Summary Report: Transforming Family Conflict

Transforming Family Conflict:

an exploration of the
contexts, skills and perceptions
of four community peacebuilders

A Summary Report
by David Ketchum, Holly Ketchum and Ma Somethea

for Peace Bridges
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
October 2009

A Word of Thanks...

On behalf of the Peace Bridges team, we want to thank David and Holly Ketchum and Mrs. Ma Somethea for this excellent and informative report.

We are also sincerely grateful to the four anonymous graduates of our training who were willing to openly discuss the joys and challenges of family life. The insights of these women and men provided our team with a unique opportunity to understand more about family life in Cambodia, critically reflect on our practices and begin to understand how Peace Bridges can positively impact upon families into the future.

For too many people, the family is a place of abuse and fear rather than a safe place of belonging. Our hope is that this small research project will be a useful resource for the many Cambodian women and men committed to the challenge of building peace and resilience in families.

Peace Bridges welcomes feedback and constructive criticism of this report. We recognize this report is but a small insight into family life here, yet hope all readers find something helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. ChanMony
General Services Manager

Barry Higgins,

Table of Contents

1: Why Peace Bridges_Researched_Family_Conflict

2: How did Peace Bridges Conduct the Case Study?

Part 3: What Were the Key Theoretical Assumptions?
1. Domestic Violence Defined in Cambodian Law
2. Types of Family Violence
3. Social Indicators
4. Qualities of Healthy Families

Part 4: What Did Peace Bridges Discover?
1. The Experience of Family Conflict
-The Importance of Empathy for Self and Others
-Gender Stereotypes & Expressing Vulnerability
2. Supporting Healthy Family Practices
-Respecting & Valuing One Another
-Parenting that Nurtures, Protects & Guides
-Adapting to Change
-Solving Problems Peacefully
3. Identifying Continuing Needs
-Identifying & Understanding Aggravating Factors
-Providing More Opportunities to Apply and Practice
-Community Support
-Understanding the Limitations of Empathy

Part 5: Program Implications
1. Engaging Values & Attitudes
2. Including All the Members of the Family
3. Keeping the Family Together
4. Enlarging the Possibilities

Selected Bibliography

About Peace Bridges

Peaceful Families Program


Part 1: Why did Peace Bridges Research Family Conflict?

From April to July 2009, Peace Bridges conducted a small case study research project that explored how participating in our long-term training had impacted the ways people experienced and handled family conflict.

The Transforming Family Conflict case study research is part of the larger strategy of Peace Bridges for designing and implementing peace programming relevant to healing violent families and building peaceful families in Cambodia

In the process of providing conflict counseling and mediation training, Peace Bridges heard consistent requests for more resources that help transform family conflict and violence. We also learned that the training Peace Bridges offered had significantly impacted peacebuilder perceptions of family conflict and their ability to engage it, and that some peacebuilders were now teaching these skills to other families in their communities.

These stories and requests combined with Peace Bridges’ own growing awareness of how family violence is a concern in Cambodia and the focus of various studies and programs. We were also concerned with recent studies that showed that, despite an increase in resources, violence in Cambodian families continued at significant rates.

For example, in 1996, two studies documented the experience (Zimmerman, 1996) and prevalence (Nelson and Zimmerman, 1996) of family violence in Cambodia. A decade later, the most comprehensive research on Cambodia's experience of family violence showed that, tragically, little had changed. In 2005, 64% of the population claimed to know a family that used violence by “Throwing something at the other, pushing or shoving or grabbing the other.” Further, 58% claimed to know a family that used violence by “Knocking on the head, slapping or spanking, kicking, biting, shaking, pulling hair, punching.” Even in families without physical violence, 93% of respondents said that it was acceptable for “cursing or insulting” to be used in family conflict and 92% claimed they knew a family that used cursing/insulting. Perhaps most significantly, respondent attitudes about the acceptability of violence, including extreme violence (e.g., threatening with a weapon, burning, choking, throwing acid, shooting, etc.), was consistently reported at disturbingly high levels. For example, when asked, “In your opinion ... is it at any time acceptable for a husband to do this to his wife?,” 28% of respondents answered that it was at least sometimes acceptable to throw acid at or shoot the wife. (Cecil 2005: 26-29)

