CHINESE IMMIGRANTS’ EXPERIENCES OF IMMIGRATION AND MARITAL SEPARATION

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CHAPTER TWO: OVERVIEW AND RATIONALE

Introduction

Divorce has been a topic of research for about fifty years (Amato, 2000, 2010; Kitson & Morgan, 1990; Kitson & Raschke, 1981). However, in one area of the research, “studies of racial and ethnic minorities are frustratingly rare” (Amato, 2000, p. 1282). Chinese immigrants are one of these neglected minorities, and they might be the most neglected ethnic group within immigrant communities.
In the past three decades, Chinese immigrants have been one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in common immigration destination countries (Huiyao Wang et al., 2015). Some studies have suggested that immigration might be associated with an increase in divorce among recent Chinese immigrants (Khoo & Zhao, 2001; Y. Zhang, 2008). Despite this research, fewer studies on divorce have been conducted on Chinese immigrants, compared with those on Hispanic and African immigrants (e.g., Bulanda & Brown, 2007; Frank & Wildsmith, 2005; Phillips & Sweeney, 2005; Rogers, 2004). Among Asian immigrants, some studies have investigated the experience of divorce within a specific Asian ethnic group such as Korean immigrants (J. Chang, 1999; Y. Lee & Bell-Scott, 2009) or Asian immigrant women as a combined group (Song, 1991), but little research has to date explored the experience of divorce of Chinese immigrants. Because of the lack of studies on this population, we know little about what is going on with Chinese immigrants when they divorce.
This study investigates the experiences of divorce of Chinese immigrants who live in New Zealand and who have experienced separation and/or divorce. It includes two research projects designed to complement each other through the different perspectives provided by the two groups of participants. The first project, referred to as the immigrants project, investigates the experiences of divorce of Chinese immigrants who separated and/or divorced in New Zealand. The second project, referred to as the professionals project, investigates the same phenomenon from the perspective of professionals who have had working experience with divorcing and/or divorced Chinese immigrants in this country. The two research projects, including the methods employed and the results from each project, will be presented individually in the following three chapters.
In this chapter, the rationale and methodological approach that guide the overall planning and research process are presented. These include the aims of the study, the overview of the two research projects, the qualitative approach to the studied phenomenon, the strategies and methods for data collection and analysis, and finally a statement of my professional and personal connections to the study subject.

