Experiences of adult children with intergenerational ambivalence in a Chinese society : sources and management

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Experiences of adult children with intergenerational ambivalence in a Chinese society : sources and management

 

Author: Ngai, So Wa
Title: Experiences of adult children with intergenerational ambivalence in a Chinese society : sources and management
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2014
Subject: Parent and adult child.
Intergenerational relations.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: xii, 314 leaves : illustrations ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2780508
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7860
Abstract: This research explores the experiences of adult children in developing and managing their ambivalent thoughts and feelings toward their parents within the context of Hong Kong society. Adopting the intergenerational ambivalence model, this research focuses on the participants’ perceptions of their relationships with their parents throughout the course of their lives. The life history approach that emphasizes the interplay of life stories and contexts, and treats context as a necessary reference point for the interpretive process, has guided the exploration process. Twenty participants (10 male and 10 female) and the researcher co-created the meaning-making process through forty face-to-face guided conversations based on the principles of the social constructionist collaborative approach. The findings support the ambivalent nature of the parent-adult child relationship. Six types of parent-child dynamics were identified as sources of the participants’ negative sentiments in terms of their ambivalent experience: 1) son preference and parental unfairness, 2) parental psychological control, 3) parental marital discordance, 4) moderate to severe corporal punishment, 5) parental dependence, and 6) parental selfishness. Interestingly, these behaviors and attitudes do not generate ambivalence unless adult children identify the connection between these dynamics and their negative living experiences. Respect and appreciation for parents’ devotion and sacrifice are identified as sources of the participants’ positive sentiments in their ambivalent experience. Factors such as the Confucian concept of filial piety and religious beliefs act to prevent adult children from exiting their relationships with their parents. The contradictions in thoughts and attitudes, as well as feelings of being torn, created psychological stress and interpersonal tension. Nonetheless, as social actors, adult children continuously manage their felt ambivalence by understanding, negotiating and transforming. Five stages are highlighted in analyzing participants’ attempts to manage their intergenerational ambivalence: 1) potential ambivalence and felt ambivalence, 2) confrontation and persuasion, 3) disappointment and anger, 4) compassion and respect, and 5) acceptance and self-agency. This process of resolving intergenerational ambivalence provides an opportunity for adult children to make new meaning about their experiences with their parents, and it also facilitates their personal growth and sense of self-agency.

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