The authors of this 2005 study also concluded that -
“There has been a wide range of donors, government agencies and NGOs working intensely to reduce domestic violence for the last nine years. ... this study demonstrates that these efforts have not lead [sic] to a significant change in attitude or behaviors, .... At their core, these past approaches were unconnected to Cambodian values and attitudes.” (Cecil 2005: 86)
The authors also called for programs with the following characteristics:

1. Engages values and attitudes about power and control, specifically within the context of gender and family roles

2. Addresses men rather than focusing exclusively on human rights education of women

3. Engages widespread attitudes of acceptance of violence, abuse, and “men's entitlement to greater rights” rather than focusing exclusively on domestic violence as a crime

4. Operates with awareness of the importance of “keeping the family together at all costs” as a common value, including offering a wider range of possibilities that include “ conflict resolution and improved communication within the family, community based help structures, referral systems, counseling or working with violent men.”
(Cecil 2005: 86-87)
The purpose of our case study research was to begin to investigate the ability of Peace Bridges’ peace education programs to meet these four challenges.


Part 2: How did Peace Bridges Conduct the Case Study?

Our research was guided by the following question:
How has the Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills and Habits (KASH) taught in the Conflict Counseling and Mediation Training (CCMT) better equipped participants to transform family conflict?
And was designed to meet four objectives:

Objective 1. Identify the context and type of family conflict that community peacebuilders have experienced.

Objective 2. Identify and explore which KASH (Knowledge, Attitudes, Skills, and Habits) from CCMT have been useful to community peacebuilders in transforming family conflict.

Objective 3. Explore what skills/strategies peacebuilder families are actually implementing during their conflicts.

Objective 4. Identify continued needs for peacebuilder families for building healthy family systems and transforming family conflict.
We chose to conduct a holistic, multiple case study. Our data sources included: interviews and role plays with four graduates of the CCMT course (2 men, 2 women; 2 from Phnom Penh, 2 from the provinces); focus group discussions with select members of Peace Bridges’ staff; a Rapid Assessment Survey of peacebuilders and partner organizations; Conflict Counseling and Mediation Training Lesson Plans, and Peace Bridges' 2009 External Evaluation.

Each case participated in an in-depth, semi-structured interview and accompanying role play that was followed by a focus group discussion of the data. In-depth interviews were conducted by teams of two Peace Bridges staff members (women with women and men with men).

Interviews were recorded and interviewers completed narrative reports. Following interviews, each case also participated in a role play. These role plays were designed by Peace Bridges’ staff to reflect culturally relevant conflict scenarios. Each role play was video recorded. The final stage of data collection utilized focus group discussions. Each case interview and role play was reviewed by the focus group and their reflections were recorded. Our intention was to gain the insight of those familiar with Cambodian culture and CCMT to identify and clarify the skills and strategies actually being implemented by participants during family conflict, as well as the continued challenges for cultivating peace.

Data was analyzed using: 1) relevant theoretical propositions, 2) pattern matching and 3) cross-case analysis. As the data was compiled, each case was analyzed using the theories that had initially led to the study. We then looked for patterns within the case while comparing the empirically based pattern (i.e., the experience of the participant in engaging family conflict) with the predicted one. In this case, our prediction was that the peace education provided in CCMT also helped to cultivate healthy family systems, so we looked for patterns that demonstrated how and why (or how not and why not) CCMT KASH was useful in the family context. Finally, the cases were compared in order to modify our theory and develop policy implications. In this final stage of the analysis, we looked for larger patterns of both the usefulness and limitations of CCMT KASH in transforming family conflict.


Part 3: What Were the Key Theoretical Assumptions?

Because our theoretical assumptions provide the basis of our data analysis, it is important to
name them here.

1. Domestic Violence Defined in Cambodian Law

Cambodian law defines domestic violence as "violence that occurs between people living in the same house and who are dependent of the household". Acts of violence included in the law are as follows:

  • "Acts affecting life;
  • Acts affecting physical integrity;
  • Torture or cruel acts;
  • Harassment causing mental/psychological, intellectual harm;
  • Mental/psychological and physical harm exceeding morality and the boundaries of the law;
  • Sexual aggression (including violent sex, sexual harassment and indecent exposure);
  • Threats aiming at frightening, shocking; and
  • Acts affecting individuality and property." (CAMBOW 2007: 8)
2. Types of Family Violence

Every family is unique, but patterns of conflict and violence can also be discerned. If we want
to accurately understand when and how peace education supports family conflict transformation, we need to understand the context of family conflict and violence for the peacebuilders included in the study.

