Term Paper: Crisis and Resilience in Family

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Marriage & Family

Marriage and Family: China's Response to Stress

The family ecological perspective utilizes a contextual frame of reference that posits the influence on family and family dynamics as it relates to their environment. Through this theoretical lens, practitioners are able to then look at families in relationship to religion, education, financial and economic, cultural, and historical circumstances (Lamanna & Reidman, 2005). According to Bronfenbrenner (1979) every family is encapsulated and infixed in "a set of nested structures, each inside the next, like a set of Russian dolls" (p. 3).

At the basis of the family ecological model, the environment- climate and natural physical biological connections exists with the social cultural environment existing as prevalent for humans. For those who focus on the family ecological model, emphasis is placed on the interdependence of the world's families, not simply nuclear families but in balance with the physical-biological environment (Lamanna & Reidman, 2005). There is also a strong historical component of the family ecological perspective as posited by Carlson (2009): By virtue of when they were born, members of each generation live through unique times shaped by unexpected historical events, changing political climates, and evolving socioeconomic conditions" (p. 2). In addition, the family ecological perspective takes into account in the analysis of family and family functioning, on multiple levels from nuclear to the society at large (Schulman & Ben-Artzi, 2003).

China's Response to Stress

Within the Chinese culture, the family institution is regarded as the pinnacle of society with family bonds held as worthy of honor and sacred to each family member. Within the traditional Chinese family, a hierarchy exists, with the man as the head of the household and held primarily and ultimately responsible for the family's financial and economic welfare (Fung, 2010). As such, the father has complete authority and the last word in all matters that relate to the family. In addition, familial roles have reported to be significantly influenced by religion, as well as communal behavior and social order as learned from the historical ties to Confucianism.

Although in contemporary society, some important changes have been noted in Chinese families, the primary and foundational elements, in many ways, remain the same. Another important component of Chinese family structure is the societal institution of the one child policy that is enforced by the country's laws. Although some exceptions were made for families that resided in rural areas, and particularly if the first born child was male, for much of society, the one child policy remains in effect as a means of preserving the country's natural resources and stemming the tide of the ever increasing population.

One of the primary sources of stress in Chinese families and relationships stems from a correlation between role ambiguity and work family conflict (Netemeyer et al., 1996). Beutell and Wittig-Berman (2008) posit that generationally, views differ on the importance and the management of work-family conflict. Because of the close alignment with parents and their children as viewed in the archetype of the "great self," work family conflict places a great deal of stress on the Chinese family; particularly as one of the primary tenants is the maintenance of a harmonious household. When any family member encounters difficulty, it is incumbent upon other family members to provide whatever assistance may be deemed necessary (Montgomery et al., 2006). Moreover, because of the demands of technological advancement, cultural drive to remain current, and the expectations of dedication to work, the conflict between maintaining viable employment and family life have been exacerbated in recent years (Montgomery et al., 2006). The environmental influences that impact the Chinese family are significant. However, because family first is the motto by which most working family members ascribe to, the stress created in these situations tends to be mitigated by familial as well as organizational support. At the same time, however, it is imperative that the family persevere through any crisis that may arise if the external stresses become too significant, and the familial bond helps the family to remain resilient even through these difficult times.

Chen and Li in their 2007 article, "Marital Enqing: An Examination of its Relationship to Spousal Contributions, Sacrifices, and Family Stress in Chinese Marriages" the researchers outline the importance of economics, and traditional, cultural and historically influenced gender relations as it relates to mitigating stress in interfamilial relationships. Researchers posit that Chinese marital relationships, particularly as it relates to couples' affection should be viewed in the context of cultural influence. Researchers operationally define intimate or affection relationship as sharing of intimate feelings and experiences and self-disclosure (Clark & Reis, 1988; Rosenthbluth & Steil, 1995). Although western cultures determine marital relationships to be 'successful' based on the establishment and maintenance of intimacy, for Chinese couples, the foundation for a stable marriage is contingent upon enqing or the expression of feelings of admiration and gratitude (Li, 1997; S-M Tang, 1999). Four components of Chinese couples affection were denoted as gratitude feelings, togetherness, compatibility, and admiration (Li, 1999).

Ethics based on Confucian traditional provided the governing roles that husbands and wives play within the marriage clearly delineated expectations for Chinese society with the five cardinal ethics: (a) father and son, (b) sovereign and subordinate, (c) husband and wife, (d) elder brother and younger brother, (e) friends (Hwang, Chang, Chen, Chen, & Yang, 2001). According to ancient Chinese history, marriages were often arranged and rarely were the potential bride or groom able to select his or her own mate. As such, the purpose of marriage was more along the lines of lineage continuity rather than a "loving couple's lawful declaration to stay together" (Li & Chen, 2002). Moreover, the understood primary goal of a marriage was to produce offspring. As such, the possibility of developing intimacy was minimal and was not encourage through the duration of the marriage. Because of the clear roles established within the marriage and with regard to the child (ren)'s positioning, any stress generated from any source must be first addressed by the husband as the head of the family. Even though there have been some modifications to the father-mother relationship, the responsibilities of the father have not significantly changed (Ferree, 1984).

What has fostered a great deal of stress within the Chinese household has been the division of labor between the husband and wife in recent years. Women now perceive a more equitable distribution of housework and labor as representative of less depression, greater fairness, and enjoying greater marital satisfaction (Coltrane 2001; Lai & Fang, 2001). This issue relates directly to that of sacrifice and contribution, which are tenants of the Chinese marriage (Hewlett & West, 1998). Although marriages may seem less than intimate, the foundation for marriage is one that has an innate crisis management system established as the couple understand from the very outset what their expectations, responsibilities and reactions to crisis situations should be. Inasmuch as the marriage may be considered 'loveless' by westernized standards, Chinese marital relationships are resilient by establishment.

Conclusion

For centuries, the institution of family in Chinese culture has proven to be one of the most important components of traditional and cultural life. The ethics the family is required to adhere to have been laid down for generations by way of religion and societies practice of Confucianism. The family ecological perspective utilizes a contextual frame of reference that posits the influence on family and family dynamics as it relates to the environment. Through this theoretical lens, the Chinese family can be seen in relationship to religion, education, financial and economic, cultural, and historical circumstances.

The focus of the traditional and contemporary Chinese family is family first. As such, those external forces that could preempt the balance and harmony posited as a Chinese way of life are most often relegated to the back burner; keeping the primary focus on the well being of the family. However, when internal or external factors such as division of labor and work family conflict do arise, these stressors are often mitigated by the ethical and seemingly inherent roles and responsibilities that each family member ascribes to. Tradition and culture remain important in the Chinese family, and many facets of life are determined by societal standards. However, because these standards are so widely accepted, there is very little separation between society and the nuclear family.

Bibliography

Beutell, N. & Wittig-Berman, U. (2008). Work-family conflict and work-family synergy for generation X baby boomers, and matures: Generational differences, predictors, and satisfaction outcomes. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(5), 507-523.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). Contexts of child rearing: Problems and prospects. American Psychologist, 34(10), 844-850.

Carlson, J. (2009). Family therapy techniques: integrating and tailoring treatment. Florence, KY: Brunner-Routledge.

Chen, F. & Li, T. (2007). Marital enqing: an examination of its relationship to spousal

Contributions, sacrifices, and family stress in Chinese marriages. The Journal of Social Psychology, 147(4), 393-412.

Clark, M. & Reis, H. (1988). Interpersonal processes in close relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 39, 609-672.

Coltrane, S. (2001). Research on household labor: modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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