The Aims of the Study

This study has three broad aims. The first and also the central aim of this study is to understand the experiences of divorce of Chinese immigrants. The validity of this aim is strongly supported by the lack of understanding of the divorce of Chinese immigrants, as described in Chapter One and the beginning of this chapter.
In the study, the Chinese immigrants’ entire experiences in relation to their divorce in New Zealand will be explored. These include, but are not limited to, their experiences of post-immigration adjustment stress and coping, their experiences of how this adjustment stress and coping process influenced their marital relationships, their experiences of marital conflicts and decision-making in relation to divorce, their experiences of challenges after separation and how they coped with these challenges and adjust to life after separation, and finally their experiences of the consequences that resulted from separation and/or divorce. As outlined in the previous chapter, in recent years, Chinese immigrants’ motivation for immigration, post-immigration adjustment, marital relationship, separation, and post-separation adjustment are likely to be affected by transnational migration and multiculturalism. As such, the influences of living as an astronaut family, the host and home culture, and the settlement policies and social services in the host country on marital relationships, the decision to divorce, and post-immigration adjustment are likely to be important parts of Chinese immigrants’ experiences of divorce. Therefore Chinese immigrants’ experiences in this regard will also be explored in the study.
In order to achieve the in-depth, trustworthy and valid understanding of the divorce of Chinese immigrants, a qualitative methodological approach has been chosen and a number of research strategies and methods have been employed. The designing of the methodological approach, research strategies and methods will be presented in the following sections.
The second aim is to contribute to the development of divorce theories in general and divorce theories concerning first-generation Chinese immigrants in particular. In order to achieve this aim, the findings from this study will be applied to those from existing studies on the post-immigration adjustment, particularly marital and family adjustments, of Chinese immigrants and on divorce in the general population in both Western countries and China, as outlined in Chapter One. Some tentative explanations for the similarities and differences in relation to the findings between this study and the existing studies will be developed. As such, this study will not only contribute to the development of divorce theories in general, but also to divorce theories concerning first-generation Chinese immigrants in particular.
The third aim is to provide practical implications for policy makers, social service providers, clinicians and divorcing Chinese immigrants. This study has a strong commitment to providing practical implications. During the project planning and research process, a number of strategies and methods were planned and employed to fulfil this commitment. These include focusing on the inner experiences of divorce of Chinese immigrants; paying close attention to the social and cultural constraints that affect their marital stability, the divorce process and adjustment after separation; giving voice to Chinese immigrants on social and cultural issues in relation to their divorce and adjustment; exploring their attitudes, knowledge and experience in relation to social services, particularly marital and health services; and finally comparing Chinese immigrants’ experiences of divorce with professionals’ perceptions of their divorce. To date, little is known about the experience of divorce of Chinese immigrants, so the results obtained through these approaches will be very useful in increasing the societal level of understanding of divorce within this ethnic minority. This information will be particularly useful to politicians who plan immigration, marital and health policies in relation to Chinese immigrants, to social service providers who provide service to Chinese immigrants, to clinicians who work with Chinese immigrants, and finally to Chinese immigrants who are divorcing.
In congruence with the aims of this study, the following research questions were formulated to guide the planning and research process of the study.
What challenges and stresses did Chinese immigrants experience in adjusting to life in New Zealand, how did they cope with these challenges and stresses, and how did this stress and coping process impact their marital relationships and contribute, if at all, to their separation?
What challenges did Chinese immigrants experience after separation, how did they cope with these challenges and adjust to life after separation, and what long-term consequences, if at all, did Chinese immigrants experience as the result of divorce?
What influences, if at all, did both the home and host culture, as well as social services in New Zealand, have on the post-immigration adjustment, marital separation, and post-separation adjustment of Chinese immigrants?
What, if at all, do the findings from this study contribute to the development of theories of divorce in general and theories of divorce of Chinese immigrants in particular, and what, if at all, are the social and policy implications of these findings?

An Overview of the Study

The Immigrants Project

This project aims at understanding Chinese immigrants’ lived experiences of divorcing after immigration to New Zealand. It includes two separate parts, with the first part focusing on the participants’ life experiences leading to marital separation, and the second part focusing on the participants’ life experiences after separation, including their experiences of the impact of separation, post-separation adjustment and the long-term consequences of separation and/or divorce. As outlined in Chapter One, immigration and post-immigration adjustment, such as post-immigration adjustment stress and coping, particularly spousal differences in the adjustment and coping, could impact the marital relationship and contribute to the divorce of Chinese immigrants. It is likely that the impact of immigration and post-immigration adjustment on marital relationship is an important part of the participants’ experiences of divorce. To explore more on this research topic, the immigrant project was divided into two parts. Despite this division, the two separate parts of the project, shared the same participants and the interviews with them were conducted at the same time.
The immigrants project was based on in-depth interviews with 25 separated and/or divorced Chinese immigrants. The data from the interviews was analysed by following grounded theory methodology. The methods employed and the results from this research project are presented in full in Chapter Three and Chapter Four.

