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The perceived influences of early separation from parents: A study of South Korean early study-abroad adults.

Jiyeoun Kim, PhD Student
(Primary Supervisor: Dr. Fiona Tasker; Secondary Supervisor: Prof Jacqueline Barnes)

In the current era of globalisation, an increasing number of children in East Asia, particularly South Korea, experience separation from parents and the home environment during the formative years of adolescence, for the purposes of studying abroad. This follows the widely held perception that by being exposed to English at a young age, a child is most likely to attain a higher level of English proficiency and educational success from which career and life success is believed to follow.   This phenomenon produces a considerable change in family dynamics, such as the emergence of a new transnational family structure called in Korean Kirogi (wild geese family),  a family type in which  mothers accompany children to ensure best education for children while fathers stay behind in the home providing financial support.  

This study examines the potential long-term impacts of early study abroad experiences among Korean adults using mixed methods. Specifically, quantitative survey data were collected from 614 Korean adults to investigate the possible association between age at leaving home and current psychological well-being, health-risk behaviour, and close relationships in adulthood, taking the perceived quality of parent-child relationship and other study abroad variables into consideration.  A set of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that perceived parental bonding and study abroad variables were significant predictors of psychological, health-risk behaviour, and relationship outcomes in these adults.  Secondly, a qualitative interview method was used to understand the lived experiences of early study abroad during adolescence for thirteen Korean adults.  Overall, participants provided insights into their varied experiences of separation from parents and home during adolescence, highlighting their adjustment to the foreign country and subsequent re-adjustment to the home country, changing family relationships and their own self-perceptions of identity.