Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Adolescents' Obligations toward Their Families: Intergenerational Discrepancies and Well-Being in Three Ethnic Groups in the Netherlands

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Adolescents' Obligations toward Their Families: Intergenerational Discrepancies and Well-Being in Three Ethnic Groups in the Netherlands

Article excerpt


Conflicts between parents and their adolescent children about children's contribution to chores and taking responsibility for family life are quite common. Adolescents generally report that they should have fewer obligations, whereas parents typically want thek children to take up more responsibilities (cf. Aycan & Kanungo, 1998; Dekovic, 1999; Fuügni, Tseng, & Lam, 1999; Rispens, Hermanns, & Meeuws, 1996). Henceforth we refer to this situation in terms of intergenerational discrepancies in family obligations. These discrepancies may negatively affect youths' psychological well-being (Rosenthal, Ranieri, & KIimidis, 1996). Steinberg (1990) suggests that disagreements between parents and adolescents may be considered part of normal developmental processes and are therefore not very disruptive in Western societies. However, in particular ethnic groups where norms of respect for parents prevail, differences within the family may be associated with greater problems (Markus & Lin, 1999), especiaUy when famiUes from these ethnic groups are citizens of Western societies (Costigan & Dokis, 2006; Nguyen & Williams, 1989). We investigated this issue in a study on discrepancies between parents and adolescents regarding family obligations among Dutch famiUes and two of the largest immigrant groups in Netherlands: Turkish and Surinamese immigrants. Family obUgations are defined in this study as adolescents' and parents' perceived communality of household chores, obethence to parents and a need to support the family and parents (cf. Phinney, Kim- Jo, Osorio, & VUhjalmsdottir, 2005). We examined discrepancies between adolescents and parents, specifically whether parents want a stronger compliance to famUy obligations than their children.

The study of intergenerational discrepancies in family obUgations is largely inspired by its possible impact on adolescents' weU-being (e.g., Harker, 2001). Although we also are interested in this relationship, our primary interest concerns whether it is a common phenomenon or a phenomenon that varies by parents' and adolescents' ethnic background and acculturation.

Family Obligations and Ethnic Differences

Ethnic groups may vary as to values that are seen as important for family life. Parents of north- and west-European origin tend to emphasize the importance of autonomy and independence for themselves as well as for their chUdren (Dekovic, 1 999; Rispens, Hermanns, & Meeuws, 1996). In less westernized ethnic groups, group members tend to emphasize the importance of family interdependence and conformity (Aycan & Kanungo, 1998; FuUgni, Tseng, & Lam, 1999). For instance, Surinamese and Turkish immigrants in the Netherlands favor mutual connectedness, responsibility for each other's welfare and respect for parents and older persons in general (cf. Crul & Doomernik, 2003; Eidering, 2006). Moreover, an American study by Fuligni et al. (1999) showed that adolescents with a non- Western background (i.e., China, Filipinas, Mexico and Central and South America) perceive more family obligations (running errands, taking care of brothers, sisters, grand parents, and spending time with the family) than adolescents with a European background. Together these studies suggest that non-Western or non- Westernized immigrant youth and their parents endorse obligations that define children's responsibilities for family members' wellbeing and welfare more than Western or Westernized families.

In this study we compare the family obligations of Dutch famiUes with those of Turkish and Surinamese families. The acculturation context of Surinamese and Turldsh famines differs in several respects. For instance, the Surinamese that we focus on in this study are descendants of former indentured laborers who arrived in Surinam from British East India around 1900 and migrated to the Netherlands at the time that Surinam became independent in the 1980s. …

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