Korean immigrant women's experience of marital abuse and post-divorce adjustment
Lee, Youn Mi
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The purpose of this study was to explore the experience and adjustment of Korean immigrant women who left abusive marriages. Grounded in a constructive paradigm, the qualitative methodology with semi-structured in-depth interview and grounded theory analysis was used. Five divorced Korean immigrant women participated in this study; they were between 35 and 50 years of age, have resided in the U.S. less than 10 years at the time of divorce, and left abusive marital relationships at least one year ago. Korean immigrant women’s narratives revealed that they went through several stages in their journey from abused wives to self-reliant divorced women. Stage I was characterized by a premature marriage. It was characterized by family and social pressures on marriage, early evidence of relational problems and abusive behaviors by the future husbands, and women’s lack of knowledge about abuse. In stage II, a frightening pattern of physical, emotional, financial abuse and isolation emerged. Wives resorted to a number of coping strategies; praying to God, concealing the problem, and fighting back verbally and physically. While some wives recognized their husband’s behavior as abusive and wrong, religious teaching, cultural norms, and children discouraged them from considering divorce. During stage III, Korean immigrant women experienced a turning point that was associated with a specific violent event. This turning point led women to adopt problem-focused strategies. The post-divorce period, stage IV, was characterized initially by economic hardships, experience changes in family relations, and mixed reactions in the community. Nevertheless, women developed a new sense of self, a renewed connection to God, close relations with the children they raised, and a positive outlook on life. Many said that their willingness to participate in this study came from a desire to help other women who may have faced abuse. Recommendations for future research and practice were also discussed in this study.