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Psychiatry Investigation 2006;3(1):6-25.
Impacts of Rapid Social and Family Changes on the Mental Health of Children in Korea
Kang-E Michael Hong, MD, PhD
Division of Child Psychiatry, Department of Neuropsychiatry, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Kyunggi-do, Korea
<p class="MsoPlainText" style="word-spacing: 1; line-height: 150%; margin-top: 0; margin-bottom: 0" align="left"><font face="HY중고딕" size="2">In this paper, cinical observations and epidemiological-empirical studies are presented, psychopathogenic mechanisms and processes are formulat-ed, and the impacts and implications on the mental health of children are discussed from developmental, ecological, and ethological perspectives. The focus is on the drastic economic, political, and social changes that have occurred in Asian societies, as a result of the rapid modernization and westernization that these countries have undergone. Although many benefits have accrued from this process, it has been accompanied by a great increase in the stress exerted on children and adolescents with a consequent rise in associated mental health problems. The author suggests that one of the most critical pathogenic factors could be the rapidness and swiftness of change rather than the change itself. This compressed form of modernization occurred within the span of only 30-40 years in most Asian countries, and has been externally driven, but was accomplished gradually over 200-300 years and as a result of internal changes in western countries. The important mediating pathogenic processes are the breakdown of the traditional value orientation, nuclearization of the family system and a sharp increase in the number of divorces (with a subsequent weakening of the major support network), and the growing number of child rearing problems associated with rapid social changes. The author suggests that there are crises and grave problems in child rearing in most Asian countries, based on the following observations: avoidance of pregnancy and an increase of unwanted children, avoidance and refusal of child rearing and abandonment of young children, confusion and inappropriateness in early child rearing, inappropriate or inadequate discipline (over-protection and over-control), changes in gender roles and attitudes, and preoccupation with intellectual capability and an endless pressure on scholastic achievement. The author also presents the following phenomena, which must have significant implications on the mental health of children in many countries in Asia: marked changes of the family system and the alarming increase in the number of divorces, the reduction in the number of children in a family, the rising number of working mothers and women's equal rights movement, the lack of opportunities for parents to learn how to raise a child, the steep competition and exclusive emphasis on scholastic achievement in school, the marked change in value orientations from traditional to modern, the confusing and often contradictory pieces of advice given by "experts" and "professionals" on child rearing and child education, the new tides of globalization and the confounding co-existence of multi-cultures in most countries and the emergence of a virtual world, IT and BT industry in some advanced countries. The author concludes with a discussion, from a developmental, ecological and ethological point of view, of the implications of these findings on interventions and preventions for mental health of children in developing countries. The critical importance of early child rearing and the quality of the mother-infant attachment for the future mental health of children in the 21 st century is emphasized. The need for new guidelines and new paradigms to bring up mentally healthy children in this complex and ever changing world is advocated. Perhaps a solution can be found in integrating the old and the new as well as the East and the West.

Key words   Rapid social changes;Children's mental health.
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