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Collaborative Constructs

Posted on January 7, 2008

Be mindful of culture-specific paradigms when conducting international research, advises Kenneth H. Rubin (bio).


Brazil, Sicily, Australia, Korea, China, India: I believe it’s around five continents. The same questions were being posed.

And the way that we actually did this was I handed my research proposals to people, and then had them read it, read the proposal or read the proposals, and then discuss the meaning of the different constructs within culture.

So rather than simply parachute measures into other countries, I wanted to make certain that the constructs we were studying had some meaning, and if there were additional constructs that seemed relevant, we would include them.

So for example, in Korea there’s a construct, a very important construct, known as hyo, and it basically means filial piety and respectfulness and being obedient. And when we study parent-child relationships in the Western world, we use the sort of attachment paradigm, and the most important relationship is the attachment relationship.

And we talk about security and insecurity, and one of the Western goals and part of our Western ideology is to get our kids to grow up to be independent as early as possible and then ultimately autonomous. Whereas hyo is actually quite the opposite; it’s children who must really be obedient, and I don’t want to say subservient, but at least serving their parents as a lifelong exercise.

So when you start using terms like secure or insecure attachment, I know the paradigms get run in all these different cultures, but they don’t mean the same thing as we interpret them to mean. So it’s been a real, it's been a passion of mine, and I work very closely with colleagues overseas. And we come to conclusions that the constructs that we use in our work must be collaborative constructs; they must bear some meaning.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 SRCD Biennial Meeting in Boston, MA.


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