Academic journal article Adolescence

The Cultural Adjustment and Mental Health of Japanese Immigrant Youth

Academic journal article Adolescence

The Cultural Adjustment and Mental Health of Japanese Immigrant Youth

Article excerpt

There are about eight hundred thousand Japanese Americans, making them the sixth largest Asian American group (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000), and 47% of Japanese Americans belong to the first and second generations. Although Japanese immigrant youth are steadily increasing in the United States, a limited number of studies have examined their experiences in adjusting to a new culture (Rosenthal & Feldman, 1990; Padilla, Wagatsuma, & Lindholm, 1985). Accordingly, the present research investigates Japanese immigrant adolescents' experiences in the adaptation process (i.e., their cultural adjustment) in the United States.


Acculturation refers to changes in identification, social skills, attitudes, values, and behavioral norms that groups and individuals undergo when they come in contact with another culture (Rosenthal & Feldman, 1990). Acculturation has been conceptualized as a resocialization process (Taft, 1985, 1986), with the assumption that increased contact with the host culture will lead to a shift away from the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the culture of origin. While some immigrants adjust willingly and easily to the new culture, other immigrants have strong attachments to their culture of origin and find such a transition difficult (Cheung, 1989). Several studies (e.g., Sodowsky, Lai, & Plake, 1991; Padilla et al., 1985) have found that first-generation Asian Americans experience significantly more acculturative stress than second or later generations.

Research on new immigrants and refugees has largely focused on adults, and the immigrant youth has been neglected (e.g., Roysircar-Sodowsky & Maestas, 2000; Sodowsky & Carey, 1987; Sodowsky et al., 1991). Due to the fact that adolescence is a critical period of development (Herring, 1997), examining the adjustment process of adolescents is especially relevant.

Berry and colleagues (Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989; Berry & Sam, 1997) have identified four coping strategies that individuals use in the acculturation process: assimilation (interaction with individuals from the host culture and devaluation of one's own culture), integration (maintenance of one's culture as well as interaction with individuals from the host culture), marginalization (rejection of one's culture of origin as well as avoidance of individuals from the host culture), and separation (maintenance of one's culture of origin and minimal interaction with other groups, especially individuals from the host culture). While it is possible that the acculturation process will proceed without any problems, it may also be stressful and result in adaptation difficulties (Berry, 1997).

The strategies described above are just some of the factors that have been found to be significantly associated with the mental health of immigrants and refugees in the United States (Krishnan & Berry, 1992; Sam, 1994; Sam & Berry, 1995), with integration identified as the most adaptive and marginalization as the least adaptive (Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 1997; Sam & Berry, 1995). Further, La-Fromboise, Coleman, and Gerton (1993) have proposed that individuals may develop the ability to negotiate two cultures comfortably without sacrificing their identification with either culture. It is also important to understand that race and ethnicity play an important role in the identity and acculturation processes (Alvarez, Kohatsu, Liu, & Yeh, 1996).

Ethnic Identity

Ethnic identity is another factor that contributes to the complex process of acculturation for immigrants. It has been described as an enduring, fundamental aspect of self that includes a sense of connection to an ethnic group, and the attitudes and feelings associated with membership in that group (Bernal & Knight, 1993; Keefe, 1992; Phinney, 1990). Ethnic identity has also been conceptualized as multidimensional and dynamic (Phinney, 1996; Jeffres, 1983; Sue & Sue, 1990; Yeh & Hwang, 2000), involving attitudes, values, and behaviors, and evolving with changes in social contexts, family interactions, and geographic location (Yeh & Huang, 1996).

For adolescent immigrants, ethnic identity is particularly important. A number of studies (e.g., Phinney, 1989; Tajfel, 1981; Tajfel & Turner, 1986) have found that a strong sense of ethnic identity is related to higher self-esteem. However, ethnic minority adolescents may experience discrimination, which could compromise their sense of pride in their culture of origin and limit their aspirations and achievements. In addition, adolescent immigrants are also at a stage in life where they are struggling with issues of autonomy and separation from parents (Rosenthal & Feldman, 1996). The process of identity formation may be especially challenging for immigrant youths because they are simultaneously trying to learn a new language, dealing with a new culture, relating to peers, and experiencing academic and parental pressures (Lynch, 1992; Zheng & Berry, 1991).