Johnson (2006) constructed a typology of domestic violence that included four categories:

Coercive Controlling Violence: indicated by controlling patterns, and includes such patterns as "intimidation; emotional abuse; isolation; minimizing, denying, and blaming; use of children; asserting male privilege; economic abuse; and coercion and threats"

Violent Resistance: violence that occurs as an act of resistance against inflicted violence. It can be done almost instinctively in the moment, or can be thought out ahead of time in response to frequent violence

Separation Instigated Violence: violence that occurs when a couple with no prior history of violence chooses to separate.
The fourth category, Situational Couple Violence, was described in more detail by Kelly and Johnson (2008, 481-486). This violence is characterized as:

  • “not based on a relationship dynamic of coercion and control ... and mostly arises from conflicts and arguments between partners”
  • gender symmetric
  • “not embedded in a relationship-wide pattern of power, coercion, and control”
  • “result[ing] from situations or arguments between partners”
  • resulting from “One or both partners [having] poor ability to manage their conflicts and/or poor control of anger”
  • “not accompanied by a chronic pattern of controlling, intimidating, or stalking behaviors”
Typically, this type of violence occurs infrequently (Johnson 2006, 18), though it can become "chronic and severe, even homicidal" (3-4).

3. Social Indicators

We also wanted to understand the social context of the participants’ families. Walker (1999, 21) identified factors that interact to determine this wider context:

  1. gender [roles and stereotypes]
  2. political structure
  3. religious beliefs
  4. attitudes toward violence in general
  5. [attitudes toward] violence toward women
  6. state-sponsored violence, such as civil conflicts and wars, and
  7. the migration within and between countries
Within Cambodia, patriarchal societal structure; sexual taboos; the five-tiered political structure; certain religious beliefs (e.g., common perceptions of kamma); general attitudes regarding the acceptability of violence; and migration between neighboring countries are all significant factors that can contribute to prevalence of family violence and a sense of helplessness for its victims.

4. Qualities of Healthy Families

There are many qualities used to define or support healthy family relationships. These qualities enable families to weather those inevitable conflicts that are a part of life in any relationship, and become even more crucial if a family is to survive a time of crisis. Some qualities of healthy families include:
  1. Commitment to each other as a family, and to the well-being of individual members
  2. Fairness among the spouses (equitable sharing, respect and support among spouses)
  3. Parenting that includes nurture, protection, and guidance for children
  4. Respect for individual differences and needs
  5. Trust, supported by predictability and stability in family interactions
  6. Flexibility in adapting to both internal and external demands of life
  7. Understanding and open communication between family members
  8. Effective problem-solving strategies, allowing for conflict resolution
  9. Shared life values
  10. Networking with larger social circles (relatives, friends, community, other social systems), thus providing resources for both physical and psycho-social support (Peterson, 2003)
The same qualities that make up a healthy family also support and maintain them during
conflict situations.


Part 4: What Did Peace Bridges Discover?

NOTE: In sharing results of an exploratory case study, it is important to note that generalizations reported in our Major Findings are the perceptions of participants and should not be assumed to be representative.

In each of the four cases, participants described experiences of conflict common to family life. No incidents of physical violence were reported. Verbally aggressive behaviors were noted, with accompanying emotional pain, but there were no indications of chronic patterns of abuse. If conflict escalated to violence, it would most likely be consistent with Kelly and Johnson's description of situational couple violence. Especially important in the experience of conflict were: the perception of being misunderstood, the experience of verbal aggression, and the challenge of reconciliation.

1. The Experience of Family Conflict

As stories were shared about the experience of family conflict, several patterns began to emerge. Chief among these were: the importance of empathy and the influence of gender roles and stereotypes.

The Importance of Empathy for Self and Others

Each participant had unique experiences of family conflict to share, but through all these stories was a consistent need to be heard and understood by their partner.

"The common problems in my family conflict are lack of understanding or empathy or listening to different thoughts of each other, which always bring us to get angry with each other."

“Most of the conflicts arising within my family involve not listening, which frequently leads us to make a judgment and wrong understanding of one another.”

This inability to be understood was also related to feelings of powerlessness in one or both partners. These feelings of powerlessness, in turn, increased the likelihood of family conflict.

"...she didn't understand me. She didn't know what my need was. Sometimes, I told her I needed something for a specific reason, but she always refused. It made me angry with her."

“My husband is so stubborn and firm on his side....most of the times it made me angry with him. He should listen completely before making a conclusion...”