The Professionals Project

The professionals project investigates the professionals’ experiences and views of the divorce of Chinese immigrants who have separated and/or divorced in New Zealand. These professionals are regarded as ‘key informants’ (Bryman, 2012). It is assumed that these professionals have in-depth understanding of the experience of divorce among Chinese immigrants, based on their experiences of working with separating and separated Chinese immigrants. It is also assumed that these professionals are able to interpret the experience of divorce of Chinese immigrants and to bring their particular insights into the phenomenon, based on their professional knowledge and analysis. In this sense, the professionals project is in itself an appropriate approach to investigate the experience of divorce of Chinese immigrants. On the other hand, it could also serves as a comparison group for the main project that works with immigrants. This kind of triangulation not only adds trustworthiness to the study, but also “increases scope, depth and consistency” to the findings (Flick, 2009, p. 445).
The professionals project was based on the in-depth interviews, including both individual interviews and group interviews, with 12 professionals who had first-hand working experiences with divorcing and/or divorced Chinese immigrants. The interviews focused on the professional’s experiences and views of the divorce of Chinese immigrants. The aims, methods and the results from this project are presented in full in Chapter Five.

The Qualitative Methodology of this Study

Strengths of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research refers to a field of inquiry across many disciplines in the humanities, social and even physical sciences (C. Nelson, Treichler, & Grossberg, 1992). It involves a wide range of interconnected research approaches and methods. These approaches and methods are historically associated with positivism, postpositivism, structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodernism and post-humanism, and are constantly being shaped by social movements as well as the ethics and politics of research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).
While these research approaches and methods are diverse and sometimes in contradiction with each other in terms of their underlying ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions, they share some common characteristics that distinguish them as qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Ponterotto, 2005). Firstly, qualitative researchers maintain that reality is either socially constructed (as constructivists do) or influenced by social, cultural and historical factors (as post-positivists do), therefore the dynamic interaction between the researcher and what is studied, is essential in capturing this reality (Charmaz, 2011; Ponterotto, 2005). Secondly, consistent with their assumptions about reality, qualitative researchers employ a naturalistic and interpretive approach to the phenomenon of interest. They study the phenomenon in its natural settings and attempt to understand the phenomenon in terms of the meanings people ascribe to them. They emphasize processes and meanings rather than the measurement of variables and the analysis of causal relationships between them. To better understand the phenomenon in question, qualitative researchers typically engage themselves in interpersonal contact with the studied subject, and collect a variety of empirical materials, such as case studies, life stories, personal experiences, interviews and participant dairies, that “describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 4). Thirdly, qualitative researchers believe that each approach and method can provide an important insight into the studied phenomenon. They attempt to employ multiple approaches and methods, i.e. triangulation, in their research practice, in order to secure an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Flick, 1992). Finally, qualitative researchers believe that researchers’ values cannot be eliminated from the research process. Consequently, they are likely to claim their value positions explicitly and then take cautious measures to either bracket (as post-positivist researchers do) the influence of their values on research process and outcomes, or use their values (as critical qualitative researchers do) to enhance the research process and outcome (Charmaz, 2011; Ponterotto, 2005).
Qualitative research has many strengths, with the major strength lying in the development of an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in question (Flick, 2009). Qualitative researchers are interested in the lived experiences of participants. They locate themselves in naturalistic settings, engage themselves in an intense interaction with participants, and focus on contextual factors and dynamic processes through which participants create meanings. This naturalistic, interactive and interpretative approach allows the researchers to develop an in-depth understanding of the participants’ lived experience. Unlike quantitative researchers, who have a strong commitment to replicability, generalizability and prediction, qualitative researchers are interested in developing an explanatory theory about a phenomenon inductively. With their naturalistic and interpretive approach, qualitative researchers are able to describe the properties of a phenomenon, identify the contextual and situational factors that influence the phenomenon, and document complex processes. In addition, the findings from qualitative research are embedded in local contexts and built on the inside view of the participants. In marked contrast, findings from quantitative research may have little meaning within the view of the studied individuals, societies or cultures, due to the researchers’ detached view brought to bear on an inquiry (Guba & Lincoln, 1994).
Qualitative research can serve many types of research purposes (Flick, 2009; Rosenblatt & Fischer, 1993). This approach is appropriate for exploring a research topic that has not been adequately studied as it allows new concepts, assumptions and theories to emerge from the data. It is also helpful for examining a well-researched topic, as its inside views brought out from the participants could be used to challenge the existing findings in the field. Qualitative research is particularly useful in investigating a research topic or area where perceptions, feelings and views are complex, ambivalent, situational or changing with time, and where the complexities of social process make it difficult for quantitative research to operate. Given its strength and flexibility in serving different types of research purposes, it is not surprising that qualitative research has increasingly become the choice of inquiry in many disciplines (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). As Ponterotto (2005) commented, psychology in North America “is in the midst of a gradual paradigm shift from a primary reliance on quantitative methods to a more balanced reliance on quantitative and qualitative methods” (p. 126).