Mental Health Concerns

Previous studies have examined the unique mental health concerns of immigrant youth (e.g., Florsheim, 1997; Morrow, 1994; Sam, 2000). In a review of literature on the prevalence of adjustment problems among immigrant children, Aronowitz (1984) noted that language difficulties, school-related and social stressors, and disturbances and disruptions in family relationships are the major causes of adjustment difficulties. Further, differential acculturation has been found to create generation gaps in terms of values, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors among family members, which may heighten family conflict (Cheung, 1996). In fact, researchers have found that immigrant youth experience more conflict with their parents and are at higher risk for experiencing difficulties during adolescence than nonimmigrant youth (Rosenthal, 1984).

Chinese American and Japanese American students have been found to experience more isolation, loneliness, nervousness, and anxiety, as well as less autonomy, than other students (Sue & Frank, 1973). They have also been found to have lower self-concept scores (Pang, Mizokawa, Morishima, & Olstad, 1985) and greater levels of intrapersonal and interpersonal distress (Abe & Zane, 1990) than their white peers. Similarly, first-generation Japanese have reported greater stress, lower self-esteem, and more external locus of control as compared to later-generation Japanese Americans (Padilla et al., 1985). Homma-True (1997) further indicated that compared to U.S.-born Japanese Americans, recent Japanese immigrants are confronted with the stress of adjusting to a new environment, specifically linguistic, cultural, and lifestyle differences.

One of the major difficulties immigrants face is the language barrier (Yeh & Inose, 2002). Regarding English as a second language, Japan is ranked in the top 5% of nations in the world in terms of reading comprehension, but is ranked in the bottom 10% in terms of conversational ability (Enloe & Lewin, 1987). In a study of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrant high school and junior high school students, Yeh and Inose (2002) found that communication difficulties due to insufficient proficiency in English posed the largest challenge, which may lead to mental health concerns if this issue is unaddressed.

Mental Health Assistance

Difficulties among Asian immigrant youth may be overlooked by researchers and mental health professionals for several reasons. For example, there is an existing stereotype of Asians as the "model minority," despite numerous findings suggesting that Asian immigrants are at increased risk for developmental, social, and emotional difficulties associated with cultural adjustment (Lee & Zhan, 1998; Sodowsky & Carey, 1987; Uba, 1994; Yu & Berryman, 1997; Zheng & Berry, 1991). This stereotype creates the dangerous perception that all Asian immigrant youth are self-sufficient, academically successful, and psychologically healthy (Kim & Yeh, 2002).

In addition, researchers have noted that Asian culture displays coping patterns that emphasize interdependent relationships and familial commitments (Lebra, 1992; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, 1989; Yeh & Wang, 2000), more so than Western culture. For example, Asian Americans tend to deal with mental health problems by seeking help from parents and other older relatives (Root, 1985; Suan & Tyler, 1990; Yeh & Wang, 2000), friends (Atkinson, Whiteley, & Gim, 1990; Mau & Jepsen, 1988; Yeh & Inose, 2002; Yeh & Wang, 2000), and community members such as religious leaders and colleagues from social organizations (Solberg, Ritsma, Davis, Tata, & Jolly, 1994) rather than from mental health professionals such as counselors and psychologists. Further, Asian culture discourages overt displays of emotion, which is in contrast to North American culture, where open expression of feelings is encouraged (McCarty et al., 1999). This cultural difference is another factor that may cause the adjustment difficulties of Asian immigrant youth to go unnoticed by teachers and mental health professionals.

Research Aims

Overall, we hope to understand how immigrant youth negotiate competing and often conflicting cultural contexts. Further, we aim to understand the impact of this process in terms of notions of identity, mental health, and coping. Since there is limited research on the cultural adjustment of Japanese immigrant youth, and because previous research has mostly examined acculturation as a unidimensional, linear process, we have chosen to use qualitative methods for our study. The phenomena being explored are not readily quantifiable and we therefore preferred a more exploratory and open-ended approach (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Specifically, we conducted consensual qualitative research (CQR), which is a widely used method of analyzing data (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997; Hayes et al., 1997; Hill et al., 1996; Knox, Hess, Petersen, & Hill, 1977; Ladany et al., 1997; Rhodes, Hill, Thompson, & Elliot, 1994; Williams, Judge, Hill, & Hoffman, 1997). Moreover, it is an especially relevant method for our study because CQR (1) allows the categories and themes to emerge from the data, (2) permits researchers to describe both individual cases and groups, and (3) allows researchers to organize and describe phenomena with depth and richness (Hill et al., 1997).