"Being angered, I spent my time on doing my work and did not talk to her and even did not come home to have lunch or dinner. I understood her nature was stubborn and it was not easy for her to come to reconcile with me until I came to her first. If I don't want the conflict to become bigger, I'm the one to compromise and reconcile with her."

And in one case, the presence of empathy paved the way for reconciliation.

“Even though I was angry with him, I still kept my character of being reasonable and reacted in a polite way. He couldn't deny humbling himself to listen to my own reason and my opinion.”

Gender Stereotypes & Expressing Vulnerability
Why Focus on Gender?

Although the data was analyzed using all seven of Walker’s Social Indicators, the most significant patterns emerged while looking at gender issues. Gender roles appear to play a dominant part in family conflict and violence. Specifically, in these four cases, the men tended to experience a great deal of pressure to conform to socially reinforced images of masculinity, while the women tended to express needs for connection, respect, and being heard. However, this should not be taken to mean that the men felt no need for emotional connection and respect (they clearly did) or that women felt no societal pressures (they clearly did). Rather, gender stereotypes in Cambodia seem to reinforce these expectations and, in turn, influence how conflict is experienced by men and women.
All of the cases shared stories that revealed how gender stereotypes can impact family conflict.

For example, a man's strength and power is often linked to his ability to earn the income for the family and a resultant expectation for the man to display this wealth. In one case, this social pressure provoked a disagreement over who was to handle money during travel -

“I wanted to show others that, as a man, I earned the money to spend on my wife or family.”

Focus group discussions reflected on the stories each case told as it related to gender and noted important ideas. First, domestic duties are commonly associated with weakness, so that -

“The man is very few times encouraged to have time with the children; he is the breadwinner and is seen to be tired after his work; if he returns home from work and sees the mess from the children, he can scold her (the wife) or even beat her and the community would see it as the wife's fault.”

Instead, the “strong man” may even be encouraged to be aloof from his family -

“Most men here would say that there are three things a man should know, 1) women, 2) wine, and 3) gambling.”

“For my situation, I don't participate in the parties in my neighborhood, so they say to me that I am not a pure man and that I have a woman's attitude - instead of being a man I like doing the housework.”

Finally, in one case a male peacebuilder felt like his conviction to be different and exhibit strength in non-dominating ways negatively impacted his ability to be respected and listened to by others in the family.

Similarly, both male and female cases expressed rigid roles for women, usually associated with managing finances and domestic duties. For example, one male remarked that –

“Sometimes I recognize the nature of a lady as a person stricter on spending money.”
And a female remarked that –

“ is the nature of a woman to see a cleaned and tidy house. … I started to think as well about the differences between men and women. I rather reconciled with him so that the conflict of doing housework might be reduced.”
Focus group discussion also reflected on how parental roles are similarly affected by gender stereotypes. Consistent with the ‘strong man’ image, mothers take a more prominent role in parenting.

“Since the baby is born, the mother is always closer to the children; a good father is still not as close as the wife.”

“Even for the mother who is working and has the business, she still finds a way to be close to the children.”

These gender conceptions often had a strong relationship to family conflict. For example, a man may feel it is difficult to admit mistakes or seek reconciliation, or he may be perceived as weak if he does these things.

“As a man, I feel shame to talk to my wife first when we have a conflict.”

“A man should not have a mistake.”

“To let it go (i.e., not talk about the conflict) can be understood as an apology. To say it out loud is shameful for a man.”

“Talking first shows his weakness, shows he has a mistake inside him....For the wife to point it out also makes him vulnerable.”

“Then I understood that the nature of man being the husband in conflict is hardly to compromise to the wife.”


2. Supporting Healthy Family Practices

Respecting & Valuing One Another

Empathetic listening skills were indicated as key in learning to respect and value family members. These skills empowered participants to uncover common interests and values beneath their differences.

“I believe that if each couple is aware of [empathetic listening skills] and performs them well, they will hardly have the conflict among them. Importantly, they might be able to see the values of one another more clearly.”

“...empathetic listening and emotional control are really important to the situation of my family conflict. It helps me think more deeply to find out what is the reason behind [my spouse's attitude].”

Parenting that Nurtures, Protects & Guides

Understanding and valuing all family members also helped parents create positive relationships with children in the family. For example, one participant was able to encourage change in the ways the family responded to his daughter's mistakes. Together, they chose to encourage their daughter for her efforts instead of scolding and blaming her for her failures.