Types of Qualitative Approaches

Since the 1970s, the dominance of traditional quantitative research in social science has been challenged (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). Accompanying this challenge has been the development of numerous qualitative approaches and methods across different disciplines (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). These diverse approaches and methods can be broadly organized into four paradigms: positivist, postpositivist, constructivist, and critical paradigm, based on their underlying assumptions about ontology (the nature of reality), epistemology (the relationship between the researcher and researched), and methodology (the way of knowing the world and obtaining knowledge of it) (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011; Ponterotto, 2005). Qualitative researchers are often called upon to situate their research within these paradigms, so that other researchers and readers can better understand their research findings (Elliott, Fischer, & Rennie, 1999; Ponterotto, 2005). In the following paragraphs, I briefly describe the four common paradigms and the qualitative research approaches within them, and then situate this study within these paradigms.
The positivist paradigm believes in a single reality, which is apprehensible (Guba Lincoln, 1994; Ponterotto, 2005). Positivists employ strict scientific methods and procedures to uncover causal relationships, with the aim of predicting and controlling of the phenomenon in question. Positivism values objectivity and stresses a detached researcher role in an inquiry. Positivism is predominately a foundation for quantitative research. It had dominated social science research until it was challenged by postpositivism and constructivism in 1980s (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011).
The postpositivist paradigm is a modified version of positivism. According to this paradigm, there is a single reality but it is only imperfectly apprehensible (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Lincoln et al., 2011). Because of the lack of absolutes in nature and flawed human intellectual mechanisms, we can never capture a reality fully (Ponterotto, 2005). In association with this modified realism, postpositivists emphasize theory falsification rather than theory verification as positivists do (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Lincoln et al., 2011). Methodologically, multiplism or triangulation is stressed as a way of falsifying hypotheses (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). Despite these differences, postpositivism shares much in common with positivism. Both paradigms value objectivity and a detached researcher role in an inquiry and focus on cause-effect linkages, with the ultimate aim of prediction and control of the phenomenon of interest (Ponterotto, 2005).
Postpositivism is a primary foundation for quantitative research. However, qualitative research can also work within this paradigm (Guba & Lincoln, 1994;
Ponterotto, 2005). Within the postpositivist paradigm, qualitative research focuses on gaining insight into the meanings participants ascribe to their actions, identifying situational factors and processes that influence the experience of the phenomenon in question, and generating a grounded theory to explain the phenomenon (Corbin & Strauss, 2015; Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Lincoln et al., 2011). Within this paradigm, qualitative research usually involves intense interaction, typically an interview, with participants in a natural setting. In order to capture the single approximal reality of the participants’ collective experience without eroding objectivity, a number of cautious and consensual measures have been put in place. These include using a brief semi-structured interview with a relatively large number of participants, applying the same interview protocol to all the participants, using multiple interviewers, being cautious about the influence of the researcher on the participants, following rigorous data analysis procedure, using participant and peer checking, and using consensus among multiple raters to identify emergent themes (Corbin & Strauss, 2015; Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Ponterotto, 2005).