According to Hill et al. (1997), the ideal sample size for CQR ranges from 8 to 12 participants. Hence, eight Japanese immigrant youth who were born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. were chosen for this study. Three of the participants were male and five were female. The mean age of the sample was 16 years (SD = 1.6) with a range from 14 to 19 years. Their mean age at the time of immigration was 5.88 years (SD = 4.12) with a range from 1 to 12. Seven of the participants were identified as middle class and one was identified as middle-upper class. All came from intact families.

Semistructured Interview

An interview format was selected due to the depth of data it can offer and its ability to reveal participants' own perspectives on their experiences. The semistructured nature of the interview protocol allowed for exploratory probing and further questioning when necessary. The interview questions explored family functioning, reasons for immigration, and experiences in the United States, especially with regard to school, family, and peers. There were also questions about mental health concerns and coping as related to immigration.

The interview protocol was developed after performing an extensive review of the literature. The questions were primarily based on the research on cultural adjustment (Rosenthal & Feldman, 1990, 1996; Padilla et al., 1985) and acculturation (Krishnan & Berry, 1992; Sam, 1994; Sam & Berry, 1995). Questions were designed specifically for Asian immigrant youth. Interviewers were encouraged to probe further if there were any ambiguities in participants' responses.


The CQR procedures described by Hill et al. (1997) were followed. Potential participants were nominated by teachers at a local school with a large Asian population. Eight Japanese immigrant youth agreed to participate, and parental consent was obtained. Interviews were conducted at the school or other convenient locations. Four participants chose to be interviewed in Japanese and four in English. Participants did not receive monetary compensation for their involvement. We informed participants that the interview would be audiotaped and that all data gathered from the interview would be kept strictly confidential. Only first names were used to help ensure anonymity. The interview lasted approximately 60 minutes, including time to debrief.

Data preparation. Bilingual research assistants translated the audiotapes when necessary. Portions of these translations were then back-translated to check for accuracy and consistency (Brislin, 1980). All translations were checked again by the original interviewer to verify that participants' meanings had not been changed. All interviews were then transcribed verbatim (with the exception of minor phrases such as "uh-huh"). Any identifying features of the participants were excluded from the transcriptions. Moreover, another research assistant, as well as the original interviewer, checked the transcriptions against the audiotapes for accuracy.

Coding data into domains. All members of the research team were women of various ethnic backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, and European American). Procedures for coding and analyzing the data were based on previous research using CQR (Ladany et al., 1997) as well as steps described by Hill et al. (1997). Using this method, a primary team of three researchers performed the analysis and two external auditors reviewed it and offered detailed feedback.

Initially, the data were broken down into domains (main themes). A list of domains (Miles & Huberman, 1994) was developed using existing literature, with team members providing additional domains. The transcripts were reviewed independently and data assigned to the different domains. The primary research team then met and reached consensus about the assignment of blocks of data to specific domains. The final list of nine domains included the following: (a) perceived differences between Japanese and American culture; (b) feelings about coming to, and living in, the United States; (c) discriminatory and/or racial experiences; (d) friendships; (e) identity; (f) academics; (g) family; (h) language acquisition and usage; and (i) coping strategies and help-seeking attitudes.

In the next stage of data analysis, each domain was further developed into a core idea (summarizing statement), with the team then reaching consensus on the exact wording. In addition, an external auditor offered feedback, and the team met to consider all of the auditor's suggestions.

The core ideas were subsequently reviewed across participants (cross-analysis) and subcategories were identified. After the team reached consensus, the auditor again provided feedback. The team met to discuss and consider this input, and adjustments were made. Finally, in the last step of the process, the entire research team reviewed all of the results and arrived at a consensus.


