Redefining the Roles of Parents and Social Structure in the Educational Outcomes of Cambodian Young Adults

Sothy Eng, Miriam Mulsow, Erin Kostina-Ritchey, Anisa Zvonkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we examine the roles of Coleman’s social capital in university attendance among Cambodian young adults, utilizing grounded theory that includes in-depth interviews with 10 purposefully selected third-year university students. Results indicate that self-motivation, parental expectations, extended family assistance, mentors’ assistance, sibling inspirations, and social norms serve as student-acquired resources that facilitate university attendance. Under Coleman’s framework, numerous studies concentrate on the role of authoritative figures (e.g., parents or parents’ networks) in children’s developmental trajectories, viewing parents as sole distributors of resources to children whose outcomes depend on what they receive—in the absence of which, their positive developmental outcomes would be negated. This study, however, provides further evidence that children are capable of assisting each other, motivating themselves, and overcoming adverse social norms to help them advance academically, in the absence or lack of parental attention and/or involvement. This study suggests that individuals’ self-motivation be integral in social capital concepts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-767
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • parental expectations
  • self-motivation
  • sibling inspirations
  • social capital


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