeks to unravel generational shifts in parenthood in Hong Kong, and investigates how the interplay between history, culture and contexts shaped and re-shaped the “ecology of parenthood”.

Employing a qualitative study method, the research process starts with an archival study of discourses on parenting, then with 120 in-depth interviews with 60 parents, each interview individually for twice. There were 30 mothers and 30 fathers involved. Narrative accounts of parents reveal generational shifts and gender disparity in meaning of parenthood, parental responsibility and identity as a parent. The findings provide indigenous understanding to generational shifts in ideology and practice of parenting; and look into the discursive formations of dominant discourses that shape parenting beliefs and conditions constrain parenting practices in the Hong Kong Chinese cultural context. Based on the findings, the presentation discusses implications for parenting wok and proposes directions for child and parenting services.