An exploratory study on adolescent girls' coping with parents' marital conflict in Hong Kong

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An exploratory study on adolescent girls' coping with parents' marital conflict in Hong Kong

 

Author: Chiu, Wai-kan Yolanda
Title: An exploratory study on adolescent girls' coping with parents' marital conflict in Hong Kong
Degree: M.A.
Year: 1998
Subject: Marital conflict -- China -- Hong Kong
Teenage girls -- China -- Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Studies
Pages: iv, 109 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1446543
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/2631
Abstract: The purpose of the study is to understand the experience of adolescent girls in their coping with the marital conflict of their parents. The research questions that guide my inquiry are 1) How do adolescent girls construct the problems when confronted with their parents' marital conflict? 2) How do they construct the solution of the problems? 3) How do they evaluate their resolution of the problems? and 4) What account for their construction of "positive" solution? My inquiry and analysis are mainly framed by the work of Carol Gilligan and the Harvard Project on the Psychology of Women and Development of Girls. In her earlier work, Gilligan identified two moral voices - the voice of justice and the voice of care - by which people listen to when they define their problems and make decisions on problem solving. Women are found to be dominated by the caring voice. Later, a theory on morality of care introducing a three-level progression for female moral development, which include selfishness, goodness and truth to self at different levels respectively has been developed in the first part of the Harvard Project. In the later work on girls' voice, Gilligan et al also document the crisis girls face at their outset of adolescence - the beginning of disconnection and the danger of losing their voice. The shift in the strength of voice is said to be related with the chronological age of girls. Younger girls are found bolder in speaking about their true feelings and thoughts to others, while older girls have become more hesitant in this aspect. A qualitative case study approach using narrative as the interviewing method is adopted for this study. Four adolescent girls aged between twelve and nineteen have been interviewed. Telling their stories in a more open-ended, flexible manner, the informants have revealed their construction of moral problems when confronted by the different challenges brought along by the parents' marital conflict, as well as their choices of action strategies for solving the problems. Results of the study reveal that all informants have considered both the principles of justice and care in their moral reasoning. However, it is very obvious that they are more dominated by the morality of care, particularly the care for their mother. Different from what Gilligan et al have found in their study on girls' voices, the strength of voice is found not directly related with the chronological age of girls in this study. Instead, its correlations with the threatening of the sense of self is established. When the sense of self is coherent, girls tend to have a "strong voice". When the sense of self is being threatened by survival and/or disconnection, in particular with their mother, girls tend to lose their voice. The findings are able to shed light on the social work profession. First, the new approach of Gilligan et al in understanding women's and girls' moral conflicts in real life situations expands social work practitioners' understanding on the moral psychology of adolescent girls. Second, the insights gained from understanding girls' moral considerations in their coping with marital conflict enable practitioners to work on an alternative approach in disengaging girls from the marital conflict. Finally, the needs for policy makers to develop new service provision that protects children from being hurt by their parents' marital conflict as well as public education advocating the status of women are also identified.

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