Academic journal article Family Relations

The Influence of Family Functioning and Parent-Adolescent Acculturation on North American Chinese Adolescent Outcomes

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Influence of Family Functioning and Parent-Adolescent Acculturation on North American Chinese Adolescent Outcomes

Article excerpt


The present study investigated the associations between family functioning, acculturation between parents and their adolescents, and adolescent adjustment problems. Chinese adolescents and their parents (N = 41) living in the United States and Canada participated in this study. Results showed that differences in acculturation between parents and adolescents were related to adolescent depression and that family functioning was related to both depression and delinquency. Both parental and adolescent acculturation levels and their differences were important in predicting adolescent outcomes. Implications for conducting family therapy and parent education with Chinese North American adolescents and their parents are discussed.

Key Words: acculturation, adolescent depression, Chinese adolescents, delinquency, family functioning.

Background and Significance

Most studies investigating the association between family functioning and adolescent outcomes have been done in North America, mainly with European American families. Recently, attention has focused on minority families (e.g., Greenberger & Chen, 1996; Mandara & Murray, 2000). Increasingly, Chinese North Americans are becoming a visible minority presence in both the United States and Canada. For example, in 2003, the United States Census Bureau reported 4.1% of the population to be identified as Asian. This is an increase from 3.6% in 2000. Additionally, Canadian statistics reveal that 6.6 % of the total Canadian population identified themselves to be Asian (Canadian Census, 2001).

In an effort to contribute to scholarship on minority families and adolescents, this study explored how family functioning and parent-adolescent acculturation differences were associated with adolescent adjustment problems such as depression, delinquency, and social initiative, in North American Chinese families. " Chinese North American" is a term used to describe North Americans who are ethnically Chinese. They may be from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, or other Asian countries or they may be born and raised in North America. Based on previous family scholarship with Chinese Americans, the term "Chinese North American families" in this paper refers to families who are ethnic Chinese without distinguishing their country of origin (Skinner, 2000).

Chinese North Americans, along with other Asian North Americans, have been considered a "model" minority group by some researchers because of their low crime rate and their overall academic achievement (Sue & Okazaki, 1990). Others have found more severe emotional problems such as depression among Asian American college students as compared to European Americans (Greenberger & Chen, 1996; Okazaki, 1997). Lorenzo, Pakiz, Reinherz, and Froist (1995) also found that Asian American adolescents are more depressed and socially isolated than their European American counterparts. Thus, a general description of Asian American adolescents is that they tend to exhibit more internalized emotional problems and display fewer externalized behavioral problems than European American youth.

Many of the studies related to Chinese North American families have focused on comparing different parenting practices in Asian and European American families (Rothbaum, Morelli, Pott, & Liu-Constant, 2000). Although these studies have focused on parenting styles, there is still a general lack of knowledge of overall family functioning in relation to Chinese North American families. Ho, Spank, & Young (1989, as cited by Shek, 1997) found no bibliographic citations of "family competence," "family functioning," or "family assessment" among 3,548 citations related to patterns of behavior in Chinese individual and family studies. Simply comparing parenting practices between Asian and European American families is necessary and interesting but may fail to identify specific areas of intervention for Chinese North American families. …

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