Results are presented in terms of the number of cases (participants) in each domain/category (see Table 1). We described a category as general if it applied to all 8 participants, typical if it applied to 4-7 participants, and variant if it applied to 2-3 participants. Categories that applied to only 1 participant were dropped. The domains are described as follows.

Perceived differences between Japanese and American culture. The students reported more freedom in U.S. schools than in Japanese schools. They also noted that diversity in background and in expression was more accepted in the U.S. Further, they said that people feel greater obligation to uphold cultural traditions in Japan than in the U.S.

Feelings about coming to, and living in, the United States. The participants typically rated living in the U.S., overall, as a positive experience, although there were some initial feelings of loneliness. There was also some concern about their ability to communicate in English. Participants expected and/or experienced cultural diversity in the U.S.

Discriminatory and/or racial experiences. Some participants denied experiencing any form of discrimination while in the U.S., but stated that others were discriminated against due to limited English skills. Stereotyping and discrimination due to physical appearance and/or limited English skills were experienced by several participants.

Friendships. It was typical for the participants to report having primarily Japanese or Japanese-American friends. Many also said they had a racially and culturally diverse group of friends. It was typically the case that English skills affected friendships.

Identity. Participants typically perceived themselves to be primarily Japanese. Five of the eight participants reported that their attitudes and behaviors did not change when interacting with either Japanese or American people. However, some participants reported that they would shift self-identity in different contexts and situations. It was typical for participants to state that they have felt conflicted about fitting in with either culture. Some participants had difficulty describing themselves.

Academics. Again, it was typical for the participants to feel that English posed a challenge. They generally preferred classes that did not require reading and writing English. A few participants found that speaking up in class was difficult. Two reported that schools in the U.S. have more freedom and are more fun. It was typical for the participants to attend both Japanese and American schools at the same time.

Family. A few of the participants' mothers had difficulty with English as well. Some of the participants were unaware of their parents' expectations about life in the U.S. Since coming to the U.S., family communication has improved for half of the participants. Half also denied any family problems.

Language acquisition and usage. All of the participants used Japanese and English interchangeably because they found it difficult to converse exclusively in one language. Five felt they were not proficient in either language. Most felt English was most difficult upon arrival in the U.S., but they had improved their language skills since then.

Coping strategies and help-seeking attitudes. Participants typically kept problems to themselves. In some cases they minimized the problem, and in others sought encouragement from those who experienced similar difficulties. Only one had sought the help of a counselor. They typically reported that friends were their best source of support.


The current study illustrated the unique experiences of Japanese immigrant youth in the U.S. and generated several important findings. In the past, researchers assumed that moving across two cultures was likely to cause conflict and psychological distress (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). Yet, it appeared that the Japanese immigrant adolescents in our sample managed to maintain bicultural identities and to cope with the difficulties they encountered in everyday life. More than half of the students described their overall experience of living in the U.S. as positive. For example, two participants said there was more freedom in American schools than in Japanese schools, which tend to emphasize academic achievement to the point of causing distress for many students (Kameguchi & Murphy-Shigematsu, 2001).

Nonetheless, many participants also reported encountering difficulties since coming to the U.S. Similar to past research (Yeh & Inose, 2002), it was found that language acquisition posed a major challenge. Although students in our sample stated that their fluency in English has improved over time, they indicated a preference for academic subjects that do not require high levels of English proficiency, such as mathematics and music.

English fluency also affected the formation and maintenance of friendships. Students who felt comfortable speaking English tended to form close relationships with students from various cultural backgrounds, whereas those with limited English abilities tended to have Japanese friends. Hence, challenges created by language difficulties were prevalent in every aspect of their lives, regardless of how long they had been living in the U.S. Moreover, five of the students felt that they lacked proficiency in both English and Japanese. LaFromboise et al. (1993) have argued that language competency is a key determinant of bicultural identity. Thus, inability to feel comfortable using either English or Japanese can further create confusion over cultural identity.

In addition, racial discrimination at school was noted by the immigrant students in the current study. Although it was typical for participants to deny having had their own experiences of discrimination, they talked about witnessing other students being discriminated against on a regular basis. For example, after saying she was not discriminated against, one participant stated, "American students avoid Japanese people who are not able to speak English." It is perhaps too painful for participants to admit and talk about their direct experiences with discrimination. Instead, they describe it as others' experiences, but despite their denials, prejudice can negatively impact Japanese youth.