“One of my daughters was being scolded and blamed everyday by my wife and the rest of my family for her repeated mistakes. However, I could see this method to correct her was not the right way; I saw no improvement at all. I told them not to scold her but we should try to understand and find out what was the reason behind her mistakes. I explained to them all about the situation she would find and how hard she worked for the family. They gradually changed the way of thinking towards her and she was being encouraged on and on. This is a good example of practicing the lesson.”

Adapting to Change

“Flexibility in adapting to both internal and external demands of life” was enhanced by lessons on emotional regulation, problem identification and analysis, forgiveness (of self and other), and a Judeo-Christian theology of peace practice. One case commented that:

“Before taking the CCMT course, I had no way to solve the problem. If I had an argument with someone I might not talk to her or him and perhaps stop having a relationship with them at all.”
Solving Problems Peacefully

Not surprisingly, there was a very strong connection between Peace Bridges’ training and “effective problem-solving strategies allowing for conflict resolution.” Cases noted several lessons that promoted these skills: understanding, communication and active listening skills; anger management (including “avoidance” as an acceptable strategy – taking time off to cool down before confronting a problem); emotional regulation or rational emotive therapy; problem analysis; forgiveness; and a Judeo-Christian theology of peace practice.

All four cases shared how the training enhanced their abilities to solve problems peacefully.

“Being quiet not to respond harshly while the conflict arose was the effective way to solve my problem. It gave me time to consider the reason and helped me calm down as well. It released my anger and helped me speak out consciously.”

“Conflict analysis tools which I used helped release the anger by taking away from the problems for a while... It enhances me to prevent the serious problem."

“...we obviously will not really want to make any reconciliation if we are under strong emotions.”

“Fighting to win is not a good way to deal with the conflict, but discussing and reconciling is...”

“I used to assume..., but now I've changed the way of look at the problem find out the reason and help...find the solution to the problem.”

3. Identifying Continuing Needs

Identifying & Understanding Aggravating Factors

Peace Bridges’ long-term training was effective in empowering peacebuilders to deal with common family conflicts. In these situations, the main limiting factor was the need for more training with direct application to family situations and accompanying role plays. However, one case also raised the important issue of understanding aggravating factors (in this case, drunkenness) that complicate family conflict.

For this peacebuilder, training supported her ability to cope with the situation, helping her understand and have empathy with her partner and promote her own emotional regulation.

However, the training did not help the family address some root problems, indicating both a potential strength and weakness:
  • Basic peace education is not sufficient in itself to address more complex family issues.
  • However, it may be effectively integrated into programs addressing complex family issues and with great potential for enhancing the effectiveness of those programs.
Providing More Opportunities to Apply and Practice

Participants showed a strong understanding of basic peace education concepts but sometimes struggled to consistently implement them in their families. They identified a need for support and practice, including homework assignments and role plays. Additionally, specific needs related to understanding and open communication were identified in three areas:

  • more practice in empathetic listening to understand the other's view and values;
  • the role of gossip in escalating or provoking conflict;
  • parenting issues (such as listening to your children to foster family intimacy).

For example,

“Perhaps we are not good listeners to the children. They rarely come to us and discuss their issues. Instead they go and tell their friends. I can see we haven't provided enough family intimacy, that's why our children run out to the others when they have a problem rather than coming to us. We sometimes blame each other for this reason.”
Community Support

Another related issue was locating ongoing support within communities. Cases indicated that while they were part of larger social circles that could (and at times did) provide this needed support, these relationships were not always positive and supportive. Neighbors sometimes criticized one another (even to the point of predicting eventual marital failure/divorce) and neighborhood gossip about the family could initiate/escalate conflict situations. Additionally, in one family, relatives intervened to prevent divorce without also providing resources to help solve the conflicts/tensions that were fueling the desire for separation.

“Sometimes, I chose to divorce...but our elderly relatives always helped with the intervention and encouraged us not to get divorced.”

“After being married, there were many criticisms from our neighborhood; they said we would not keep our marriage relationship for long and that we might get divorced someday because we were from a different family status.”
“... [My spouse] is always complaining and telling our neighbors about our problem. It doesn't help at all and sometimes it doubles our problem. I often argue with [my spouse] for this reason.”

