Patterns of adolescent–parent conflicts over schoolwork in Chinese families

Ge Cao*, Vicky C. Tam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Schoolwork is a significant source of adolescent–parent conflicts in Chinese families. Framed in Smetana’s model of social domain theory and with support from self-determination theory by Deci and Ryan, we used the qualitative methods of grounded theory approach to explore the patterns of adolescent–parent conflicts over schoolwork in Chinese families, as well as the role of parental psychological control and youths’ autonomy development in schoolwork conflicts. Data were collected through semi-structured individual interviews with 28 parents and 35 adolescents in Yinchuan city of Ningxia. Intricate patterns of conflict reasoning and resolution are revealed in (a) parents’ conventional reasoning about schoolwork conflicts as driven by education system in China; (b) parents’ use of explicit and subtle coercive conflict resolution strategies; (c) adolescents’ conventional reasoning about conflicts on academic performance, multifaceted reasoning about conflicts on daily studies, and personal reasoning about conflicts on non-academic activities and (d) the process- and relationship-orientations of adolescents’ conflict resolution strategies. Reactive nature of Chinese teenagers’ conflict reasoning and resolution, as well as the intricate process involving parents’ psychological control and adolescents’ controlled motivation over schoolwork are indicated. Findings are discussed in the cultural context of contemporary China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-388
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Family Studies
Issue number1
Early online date19 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • adolescents’ autonomy development
  • Adolescent–parent schoolwork conflicts
  • conflict reasoning
  • conflict resolution
  • parental psychological control


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