Several students did indeed report being stereotyped and discriminated against. It is highly likely that racial stereotyping and discrimination are particularly confusing and painful for Japanese immigrant students, since they come from a relatively racially homogeneous country. In fact, it seemed that several students were not aware of what constituted discrimination. Yet, in the U.S., stereotypes imposed by the dominant culture are likely to influence the identity development of Asians (Yeh & Huang, 1996). Moreover, Lee and Zhan (1998) state that racial discrimination in American society negatively affects the self-esteem of Asian youth. Therefore, various forms of racist experiences may have significantly influenced the identity development of the Asian immigrant adolescents in this study.

While it has been documented that family conflict is a common problem among immigrants (Aronowitz, 1984; James, 1997; Lee & Zhan, 1998), the immigrant youth in the current study typically denied family problems. However, many participants were seemingly hesitant to talk about their families during the interviews. This pattern may be related to the fact that in Japanese culture, discussing family problems with outsiders is considered disloyal and shameful (Tamura & Lau, 1992). Even though anonymity was ensured, the participants might have felt uncomfortable revealing such private matters to strangers. Yet, based on the limited information provided by the participants, it appears that family dynamics had changed since moving to the U.S. For instance, several students talked about the pressure of being a translator for a parent who possessed limited English abilities. However, further investigation is required in order to understand the many changes in family dynamics among immigrant families.

In terms of perceptions of identity, participants typically felt conflicted living in two cultures. While some felt that they did not belong to either culture, others perceived themselves as primarily being Japanese. According to LaFromboise et al. (1993), strong identification with at least one culture can help an individual maintain positive psychological well-being. Thus, the immigrant youth who primarily identified themselves as Japanese might be more likely to function better in the U.S. than those who felt marginalized. Moreover, the literature indicates that individuals who have been marginalized from both cultures are at great risk for psychological maladjustment (Berry, 1997; Sodowsky, Kwan, & Pannu, 1995).

Alternatively, it is possible that these immigrant youth negotiated the two cultures by maintaining a fluid identity. Researchers have documented that Japanese self-identity tends to shift across situations in order to fulfill social roles and obligations (Markus, Mullally, & Kitayama, 1997; Yeh & Hwang, 2000). Hence, when Japanese immigrant students interact with American students, they may alter themselves in order to fit in with the norms of the dominant culture. In contrast, when interacting with Japanese friends and family members, they are more likely to endorse Japanese cultural norms. This multidimensionality and malleability of self can help Japanese students to manage cross-cultural relationships and contexts effectively. It has thus been suggested that the multiple selves of immigrant students should be embraced rather than viewed as pathological (Yeh & Hwang, 2000).

Our findings on the coping styles of Japanese immigrant youth are also noteworthy. Seven students reported that they tended to keep problems to themselves. In Asian culture, emotional expression is de-emphasized, since it can create disharmony in interpersonal relationships (Uba, 1994). Hence, the Japanese youth may not have wanted to burden others with their problems. Furthermore, Marsella (1993) asserts that Japanese individuals tend to view keeping problems to oneself as honorable, since they value self-control in the face of personal challenges. Thus, the present finding demonstrates the immigrant students' adherence to Japanese cultural values in terms of coping.

All but one participant reported that they had never seen a counselor. It appeared that many participants did not believe that counselors could understand their experiences or would be supportive. This finding is understandable given that, in Asian culture, people tend to seek help from intimates, including friends and family, rather than a stranger, such as a counselor (Sue, 1994; Yeh & Wang, 2000). Accordingly, it is assumed that Japanese immigrant youth would feel uncomfortable sharing their difficulties and feelings with a counselor. Moreover, it is likely that these immigrant youth do not have a clear idea about the role of a counselor, considering the low prevalence of counseling in Japan (Saito, 1993).