Understanding the Limitations of Empathy

It is also important for participants to understand the limits of listening and empathy, including the risk of perpetuating situations of injustice or violence (Saguy et al 2009; Tsang and Stanford 2006). In the example of the aggravating factors, increased empathy and forgiveness for her partner helped the case remain in the relationship without the relationship being changed: alcohol consumption and verbal aggression continued. Another case exhibited a similar tendency: increased empathy and understanding, while leading to several transformative interactions, also increased the case’s tolerance for some unhealthy family patterns, including lack of mutual respect.


Part 5: Program Implications

1. Engaging Values & Attitudes

• New programs should have a strong connection with present training process and content, which has shown to have a strong impact on promoting healthy family systems.

• Specifically, new programs should build on strengths of impacting values and attitudes, especially lessons about power and identity. Training should help participants cultivate deeper understandings of positive models of power and how they apply to family life.

• Gender roles and stereotypes should be specifically addressed, but the topic should be approached in a nonjudgmental, exploratory fashion.

2. Including All the Members of the Family

• While it is often not practical for training and services to be provided to multigenerational participants, training and services can be provided with an awareness of the needs of everyone in the family. New programs should explore ways to encourage transformation for whole families - and not just participants who are able to attend training.

• The social/political structure suggests that equipping village chiefs and members of commune councils with knowledge, attitudes, and skills relevant to family conflicts/violence would be highly beneficial.

• Because children are typically overlooked, providing resources and training related to parenting/nurturing children could also be a very fruitful way to transform family relationships.

3. Keeping the Family Together

• The social and cultural value of keeping a family together, even at great cost, is both a strength and a weakness. The great value is the motivation and commitment that families may bring to transforming family conflict, provided they have the willingness to acknowledge the issues. The great risk is that families will tolerate destructive patterns in the family relationships.

• It may be common for families and third parties to fail to understand basic concepts of family violence or the reconciliation process. New programs should help participants look deeply at their own family habits of reconciliation and construct culturally appropriate models that honor everyone involved, protect basic rights, and is founded on a solid understanding of family violence issues.

• The case studies also illustrated situations in which basic peace education had limited effect. These complicated family dynamics are ones that many peacebuilders will interact with, if not in their own families then in other families in their communities. They include: chronic abusive situations (including life-threatening ones), addictions, and trauma healing. Building on the value that healthy families ask for help when they need it, new programs should cultivate knowledge and attitudes about these limitations, as well as help peacebuilders create networks and referral systems.

4. Enlarging the Possibilities

• Peace Bridges' network of community peacebuilders provides the opportunity to extend impacts by integrating peace education into other programs addressing family conflict and violence. Peace Bridges should work strategically to identify, equip, and mobilize key partners working in these areas.

• New programs should also include helping partners and Peace Bridges see new and creative ways to heal family conflict and promote healthy family systems. This type of integration could also help overcome the limitations listed above (e.g., chronic abuse, addictions, and trauma).

• Acknowledging that religious ideas and institutions often have a significant function in Cambodian families, more attention should be given to how religious community-based help structures can support healthy family systems. However, this should also be done with an awareness of the ambiguous nature of religious beliefs and institutions. It calls for more investigation into important questions about: What religious content regarding family life is being taught? How can religious belief be used to support healthy family systems? How open are religious communities to content from other settings (e.g., other Cambodian cultural resources or insights from psychosocial researchers and clinicians)?


Selected Bibliography

Family Conflict & Violence

Bennet, D; Sullivan, M; and Lewis, M. (2005) Young Children's Adjustment as a Function of Maltreatment, Shame, and Anger. Child Maltreatment 10(4); 311-323. Available
online at:

The authors explore the relationship between shame, anger, and behavior problems. From the abstract: “Shame, anger, age, and type of maltreatment appear to be important factors in explaining variance in behavioral adjustment following a history of maltreatment.”

Johnson, Michael P. (2006, November). A “general” theory of intimate partner violence:
A working paper. Paper presented at the Theory Construction and Research Methodology Pre-
Conference Workshop, National Council on Family Relations annual meeting. Minneapolis,
Minnesota. Available online at:

Kelly, Joan B. and Michael P. Johnson. (2008). Differentiation among types of intimate partner violence: Research update and implications for interventions. Family Court Review 46 (3), 476-499. Available online at:

From the abstract: “A growing body of empirical research has demonstrated that intimate partner violence is not a unitary phenomenon and that types of domestic violence can be differentiated with respect to partner dynamics, context, and consequences. Four patterns of violence are described: Coercive Controlling Violence, Violent Resistance, Situational Couple Violence, and Separation-Instigated Violence.”

