Family Dynamics and the Teenage Immigrant: Creating the Self through the Parents' Image

By Markowitz, Fran | Adolescence, Spring 1994 | Go to article overview

Family Dynamics and the Teenage Immigrant: Creating the Self through the Parents' Image


Markowitz, Fran, Adolescence


Much recent research on adolescence in the United States indicates that teenagers do not so much rebel at and break away from their social world as test out, try on, modify, and ultimately consolidate a variety of roles they play (Erikson, 1963; 1968). Despite the apprehension of adults watching in the wings, and the stress involved for youngsters making the decision of "who to be," as a rule most people navigate the transitions of their teen years with no undue hardships. Smooth transitions are particularly typical of teenagers who have supportive parents (or other significant adults) as guides and advisors (Offer, Ostroy, Howard, & Atkinson, 1988; Esman, 1990). Indeed, Ianni (1989, p. 75) contends that the family is the cornerstone on which the adolescent's formation of self is based, so that guidance from parents "is the first step in providing congruence and continuity for the adolescent transition and in developing the attachments which produce positive social bonds" (see also Hausner, 1991).

Cross-cultural and American-based research support Ianni's claim. While peer groups and adult institutions (such as schools, the workplace, and the military) have their impact on the identity-consolidation process, teenagers usually spend the greatest amount of time in their family households with family members (Schlegel & Barry, 1991; Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). Studies of American teenagers show that the family is the strongest predictor not only of their school performance and professional aspirations, but of how they develop ego identity and a sense of self-esteem (Hollingshead, 1975; MacLeod, 1987; Hausner, 1991).

In light of the impressive amount of recent research in this area, it is surprising that the experiences of teenage immigrants have attracted so little attention (Looney, 1979; Aronowitz, 1984). Perhaps this is due to widely held assumptions about the nature of the teenage immigrant: On the one hand, teenagers who immigrate with their families are considered to be flexible, adaptable, able to absorb and transcend culture shock (Scott & Scott, 1989, p. 64) and thus serve as "good" cultural bridges between their parents and the host society (Johnston, 1972; Min, 1988). On the other hand, those who view both migration and adolescence as inherently stressful (e.g., Redl, 1969, p. 91) may portray teenage immigrants as potential or actual juvenile delinquents who are alienated from their parents and from the host society (Schermerhorn, 1949, pp. 472-473), and carve out an anti-social persona for themselves in a "bad" subgroup (Child, 1943; Whyte, 1943; Eisenstadt, 1950, 1951; Shoham, Shoham, & Abd-el Razek, 1966; Beauchesne & Esposite, 1981; Llaumett, 1984; Dinello, 1985; Minces, 1986). But virtually none of these studies specifically focuses on the structure and dynamics of the family units that supposedly serve as the cornerstone of these teenagers' identity development. (Some of the case studies (Mindel, Habenstein, & Wright, 1988; Galperin, 1988) are exceptions to this rule.) What do immigrant families look like, and what impact do they have in shaping the future of their teenagers?

This paper is a retrospective examination of the family dynamics of Soviet Jewish teenagers who arrived in the U.S. during the late 1970s. Its aim is to document and assess the effect of coming of age in transplanted households. How have families changed as a result of immigration? What messages do parents transmit to their adolescent children, and how do these teenagers interpret and act on them? It is hoped that the findings of this study will provide some insight into how "American success stories" are created in immigrant households--and, at what cost to the child.

METHOD

During my 1984-86 ethnographic research among Soviet Jewish emigres in New York, I was faced with two contrasting characterizations of immigrant teenagers: First, my own finding was that children of all ages are closely involved in their parents' social life. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Family Dynamics and the Teenage Immigrant: Creating the Self through the Parents' Image
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.