Exploring Family Functioning in a Collectivist Society: A Qualitative Stud
Family functioning is an important factor that has been studied by many researchers from different fields, such as
family therapy, education, family medicine, social work, counseling, etc. Most of the previous studies were conducted on
Western population. A limited number of studies was conducted on non-White population who live in the West, such as,
Asian American. In recent years, there is a growing number of researchers who studied family functioning in collectivist
societies, such as in China, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Iran, and Japan. Most of these studies used quantitative method that
measures family functioning based on Western concepts. Researchers used instruments that were originally developed by
Western researchers, and tested on Western population. Examples of the instruments are Family Assessment Device, Family
Adaptation and Cohesive Scale, and Family Environment Scale. The present study tried to explore and understand factors
that may contribute to family functioning in Malaysian society. Malaysian is a collectivist society, which emphasizes on
family harmony and hierarchal structure of family. The researchers used qualitative method in order to understand family
functioning. Focus group interviews were conducted on 20 professionals from different fields who work with family.
Individual interviews were also conducted to improve the validity and reliability of the data. Six themes emerged from the
analysis. They are (1) Family Role; (2) Parenting Styles; (3) Family Rule; (4) Communication; (5) Value Orientation; and
(6) Cohesiveness. The study highlights the importance of understanding family functioning from the culture being studied.
Implication for practitioners and future researchers are discussed.