Family structure and processes in a new industrial town


Wong, Fai-ming

TitleFamily structure and processes in a new industrial town
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateDecember, 1977


Family life surveys

Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

In conclusion, the family in Kwun Tong could be defined as a unique form of the modern Chinese family with its distinctive structure and functional processes. Regarding its structure and composition, the family was mainly a first-generation immigrant Chinese family which came to Hong Kong from the various nearby districts inside the province of Kwangtung, China, and had mostly moved into this town during the past ten years, It was predominantly nuclear in structure, and was composed of about six persons including typically the husband, his wife and three to four children. It practised mainly the rules of bilineality and neolocality which meant its descent and inheritance were usually passed on to both sons and daughters and the newlywed mostly tended to set up their own home. Its marriage pattern was both monogamous and homogamous, as the practice of plural wives or concubinage had already lost its legal status as well as its normative support and the marital partners were basically similar in their socio-economic background, region of origin and religious belief.


The functional aspects of the Kwun Tong family were examined in terms of its internal processes on the one hand and its relations with other social systems on the other. The internal processes of the family were focused mainly on the power and decision-making participation of its members, their role differentiation and performance, and other forms of their interaction inside the family. First, in its daily operation, family power was generated through the decision-making participation of the marital partners over family matters and usually manifested in the potential ability of one partner to influence the other’s attitude and behavior. Thus, in general, the pattern of power differentiation practised among these couples was a relatively equalitarian one as decisions about major family matters were usually made through a process of mutual consultation and agreement between the spouses. Specifically, while the husband was more dominant in making decisions over the areas of economic and social activities of the family, the wife had demonstrated her power mainly in those of child care and control and household duties.


Secondly, as it was found, there was a high degree of consistency between the pattern of marital task performance and that of their decision-making participation; this meant the same spouse who made decisions about certain household tasks also tended to carry them out. Thus, generally, the pattern of marital collaboration in household task performance was being practised among these couples. In particular, the husband was more responsible for managing the economic activities and taking his family out for social events, whereas the wife was more involved in taking care of routine household tasks and supervising her children's studies and conduct. Lastly, the other patterns of family interaction were analyzed along two major dimensions: husband-wife and parent-child. The relationship between the husband and the wife had been moving toward a companionship type. They claimed to have held many family values in common, communicated with each other frequently and often participated jointly in social and recreational activities when marital disagreements occurred, they were tackled and solved rationally and peacefully. The parent-child relations had become closer and more intense as the family shrank into a small, nuclear type. They consisted of a mixed yet balanced set of feelings including mostly mutual love and trust as well as some mutual suspicion, but this balance was liable to being tipped off by any lack of mutual understanding due to their differences in family values, general outlooks and personal styles of living.

The relations of the family with external social systems were seen to include mainly the processes of educational attainment and mobility, occupational engagement and mobility, and social and religious participation. First, educational attainment was very widespread particularly among the male heads of the families, even though the majority of them had finished merely as far as the primary school and only one-fourth were able to go beyond this level of education. With respect to their educational mobility, the heads of these families were generally better educated than their fathers. This was especially so with those in the secondary and the post-secondary categories who had attained at least one or two levels of education higher than their fathers, while those with no schooling or only primary education mostly had completed the same level of education as that of their fathers.


Secondly, regarding their occupational engagement, the men were as a rule employed in the economic enterprise, but the women had also increasingly participated in some gainful activities. Both of them tended to work mainly in manufacturing and service industries and were employed mostly in blue-collar and clerical posts. Hence, the husband’s role as the sole bread-winner of the family was now challenged, and his income was often supplemented by those of the wife and their grown-up children. In terms of intergenerational occupational mobility, the heads of these families in both the upper and lower categories of position had rather limited mobility as their positions were very close to those of their fathers, whereas those especially in the upper-middle stratum had enjoyed much upward mobility being mostly one or two levels of position higher than those of their fathers.


And, finally, as far as their social and religious activities were concerned, they were found to have demonstrated a reasonable amount of social awareness and participation. They had taken part in various social welfare campaigns and community events, and had voiced their views or even taken various forms of action about several controversial social issues.

Moreover, the majority of these people still worshipped their ancestors in one form or another and many of them believed in some god, especially traditional Chinese Deities, and participated regularly in some related religious activities.

NoteBibliography: p. [51-53]
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