The Japanese students in our sample tended to seek help from friends. This is consistent with previous findings regarding the coping preferences of Asians (Atkinson et al., 1990; Mau & Jepsen, 1988; Yeh & Inose, 2002; Yeh & Wang, 2000). Because of the cultural emphasis on interdependence, Japanese youth may be so connected with their friends that they feel at ease in sharing their personal problems with them. In fact, a few students noted that consulting friends who experienced similar cross-cultural adjustment problems was particularly helpful. It can be assumed that sharing similar difficulties and feelings may make immigrant youth more connected with each other. It is highly likely that such a strong connection with others contributes to their overall psychological well-being.


The generalizability of the results is limited due to the small sample size. Additionally, with one exception, the categories were not representative of all the participants. As suggested by Hill and colleagues (1997), one method used to check the stability of the results is to add new cases and assess whether they change the results. This is a potential goal of future research.

Another limitation of this study relates to participant self-selection. In particular, the participants agreed to an interview, and it is possible that adolescents who are willing to talk about their cultural adjustment have certain characteristics, such as being more outgoing, that are directly related to their identity development and cultural adjustment experiences.

Third, there may have been social desirability bias. Although confidentiality was emphasized, participants may have felt hesitant about speaking openly and honestly about difficult issues such as racism and discrimination. Further, since it is often viewed as inappropriate or disloyal for individuals from Asian cultures to talk about family conflict, they may have been less than forthcoming about their family experiences.

Fourth, although we addressed the issue of researcher bias by standardizing the interview questions, using at least three researchers to analyze the data at every step of the process, and keeping the overall aims of the research from the consensus teams, it is possible that some findings are particular to the way we, as a group, interpreted the data (Hill et al., 1997). Similarly, the participants' responses may have been influenced by the specific ways in which the questions were worded and presented in the interviews.

Finally, although we acknowledge that obtaining similar findings across multiple analytic methods increases the validity of results (Hill et al., 1997), this was not possible due to several factors. For example, there have been few studies in the area of cultural adjustment among Japanese adolescents, making comparison difficult. In addition, the constructs and experiences we are attempting to understand are fluid and dynamic, and there are no existing measures that would have been adequate for the purposes of this study. Another verification method is to have the results reviewed by the participants themselves, also known as testimonial validity (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Stiles, 1993). However, this method has not been firmly established. Given the importance of testimonial validity, further research is needed.

Implications for Research and Practice

In spite of these limitations, our findings have several implications for research and practice. In terms of research, it is clear from our interviews that further and more in-depth investigation is needed in areas such as racial/discriminatory experiences, help-seeking behaviors with friends, identity development/confusion, language acquisition and usage, and academics in order to clarify the nature of these variables and their impact on the cultural adjustment process. Specifically, it would be interesting to determine why Japanese immigrants were found to choose friends as their primary source of social support, similar to findings by Suan and Tyler (1990). Moreover, Japanese immigrants' perceptions of racial and/or discriminatory events might be influenced by the fact that they are from a predominantly homogeneous society, and interviews across cultural groups would be informative. Additionally, many participants described a lack of belongingness. Further exploration is necessary to better understand their experience of feeling excluded from both Japanese and American culture and how this is negotiated.

Future research should compare the experience of Japanese immigrants with that of other cultural groups to better understand differences and similarities. Moreover, other projects could examine Japanese immigrants' cultural adjustment in different geographic locations in the U.S. and across age groups and educational cohorts.

In terms of implications for practice, support networks need to be considered when working with Japanese immigrant youth. Including teachers and family members may not be enough, especially since Japanese youth report that friends are the most likely resource for support. Specifically, peer support groups for Asian immigrant youth might help them to share their feelings and discuss difficult experiences.

Japanese immigrant youth seem to have negative ideas about mental health professionals, or see their problems as not severe enough to warrant professional assistance. It might be necessary to destigmatize the counseling process with this population. Moreover, greater attentiveness from teachers, guidance counselors, and community members is needed regarding proficiency in English, especially in the first several months, since language deficits can have repercussions for the mental health of Japanese immigrant youth.

