A 2 (US women vs. Filipino women) X 2 (daughters vs. mothers) ANOVA matched group design with the O’Kelly Women Beliefs Scale (2010) scores as the dependent variable was conducted to study irrational beliefs about traditional feminine gender schema from a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective (Ellis, 1956) in a sample of Filipino women living in the US. Results indicated significant main effect for cross-cultural differences among the two racial groups, but no significant main effect was found for generational differences among the groups. A Post-hoc Least Significant Difference (LSD) performed on the four subscale scores of the OWBS also showed significant differences in Demand with Filipino women scoring higher than their US counterparts, and scores of both groups in Awfulizing, Negative Self-talk/Rating, and Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) were not significantly different.
Keywords: Filipino women, irrational beliefs, gender schema, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, O’Kelly Women Beliefs Scale
Irrational Beliefs about Traditional Feminine Gender Schema of Filipino Women Living in the United States
This study evaluates the cross-cultural and intergenerational differences among Filipino women and US women living in the United States in regard to their beliefs about the traditional feminine sex role using the O’Kelly Women Beliefs Scale (2010). Several factors of acculturation greatly affect the international migration, economic globalization, and political conflicts that arise in the creation of multicultural societies (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007), that studies regarding this matter are essential in understanding it in a deeper sense.
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There is a great quantity of literature regarding feminine topics written within the conceptual scheme of the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or REBT (Wolfe, 1985; Wolfe & Naimark, 1991). The founding practitioner of REBT, Albert Ellis, developed this form of psychotherapy to assist his clients in the reconstruction of how they perceive their distress by asserting the importance of taking it on with a more ‘philosophical’ outlook. When Ellis changed Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) to its present name of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), he acknowledged the possible odds in using the term “rational” as ideas concerning it may vary across cultures (Ellis, 1999). Ellis always emphasized the importance of taking his clients’ cultural background into consideration when analyzing their viewpoint and attitude towards life. It has been considered that the development of the Women’s Belief Scale coincide with the criteria described by Locksley and Colten (1979), who highlight that the use of a term within a questionnaire involves self-evaluations and supposes comparisons of itself that were not present – like in Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI; Bem, 1974) in the developmental process of the items; this allows a significant effect of measurements on the representation of the feminine gender that provides a distinct point of view of what behaviors are appropriate for females.
The view of woman’s proper place being in the home fulfilling their domesticity, motherhood and pleasing their husbands, isolated from the public world of men did not always dominate the Western culture (O’Kelly, 1980). It was not until the rise of capitalism when independent businessmen could afford to support their dependent wives and children kept within the confines of a private home, that this view of women’s roles started to greatly influence the modern Western culture (O’Kelly, 1980). By the eighteenth century, these roles sporadically spread to the less affluent classes and eventually became the Western ideal for women (O’Kelly, 1980).
In the recent years, with the help of the feminist movement, dramatic changes in the Western social roles expected from women are continuously taking place. Feminists insist that those customary views of women’s roles immensely limit and restrain them from taking their places as full adults in the society (O’Kelly, 1980). However, less developed countries continue to have strict views on the roles of the women in their society and they intend to maintain their cultural beliefs regarding this matter. There are hardly any studies done to examine the influence and effects of these societal roles placed on women from less developed countries, like the Philippines, in their response to acculturation and attitude towards life.
The O’Kelly Women’s Belief Scale was developed within the scheme of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or REBT, reflecting the process of beliefs about Demand, Awfulizing, Global Rating, Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) and Negative Self Rating. To develop this scale, 2,562 questionnaires were sent to women that worked in great companies. With the data obtained of 974 questionnaires, the O’Kelly subscales were developed: Demand, Awful, Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT) and Rating, which are irrational nuclear conclusions or beliefs previously mentioned. Each of these scales has internal consistency. The test-retest reliability and validity have been established by the results of a sample that consisted of 285 women, wherein 37 also completed The O’Kelly Women’s Belief Scale a month later.
In the measurement of the irrational thought from an REBT perspective, previous studies (Lega & Ellis, 2001; Kumar, Lega, & Bladiwalla, 2007) indicate cross cultural and generational differences in the samples of USA, Latin America, Europe and India.
Filipino Americans are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the United States as they are the second largest Asian American ethnic group, and the second largest number of immigrants to the United States (Ong & Loksze, 2003). Recent studies suggest that acculturation, changes in attitude or values that result from the contact of one culture with another (Berry, 1997), may have something to do with attitudes towards women (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007). According to Berry (1997), there are four acculturation strategies: separation, marginalization, integration, and assimilation. Separation refers to favoring one’s original culture and refraining from interacting with the host culture, whereas marginalization is when one does not actively maintain either his own original culture or the host culture (Choi & Thomas, 2007). On the other hand, integration refers to favoring one’s own culture while at the same time interacting with the host culture, and assimilation is when one abandons his original culture in favor of the host culture (Choi & Thomas, 2007).
