The Relationship Between Acculturation and Family Relations in Asian American Families

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Xiang Li
5/5/2010
Cultural Psychology
The relationship between Acculturation and Family Relations in Asian American Families Introduction
Ever since it was possible for immigration, people have been coming to the United States from all around the world. According to the 2000 Census, foreign born immigrants account for 11.1% (31 million). However few resources have been put in effort to understand how acculturation can influence family relationship in whose children is either U.S.-born or overseas-born. Acculturation has been defined by Redfield, Linton and Herskovits in 1936 as the “phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups.” Later Berry and Sam in 1977 discovered that greater cultural changes tend to take place more often in the acculturating groups than the majority groups and that immigrant children tend to acculturate at a faster rate than their parents (Szapocznik & Kurtines, 1993). Past research have indicated that Acculturation gaps increased the intergenerational family gaps which led to family conflicts, defined as conflicts resulting from generational gap compounded by culture differences between the immigrant parents and their children (Ying, 1999). These hypotheses are intuitive since intergenerational family conflict instigated by differences in beliefs and values due to cultural differences and acculturation will cause distress for children and parents. There is considerable amount of evidence that supports these claims. For instance, Chinese children who immigrated to the United States at an early age often experience greater family conflict than U.S.-born Chinese Americans possibly due to a greater acculturation gap between the parent and child (Ying, Lee, Tsai, Lee, & Tsang, 2001). For adolescents who are members of ethnic minority groups, a sense of identity is often an issue especially when the values and beliefs of original culture differ significantly to the host society. Cultural differences have been observed between growing up process of Asian children due to the two obvious contrasting cultures. A primary difference between Asian and American cultural belief systems lies in the concept of the self. Asians tend to be allocentric and collectivistic, where the self and family are connected rather than separate concepts. Moreover, Asians are expected to make personal sacrifices in order to maintain the welfare and integrity of the group. Thus, family always supersedes individual needs (Segal, 1991). At home, Asian children are expected to maintain traditional values and beliefs such as obedient and respectful to elders as well as bringing honor to their families by exhibiting proper behavior, maintaining high academic achievements, and contribute to the overall well-being of the family, whereas at school they want to fit in with their peers (Segal, 1991; Singh, 1997). Thus, there is a struggle to balance the conflicting “allegiances” which would explain the challenges Asian children faces in establishing a discrete self-identity and cultural-identity that is compatible with both their original culture and American mainstream culture. Therefore it is logical to assume that Asian youths may experience increased family conflict which can have an effect on their self-esteem and school performance to a certain degree. In addition depending on how much value the parents places on their original culture and their mode of acculturation, family relationship can be extremely problematic if the effects of acculturation is not well understood or accepted by the family (Segal, 1991).

Despite the growing literature on the effect of acculturation and family relationships, certain areas still need to be addressed. It is important to note that acculturation may vary for different ethnic groups in different contexts. The studies on acculturation faces many...
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