Table 1. Results of Qualitative Analyses

Domain                                  Category

Perceived differences   A. There is more freedom in American than in
between Japanese           Japanese schools (typical; n = 4)
and American culture    B. Diversity in background and expression is
                           more accepted in the United States than in
                           Japan (variant; n = 3)
                        C. People in Japan feel more obligated to
                           uphold and conform to cultural traditions
                           than people in the United States (variant;
                           n = 3)

Feelings about          A. Initial feelings of loneliness and isolation
coming to, and living      upon coming to the United States (typical;
in, the United States      n = 4)
                        B. Overall positive experience in the United
                           States (typical; n=5)
                        C. Anxiety and concern because of limited
                           communication skills in English (variant;
                           n = 3)
                        D. Participant expected and/or experienced
                           cultural diversity in the United States
                           (variant; n = 3)

Discriminatory and/or   A. Participant denies being discriminated
racial experiences         against (typical; n = 4)
                        B. Stereotypic and discriminatory comments were
                           made about participant because of Asian race
                           and/or Japanese ethnicity (variant; n = 3)
                        C. Discrimination against self and/or others
                           because of limited English language skills
                           (variant; n = 3)
                        D. Although participant was not discriminated
                           against, others were due to their limited
                           English and the fact that they had Asian
                           friends (variant; n = 3)
                        E. Discrimination due to physical appearance
                           (variant; n = 2)

Friendships             A. Participant's friends are primarily Japanese
                           and/or Japanese American (typical; n = 4)
                        B. Participant has racially and culturally
                           diverse group of friends (typical; n = 5)
                        C. English skills were a factor in both
                           establishing and maintaining friendships
                           (typical; n = 5)

Identity                A. Participant perceives him/herself as
                           primarily Japanese (typical; n = 4)
                        B. Participant has experienced challenges and
                           felt conflicted due to living in two
                           cultures, feeling as though he/she does not
                           fit in with either culture (typical; n = 4)
                        C. Participant struggled with describing
                           him/herself (variant; n=3)
                        D. Participant shifts self-identity when
                           expectations, situations, and cultural
                           contexts change (variant; n = 3)
                        E. Participant's attitudes and behaviors remain
                           consistent in his/her interactions with both
                           Japanese and American people (typical; n = 5)

Academic                A. Schools in the United States have more
                           freedom and are more fun (variant; n = 2)
                        B. Participant attends both Japanese and
                           American schools (typical; n = 5)
                        C. Poor English skills posed a challenge
                           (typical; n=6)
                        D. There is a preference for classes that do
                           not require reading and writing English
                           (typical; n = 4)
                        E. Speaking up in class is difficult (variant;

Family                  A. Family communication improved and family
                           relations became closer since coming to the
                           United States (typical; n = 4)
                        B. Family problems were denied (typical; n = 4)
                        C. Participants were unaware of their parents'
                           expectations about life in the United States
                           (variant; n = 3)
                        D. Participant's mother has difficulty with
                           English (variant; n = 3)

Language acquisition    A. English was most difficult upon arrival in
and usage                  the United States but has improved since
                           (typical; n = 6)
                        B. Participants use Japanese and English
                           interchangeably among their friends and
                           family, as they find it difficult to
                           converse exclusively in one language
                           (general; n = 8)
                        C. Participants do not feel proficient in
                           either language (typical; n = 5)

Coping strategies and   A. Strength, support, and encouragement are
help-seeking               drawn from others who are, or have been, in
attitudes                  similar situations (variant; n = 3)
                        B. Minimization of one's problems (variant;
                           n = 3)
                        C. Participant keeps problems to him/herself
                           (typical; n = 7)
                        D. Participant has never seen a counselor
                           (typical; n = 7)
                        E. Friends were the best source of support
                           (typical; n = 6)

Note. A category was considered general if it applied to all 8
participants, typical if it applied to 4-7 participants, and variant if
it applied to 2-3 participants.


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The authors thank Carla Hunter, Lillian Chiang, Sunna Jung, Yuko Yoshino, Saori Imoto, and Angel Barrios for their assistance with this project.

Christine J. Yeh, Yuki Okubo, Robin H. Li, and Pamela Greene, Program in Counseling Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Agnes Kwong Arora, Department of Applied Psychology, The Steinhardt School of Education, New York University.

Mayuko Inose, Program in Counseling Psychology, Fordham University.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Christine J. Yeh, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, New York, New York 10027. E-mail may be sent to

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