Kishor, Sunita and Kiersten Johnson. 2004. Profiling Domestic Violence – A Multi-Country
Study. Calverton, Maryland: ORC Macro. Available online at:

From the Executive Summary: “This study uses household and individual-level data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program to examine the prevalence and correlates of domestic violence and the health consequences of domestic violence for women and their children. Nationally representative data from nine countries— Cambodia (2000), Colombia (2000), the Dominican Republic (2002), Egypt (1995), Haiti (2000), India (1998-1999), Nicaragua (1998), Peru (2000), and Zambia (2001- 2002)—are analyzed within a comparative framework to provide a multifaceted analysis of the phenomenon of domestic violence.”

Perry, B.D. (1997) Incubated in Terror: Neurodevelopmental Factors in the ‘Cycle of Violence.’ In Children, Youth and Violence: The Search for Solutions (J Osofsky, Ed.). Guilford Press, New York, pp 124-148. Available online from:

Perry discusses the risks and impacts associated with child exposure to violence. Though over a decade old, this is still one of the most important articles for peacebuilders addressing family violence.

Pinheiro, Paulo (2006). World Report on Violence Against Children. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations. Available online from:

The author includes reports on violence against children in a variety of contexts, including families and schools. He discusses violence against children as a threat to global development.

Saguy, T., Tausch, N., Dovidio, J. and Pratto, F. (2009) “The Irony of Harmony: Intergroup Contact Can Produce False Expectations for Equality." Psychological Science 20:1, 114-121. Online publication date: 1-Feb-2009.

Tsang, J. and Stanford, M. (2006) Forgiveness for intimate partner violence: The influence of victim and offender variables, Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 653-664. Retrieved 12 January 2008 from:

From the abstract: “In women, empathy and general religiousness positively related to forgiveness, but attributions of blame were unrelated to forgiveness. Several dispositional variables in men were associated with forgiveness in women. Men who were more dominant were more likely to be forgiven, but men with more psychological problems were less likely to be forgiven. Many offender effects were mediated by women’s state empathy.” These trends have important implications for peacebuilding, especially those involving forgiveness and reconciliation.
Walker, Lenore (January 1999). Psychology and Domestic Violence Around the World. American Psychologist. January 1999; 54, 1; 21-29. Retrieved 28 February from:

Walker discusses the progress of and challenges faced when implementing domestic violence services in contexts outside of North America. Topics include: human rights, legal systems, public health approaches, and sociocultural factors.

Family Conflict & Violence in Cambodia

Cecil, Catherine et al (2005). Violence Against Women – A Baseline Survey (MOWA: Phnom Penh, Cambodia).

The most recent comprehensive look at Cambodia, including values and attitudes.
CAMBOW (2007). Violence Against Women: How Cambodian Laws Discriminate Against Women. LICADHO: Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Available online at:
This report discusses the legal situation of family violence in Cambodia by analyzing relevant Cambodian laws in light of CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), interviews with CAMBOW (Cambodian Committee of Women) and clients. It includes case studies.

Ketchum, David and Holly Ketchum (2008). Understanding Family Violence in Cambodia: A Background Study (Phnom Penh: Peace Bridges). Available at:

This literature review is divided into 2 sections. The first looks at literature from a (mainly) North American perspective with an eye to relevance to the Southeast Asian context. The second reviews literature from Cambodia. It also includes good bibliographies with lots of links to online documents. It was written for Peace Bridges and includes program recommendations.

Lim, Jo-Ann. (2009 June) Out of Court Resolutions of Violence Against Women: Practices and Issues in Cambodia. DanChurchAid. Available online at:

This very timely and important study includes a focus on reconciliation processes, including: 1) “[W]hether or not a community has been provided with a strong NGO presence or given training on domestic violence and relevant issues does not appear to impact on the resolution process itself. Cultural norms that emphasise the importance of the family, reconciliation and the shame of divorce continue to mould resolution processes in every community.” 2) “Authorities’ main method for resolving domestic violence cases involves meeting both parties, educating the parties not to commit violence and reconciling the couple so that they would not divorce.” And 3) “Authorities continue to perpetuate cultural stereotypes that force a woman to submit to her husband. ... Traditional attitudes and cultural norms that discriminate against women on the basis of female inferiority and male superiority, prioritize the needs of the family and the family’s reputation over the needs of the survivor and of her safety.”

Nelson & Zimmerman (1996). Household Survey on Domestic Violence in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Project Against Domestic Violence.

