Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Social Capital, Intergenerational Transmission and Intercultural Contact in Immigrant Families*

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Social Capital, Intergenerational Transmission and Intercultural Contact in Immigrant Families*

Article excerpt

POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF INTERCULTURAL CONTACT WTTH IN THE MIGRANTION PROCESS

Since the development of die concept of the "race-relation-cycles" in the sociology of migration during the 1930s and 1940s, assumptions about changes between generations of immigrants have always played an important role in the study of incorporation processes (Esser, 1980; Alba, 1990). In most cases, those assumptions about "differences" between die first, second or third generation of immigrants have been implicitly introduced into the explanation of assimilation process, and only seldom tiiey have been made explicit. Especially in the implicit versions, the main assumption is in general that the next generation shows higher levels of assimilation than the generation before - just as the early versions of the race-relations-cycles with their "general" law of the unavoidable direction of the result of culture contact between immigrants and the receiving societies have predicted. It is not surprising that under these conditions the hypothesis of the "ethnic revival" of the third generation" became so prominent in migration research - being one of the very rare alternative hypothesis and thus challenging the theoretical main stream. This hypothesis assumes that, while minority members from the "second generation" always have a higher level of assimilation than the "first generation" of the immigrants, members of the "third generation" often show an "ethnic revival". This "ethnic revival" denotes a return to cultural traditions of the country of origin, even though this frequently involves cultural transformation processes in which the chosen symbolic complexes of ethnic identification form part of a minority subculture, but are not necessarily authentic parts of the culture of origin to which they have little or no correspondence (Gans, 1979). Although being developed in the American immigration context, the basic hypothesis may be attractive for finding analogies in the European context, for example the emergence of religious fundamentalism in European migrant minorities which developed with only minor direct influence from the societies of origin but with high symbolic reference to them. Unfortunately, the empirical support for all these hypothesis is only very weak, if it exists at all. This is due to both severe methodological weaknesses of the empirical research and theoretical shortcomings in die explanations.

Empirical research on this subject has been devoted either to describe the level of assimilation of the migrating generation as compared with the assimilation of subsequent generations within one migrant minority group in a respective receiving society or to describe intergenerational differences in the integration behavior of different immigrant nations.

- Northern American studies always revealed consistently the remarkable differences between ethnic groups with regard to the intergenerative assimilation processes. Explanations of these assimilation differences generally refer to the density of social relations and to the social control exercised by the subculture of the minorities. These assumptions about subcultural differences of minority groups men should "explain" for example, why Jewish, Greek and Turkish immigrants establish much stronger intra-ethnic communication over generations and why they show more ethnic retention in their everyday life and why they stick to their ethnic identity more than German or Swedish immigrants do (Isajiw, 1990; Kalbach, 1990). However, network density, communication, social control and intergenerational relationships are normally not measured directly; therefore, the explanations appeal to common sense rather than being tested systematically by comparative empirical data.

- Studies in Germany on die integration behavior of migrant laborers from different nations suggest, however, that assimilation can be correlated with differences in the distribution of individual ressources (especially educational level) and with opportunities for integration which vary according to the historical succession of the different nationalities in the host country (Esser, 1982; Hill, 1984): When educational level and historical time of immigration are controlled, all differences in the assimilation behavior of Turkish, Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants disappear. …

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