The international relationship between United States and the Philippines has a rich and unique history that has made the Filipinos very well familiar to the American culture that even allowed them to easily adopt the English language, educational institutions, democratic belief system, and faith in the “American Dream” (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007). Most Filipino immigrants arrive in the United States with a vast knowledge about the local culture and the English language (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007). Filipino women living in the US, mostly as immigrants, try to adapt to their host country’s cultural values while striving to preserve their own at the same time. Like other individuals from impoverished nations, especially those who have spent most of their lives in their native countries, Filipinos are also well aware of how difficult it can be to live in a country of limited opportunities like the Philippines. However, like other immigrant groups, they also praise the United States as a land of significant economic opportunity but simultaneously denounce it as a country inhabited by corrupt and individualistic people of questionable morals (Espiritu, 2001).
Parents of first generation Filipino children enforce high expectations especially on their daughters. Espiritu’s interviews suggest that there is an idealized notion of womanhood based on traditional Filipino values and beliefs (Espiritu, 2001). This idealized notion of womanhood is for a woman to think of her family (collective vs. individual values), to gain good education (in order to help better the family), remain chaste, dutiful, and obedient (Agbayani-Siewert, 1994). Older children, girls in particular, are expected to care for their younger siblings and perform household duties even at an early age (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007). Past studies suggest that while the older female is given more responsibilities, privileges are made easily accessible usually to males in the family. Most Filipino women, who participated in past studies, also reported that their parents treated them more strictly while growing up as compared to their brothers (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007). As they grow older, Filipino women are expected to display characteristics of a Maria Clara, or the proper, marriage-minded, Filipino Catholic woman with “good morals” (West, 1992). This stereotyped representation of an ideal Filipino woman continues to exist in the present time. Filipino women were taught and encouraged to be publicly submissive so that it will appear that men are the ones in control (Cimmarusti, 1996). Almirol (1982), a researcher who performed a qualitative study on Filipino American farm laborers from Salinas, California, found that a higher value was placed on males over females and that women were discouraged to display power in public. Scholars have shown that the Maria Clara stereotype is not only used by certain Filipino feminist nationalist, but also by first generation Filipino immigrants (Ignacio, 2000).
Prior researchers show that despite the high cultural expectations enforced on Filipino children by their parents, they appear to have easily assimilated into the American society as the Filipino population in the US has a high rate of college graduates, and most of these graduates are immigrants from the Philippines (Enrile & Agbayani, 2007).
Different perspectives suggest the existence of change and differences in attitudes and interests from one generation to the other, as well as in the cross-cultural factor. This study was conducted in the USA wherein Filipino daughters and mothers, and their counterparts used The O’Kelly Women Belief’s Scale examine the differences in gender roles and the ethno-cultural scheme.
Two matched groups according to age of daughters (from 17-25 yrs. of age) vs. their mothers (45 – 75 yrs. of age) and culture of origin (70 Filipino vs. 70 USA) living in the USA participated in the study.
The O’Kelly Women Beliefs Scale (O’Kelly, 2010) was used. The scale consists of 92 items in which the participant indicated the degree of agreement or disagreement using a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). This is divided into four subscales: Demand, Awfulizing, Low Frustration Tolerance and Negative Self Rating.
The participants completed the questionnaires individually and anonymously. It took approximately 45 minutes to complete. Participants were also advised to refrain from answering the questionnaire with their mother/daughter.
A 2-way ANOVA (culture and generation) with total OWBS scores as the dependent variable showed a significant main effect for Culture, F(1, 140) = 37.681, p < .05. No significant results were found for main effect for Generation, or for the interaction between Culture x Generation (p>.05)
Posthoc (LSD) comparisons between Filipino and US women for all four subscale scores of the OWBS showed significant differences, with Filipino women scoring higher than US women in Demand: F(1, 140) = 5.265, p < .05; scores of both groups in: Awfulizing, Negative Self-talk/Rating, and LFT were not significantly different (p > .05). No significant results were found for Generation, or for the interaction between Culture x Generation (p>.05)
As one of the fastest growing groups of Asian immigrants, Filipino immigrants are purposely trying to become part and to develop a positive attitude towards acculturating to the host culture, at least to some extent. However, it is understandable that the process of acculturation have a distinct influence in the immigrants’ viewpoint and attitude towards life.
