How Traditional Mothers and Progressive Daughters Get Along Well


One might assume that agreement between family members causes a better atmosphere and improved psychological well-being. However, a recent paper suggests that disagreement between mothers and daughters can actually coincide with better well-being.

This article summarizes the paper “Gender Role Attitudes and Depressive Symptoms of the Mother-Daughter Dyad in Korea” by Ho Jeong-Wha from Ajou University, which might offer new and fascinating insights into how to understand the social interaction of family members with differing norms.

Ho’s paper centres around mother-daughter pairs and their gender role attitudes. The paper takes data from the Korean Longitudinal Survey of Women and Families (KLoWF) to find correlations between the before mentioned gender role attitudes and the daughter’s and mother’s psychological well-being.

While the paper offers many fascinating insights, this article’s focus may be set on the idea of reciprocity1 between mothers and daughters with differing gender norms. When looking at the correlations Ho draws, one can see that the pair with the best psychological well-being is the one where the mother has more traditional gender attitudes while the daughter has more egalitarian gender attitudes.

Now one may raise the question of how it can be that a disagreeing pair has better well-being than an agreeing pair.

Ho offers an interpretation that is based on the idea of reciprocity. The concept goes as follows: a mother with more traditional norms may not participate in paid labour. A daughter with more egalitarian norms may want to participate in paid labour. The daughter may, therefore, be more limited in participating in reproductive labour. Now the mother may jump in to do care work, e.g. for their daughter’s child, so that the daughter can go to work. What follows is that the mother can fulfil their traditional norms by practising care work, while the daughter can fulfil their egalitarian norms by participating in paid labour.

This effect might be more pronounced because mothers are more likely to leave their job for childcare (see, e.g. OECD, 2019, pp. 94–95). If the paternal leave can be minimized, that might lead to a significant competitive advantage compared to mothers who do not get assistance on care work.

Another effect that might come into play is the rise of the “double-income, no kids” families in South Korea (see, e.g. Baik & Limb, 2005; Jung, 2020). For those who want to enjoy the advantages of a double-income household, while still pursuing their wish to have children, a mother with traditional norms may be particularly helpful by helping with housework.

Therefore, the disagreement in norms might just as well cause enough instrumental value that the disagreement becomes overturned when it comes to mothers’ and daughters’ well-being.

It is to keep in mind that this is only an interpretation of a correlation from the paper’s analyzed data.

The paper gives many more interesting insights, like where and how gender norms are being reproduced. However, that is to be discussed in another article.


1 Reciprocity is an exchange that goes in two directions. One side gives something, while the other side gives something back.


Last Updated on 25 April 2021 by The Korean Context

By Miro Leon Bucher

Miro Leon Bucher is a graduate student in Social- and Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy at the University of Cologne. His research mainly focuses on the impact of Confucianism on contemporary gender issues in urban South Korea.

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