Filial Obligation As An Indicator Of Family Loyalty
Filial obligation is a cultural concept that refers to an adult child's sense of duty and commitment to respect and care for his or her parents in later life. This level of commitment or loyalty may vary according to different variables, including cultural context (Burr and Mutchler 1999; Lee and Peek 1999), level of acculturation of the child (Montoro-Rodriguez and Kosloski 1998), the quality of the relationship or emotional closeness between parent and child (Kobayashi 2000), children's resources (Ishii-Kuntz 1997), gender of the child (McGrew 1991), and parent's expectations (Ujimoto 1987).
Adherence to the value of filial obligation, a key indicator of family loyalty, has been examined in the literature on intergenerational co-residence in later-life families. For example, research on the living arrangements of Asian immigrant older adults has fueled the notion that Asian North Americans are more likely to live with family members than are their white counterparts, due to stronger kin networks and stronger filial traditions (Chow 1983; Himes, Hogan, and Eggebeen 1996; Maeda 1983). This conception of Asian North Americans as having ideal or close-knit families is an offshoot of the model minority myth (Ishii-Kuntz 1997), a stereotype that attributes the educational and occupational success of Asian North Americans to their adherence to traditional cultural value systems (Takaki 1989). In the context of family loyalty, the ideal family myth assumes that Asian North Americans, regardless of group or generation, greatly revere older family members and, as such, feel strongly obligated to provide emotional, financial, and service support to their aging parents (Ishii-Kuntz 1997; Osako 1976; Osako and Liu 1986). One of the key ways in which children demonstrate this support is through co-resident living arrangements. Indeed, as recently as 1994, researchers have attributed the prevalence of intergenerational co-residence among married children and older parents to the strong influence of filial obligation (Kamo and Zhou 1994). Co-residence, however, is only an example of behaviorally oriented filial piety and obligation (Sung 1995), and does not provide support for the hypothesis that Asian North American adult children necessarily provide more love and affection (emotionally oriented filial piety/obligation) to their aging parents than adult children in other ethnic groups.
Recent studies examining supportive family networks, coupled with an increased research interest in the translation of filial obligation among younger generations of adult children in Asian countries, have given rise to investigations of the effects of traditional family values on adult children's provision of support to their parents in Asian North American families (Ishii-Kuntz 1997; Kobayashi 2000). Much of the research in this area has been comparative (across Asian-origin groups) and, thus, has not addressed the intracultural diversity in parent-child relationships due to generational differences and immigration experiences (Ishii-Kuntz 1997; Kurzeja et al. 1986). One exception has been Karen Kobayashi's (2000) investigation into continuity and change in older nisei (second generation) parent-adult sansei (third generation) child relationships in Japanese-Canadian families. The study incorporates a life-course approach, with its emphasis on historical, social structural, and cultural influences on the life-course. This approach provides insights into the effects of adherence to traditional Asian value systems on adult children's provision of support to parents in later life and to their feelings of family loyalty.