The results suggest that the overall total scores of US-Filipino compared to US women were higher than the latter. Recent studies might suggest that acculturation may play a part in Filipino women’s irrational beliefs about themselves. A past study on acculturation by Phinney and Flores (2002), affirms that the two dimensions of the phenomenon (mainstream adaptation and ethnic retention) can be independent and have different influences to its outcomes. The results of their study showed that the bicultural (integrated) individual is more likely to be involved in mainstream American society as well as to manifest sex role attitudes closely similar to that of the mainstream, and yet manage to retain their own racial social networks and native language. Later generations of immigrants are also expected to be more prone to changes associated with both dimensions of acculturation; that is, they typically retain less of their ethnic culture and tend to be more accepting of the host culture than earlier generations (Phinney & Flores, 2002). On the other hand, the present study showed no significant effect for generational differences (mother vs. daughter) in either culture (US-Filipino or US women). It was expected that Filipino women would score higher than their US counterparts because of societal expectations and traditional gender schema on women. Filipino women are expected to manifest certain characteristics such as capability of building a family, running the household and responsibility for taking care of others’ need before her own to name a few. Some researchers propose that immigrants do not simply yield their old or native values for new ones, but rather select, and modify to adapt to the new environment (Choi & Thomas, 2007; Buriel, 1993; Mendoza, 1989). Although most Filipino immigrants eventually become accustomed to their new environment, they also retain their traditional cultural traits, beliefs, values, and mores which may result to a conflict in their belief system and a higher level of irrational belief. However, when it comes to Generation, the non-significant differences between Filipino daughters and mothers may be found in that the cultural expectation of both generations (Filipino mothers vs. Filipino daughters) has rooted its ideals from our past generations’ belief as a collective community as opposed to individualistic values. It is an integral characteristic of the ideal Filipino family to have children who highly adhere to the family’s values and principles and to behave according to these passed on standards. Daughters are taught to greatly exhibit the same positive qualities that their mothers’ exhibit and this practice have a substantial influence on the non-significant differences in the point of view of both generations.
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In terms of posthoc comparisons, where individual sub scale scores were obtained for Demand, Awfulizing, Negative Self Talk and LFT, a significant effect was only found on Demand of Filipino women vs. US women. This suggests that Filipino women experience higher emotional stress than their US counterparts. First generation immigrants, as they are called, sometimes experience acculturation and cultural pressure to adapt. Cultural adaptation to the host country may suggest conflict with the traditional culture of the heritage country while parents try to raise their children on both cultures. Prior researches show that Filipino immigrants tend to lose their traditional customs and values as they acculturate to ways of life in the United States (Del Prado & Church, 2010). Being torn between adhering to their conservative cultural values and the ability to access the opportunities of their contemporary American culture can create stress and conflict (Napholz & Mo, 2010). The Socio-cultural differences that include the Asian collective culture versus the American individual culture, extended versus dominant nuclear family lifestyle, isolative American lifestyle, women’s roles, communication styles, and child-rearing practices have a vast impact on the Filipino immigrant women’s self-esteem and sense of control over their lives (Napholz & Mo, 2010). As Filipino women become more acculturated to their host country’s cultural values, factors such as their origins, psychosocial and economic stress, as well as their compliance to traditional cultural values may have an influence in the nature and quality of their present lives (McBride, Morioka-Douglas, & Yeo, 1996). High scores on each subscale according to the O’Kelly Women Belief Scales or OWBS (O’Kelly, 2010) suggest that Filipino women have higher irrational beliefs on the traditional feminine gender role as their culture may have manifested on them over the years.
The Demand subscale (element at which people reveal their musts and shoulds) suggests that Filipino women need to reach certain expectations according to their culture. A high score in this subscale suggests that Filipino women, compared to US women strive more to reach expectations set forth by their society as a result from a collectivist point of view. Almost every society has prescribed roles that women and men are expected to satisfy, however the strictness of these standards vary across cultural societies. In the Filipino culture, individuals that belong to the society are expected to respect and conform to the rules of the society as exactly as possible. Deviating from the accepted norms and social roles brings forth unforgiving criticisms not just from the society at large, but by one’s own immediate family as well. A traditional Filipino family is not usually inclined to being tolerant to issues and practices foreign to them, as they believe that everyone should behave according to what is widely accepted. Thus, the process of acculturating to a new culture that has some aspects that conflict with the Filipino culture can be very perplexing and stressful to Filipino women striving to develop positive attitudes toward the process. An example question from this subscale was “I must have a child to be fulfilled”; Filipinos are expected to be capable of building a family and both generations (mother vs. daughter) must reach this expectation as their society and past generations expects them to. This idealized notion of womanhood is for a woman to think of her family (collective vs. individual) (Agbayani-Siewert, 1994) as mentioned came from most of the Oriental culture’s belief of collectivism vs. individualism.
In short, the expectation that Filipino women would score higher than their US counterparts because of societal expectations and traditional gender schema on women was confirmed.
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