University of Rhode Island
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Schram, Associate Professor of Education
Parent/Child Relationships in the Cambodian Family: Social Alternatives and Decision-Making among Adolescents
The purpose of this research project is to study how Cambodian American adolescents experience conflicts with their parents and to explore the social and cultural factors that underlie their responses to these conflicts. Conflicts within Cambodian American families tend to stem from cultural differences and discontinuities around such issues as the parent/child relationship; authority and respect for elders; family obligations and responsibility; and different forms of showing love and support. Adolescent responses to such conflict reflect an effort to form identities apart from family or local community, often in ways that place them at odds with both (e.g., joining gangs). Based on these concerns, I have developed a preliminary research design for a field-based study of the Cambodian family dynamics focused on the adolescent experience. My approach builds upon a collective case study of selected families in an urban setting. Each case study would entail the construction of an individual adolescent's life history and a documentation of current experiences and conflicts in his or her life. The significance of this research lies in its potential to uncover the social, cultural, and personal motivations that underlie conflicts between the two generations and to learn how to deal more effectively with family dysfunction.