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
An Overview
Chinese Migration to New Zealand
From Sojourners to Settlers – Early Chinese Settlement in New Zealand
Post-1986 Chinese Immigration
Post-Immigration Adjustment and the Marital Relationship
Post-Immigration Adjustment
Individual Adjustment and the Marital Relationship
Family Adjustment and the Marital Relationship
Marital Adjustment and Separation
Impacts of Separation and Post-Separation Adjustment
Western Theories of Post-Separation Adjustment
Chinese Family Values and Traditions of Divorce
Managing Life Challenges after Separation
Redefining the Relationship with the Ex-Spouse
Social Support after Separation
Long-Term Consequences of Divorce
CHAPTER TWO: OVERVIEW AND RATIONALE 
Introduction
The Aims of the Study
An Overview of the Study
The Immigrants Project
The Professionals Project
The Qualitative Methodology of this Study
Strengths of Qualitative Research
Types of Qualitative Approaches
The Qualitative Approach of this Study
Strategies and Methods for Data Collection and Analysis
My Professional and Personal Connections to the Research Subject
CHAPTER THREE: CHINESE IMMIGRANTS’ EXPERIENCES OF IMMIGRATION AND MARITAL SEPARATION
Introduction to the Immigrants Project
Method
Participants
Procedure
Data Collection
Data Analysis
Results
Themes in Relation to Dreams of Immigration
Individual overseas dreams
Immigration for the family
Themes in Relation to Settlement and Adjustment
Settlement and adjustment stress
Losses associated with immigration
Individual and family coping strategies
Spousal and gender differences in adjustment and coping
Themes in Relation to Marital Crisis
Post-immigration marital conflicts
Impact of adjustment stress and losses on marital relationships
Impact of spousal differences in adjustment and coping on marital relationships
Impact of living as an astronaut family on marital relationships
Themes in Relation to Making the Decision to Divorce
Saving the marriage
The process of decision-making
Easier to make the decision in New Zealand
Summary of Findings.
CHAPTER FOUR: CHINESE IMMIGRANTS’ POST-SEPARATION EXPERIENCES
Introduction
Themes in Relation to Impacts of Separation
Psychological Difficulties
Financial Difficulties
Daily Life Difficulties
Themes in Relation to Post-Separation Adjustment
Coping with Life after Separation
Managing the Parental Relationship and Co-Parenting
Social Support: Barriers and Access
Themes in Relation to Long-term Consequences
Negative Consequences
Positive Consequences
Summary of Findings
CHAPTER FIVE: PROFESSIONALS’ PERCEPTIONS OF CHINESE IMMIGRANTS’ EXPERIENCES OF DIVORCE
Introduction to the Professionals Project
Method
Participants
Procedure
Data Analysis
Results
Themes in Relation to Immigration, Post-Immigration Adjustment and Separation
Post-immigration challenges and separation
Spousal and gender differences in post-immigration adjustment and separation
Changes in family living arrangements and separation
Social and cultural influences on views of divorce and decision-making
Themes in Relation to Impacts of Separation and Post-Separation Adjustment
Separation overseas makes life harder
Adjusting to a single parent life
From my children or your children to our children
Barriers and access to social support
Long-term consequences
Summary of Findings
CHAPTER SIX: CHAPTER SIX: DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
The Research Methodology
Proposed Model of Divorce of Chinese Immigrants in New Zealand
Immigration and Post-Immigration Adjustment
Impacts of Immigration on Marital Relationships
Impacts of Adjustment Stress and Losses on Marital Relationships
Impact of Spousal Differences in Adjustment and Coping on Marital Relationships
Impacts of the Changes in Family Structure, Roles and Dynamics on Marital Relationships
Marital Crisis and Separation
Marital Crisis
Making the Decision to Divorce
Adjustment after Separation
The Impacts of Separation
Child-Centred Adjustment
Managing Co-Parenting after Separation
Barriers and Access to Social Support
Long-term Consequences of Separation and/or Divorce
Theoretical and Practical Implications
Limitations of the Research
Future Research Directions
Conclusion…
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Chinese Immigrants’ Experiences of Divorce in New Zealand: A Qualitative Study

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