Methods: Secondary data from a larger qualitative study of 1.5 and 2nd generation Asian American women with a history of self-harming behavior and/or suicidal ideation (Hahm et al., 2014) was used for this study. Five semi-structured individual interviews, transcribed and cleaned, were analyzed to answer the following questions: 1) How do these women describe their relationship with their parents? 2) To what degree do emotionally abusive interactions occur in these parent-child relationships? 3) How are these relationships and interactions interpreted and processed by these women? A thematic analysis using an abductive approach was conducted, guided by the Asian childrearing practice framework (Zhai & Gao, 2009) and the parental acceptance-rejection theory (Rohner & Rohner, 1980). The final sample (mean age = 23.2±4.3 years) consisted of current college students or graduates who ethnically identified as Chinese (N=2), Chinese-Vietnamese (N=2), or Vietnamese (N=1).
Results: Data analysis found that parental authority, child obedience, high parental expectations, and value clash due to intergenerational acculturation gap described the parent-child relationship of these women. All women reported high levels of distress and conflict with their parents. These relationships were also characterized as emotionally abusive, demonstrated through neglect and/or aggression from their parents. The data also suggested two different types of meaning-making processes: Emancipatory (development of self-autonomy and detachment from parental control) and Conflicted and Powerless (presence of unresolved resentment and internal conflict of feelings toward their parents, and denial and avoidance to cope with distress).
Conclusions and Implications: This study offers insight into the complexity of the highly conflictual parent-child relationship experienced and interpreted by Asian American women who report a history of child maltreatment and self-harming behavior and/or suicidal ideation. Findings highlight the critical role of familial relationships and intergenerational conflict on the mental health of Asian American women and their internal processes of coping with distress. The study can inform culturally sensitive ways to better support Asian immigrant parents to foster relationships that respond to the mental health needs of their offspring.