Zimmerman, Cathy. (1994) Plates in a Basket Will Rattle: Domestic Violence in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Project Against Domestic Violence (PADV).
These two studies were foundational for the development of family violence interventions in Cambodia. Plates in a Basket is a collection of case studies illustrating the nature and impact of violence on specific members of the community. Household Survey was the first attempt to document the prevalence of family violence in present-day Cambodia.

Healthy Family Systems

Krysan, Moore, & Zill (1990). Identifying Successful Families: An Overview of Constructs and Selected Measures. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Child Trends, Inc. Available online at:

Peterson, Gayle (1996-2003). Tip sheet: Ten Processes (Qualities) that Support Healthy Family Relationships (excerpted from Making Healthy Families. Shadow and Light Publishers). Available online at:

Research Methodology

The following resources provide an introduction to case study research methodology.

Baxter, Pamela and Jack, Susan. (2008, December) "Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice Researchers." The Qualitative Report 13:4, 544-559. Available online at:

Tellis, Winston. (1997, July). "Introduction to Case Study." The Qualitative Report. 3:2. Available at:

Tellis. Winston. (1997, September). "Application of a case study methodology." The Qualitative Report, 3:3. Available at:

Yin, Robert. (1989) Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage: Newbury Park, CA.

The following document is also very useful for anyone interested in conducting or understanding research investigating family and gender-based violence.

Ellsberg, Mary and Heise, Lori. Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists. Washington DC, United States: World Health Organization, PATH; 2005. Available at:

This is a very helpful document, including for practitioners not conducting research but who would like to understand research methodologies and domestic violence materials better. It includes a very good appendix pointing practitioners to important web resources in a variety of domains (e.g., media, health sector, community programs, etc.).

Full Case Study Report

If you have found this summary report of interest, a full report is also available. It
contains more detailed information, including:
  • background and rationale
  • research methodology and data sources
  • literature review
  • in-depth discussion of major findings
The full report is available from Peace Bridges or online at:

Our weblog also includes related documents.


About Peace Bridges

Peace Bridges was formed in response to the recommendations of the Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia’s Task Force on Peace and Conflict. Originally conceived to help pastors and churches provide mediation and conciliation services, Peace Bridges’ vision has deepened and expanded over the last six years. We have now provided long-term training and partnership/mobilization services to over 100 community peacebuilders. Our partnership projects include peace education in prisons, schools, churches, NGOs, and other community organizations.

Partnership with Peace Bridges is a commitment that extends from: 1) identification of partners and relationship-building for mutual trust and benefit; 2) selection and training of key peacebuilders from partner organizations, including commitment by partners to peace programming; 3) mobilization and continued support from Peace Bridges’ staff to help tailor peace programs to partner-specific contexts and provide resources and co-trainers.

Peaceful Families Program

Since August 2008, Peace Bridges has been building staff capacity and exploring appropriate ways for Peace Bridges to address these needs. A pilot program will be conducted January – June 2010 that is focused on developing family reconciliation resources appropriate for Cambodia. It is anticipated that this training will become an ongoing course, offered annually, providing specialized training for graduates of Peace Bridges’ foundational peace training. This program will include:
  • 6 units (3.5 days per unit) of training
  • A focus on skills and issues relevant to family reconciliation
  • A design that follows a general model of reconciliation
Because reconciliation is rarely a linear or sequential event, each unit is focused on a particular part of the process and the relevant knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits needed to support families. Unit 6 will be an extended (5 day) unit that includes training in Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation of peace programming.

As in our other programming, Peace Bridges staff will then support graduates in developing and implementing family peace education training and services in their own circles of influence, as well as continue to build staff capacity (relevant to family conflict/violence) and partnerships.

Future program directions may include: men's support groups, women's support groups, premarital counseling training, and family mediation training.

** For more information, please contact Peace Bridges,
Or refer to the Project Proposal and other documentation. **



We would like to offer thanks to the community peacebuilders and Peace Bridges staff who participated in the case study research, with the hope of a peaceful future for all our families.

Ethics & Confidentiality:

Community peacebuilders who participated in the case study research are not named in the summary or full report and are not shown in photographs. Quotations in the body of the report do not reveal personal details.


Peace Bridges
provides training and services to community peacebuilders
to engage conflict in constructive and creative ways.
For more information, please contact Peace Bridges
#73 Street 608 Toul Kork * Phnom Penh * P.O Box 1523 *
office: 023 880 100 * e-mail: *