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GLOBAL STUDIES AND WORLD LANGUAGES ACADEMY

Retention of Culture within


Children of Immigrants
Is it possible for the children of Immigrants to
retain their native culture in America?

MILLIE Y CHENG
12/14/2013




The retention of native culture is almost never kept within first generation
children from immigrant parents because of the want for acceptance and the
glow of the more mainstream culture that surrounds them.
Introduction
Annually about 1.1 million immigrants enter the US to become permanent
residents. In 2009, roughly 25% of kids in the US have at least one immigrant parent.
With the increasing diversity America is now becoming a large melting pot. Immigrants
are then forced to adapt their existing culture to adapt to American culture or remain as
an outsider by keeping their native culture. With immigrant children they often face
losing their native culture as they try to balance their home life with their life amongst
their peers. Often the native is pushed aside and over time is lost because of the desire
to fit in with peers. Over generations the native culture is lost through language and/or
traditions because the generations are more likely to adopt the same mindsets as their
peers and reject their native traditions if it strays too much from the normal.
This project has significance because the problems that children of immigrants
face growing up are usually bypassed to focus on the problems of the actual immigrants
and illegal immigration instead. The acculturation of the children to their home country
to the old traditions and culture bags that their parents bring from the childrens
grandmother land, it can take its toll on the child because of the split lives many often
face. Stress, depression, and tensions with family often occur and the child must
balance their social and home life. The standards that their parents expect them to face
compared to their society standards causes confusion and problems in development.
From traditional families, the acculturation into American society can become much
harder because of the pressure from parents to remain loyal to the traditional beliefs
despite the pressure from the society to change and the media portrayal of beauty or
how one should be. The pressure makes school, making friends, and life much harder.
The focus of this research is to show how hard it is to retain a native culture while trying
to incorporate in the new culture and balance both lives.
Limitations
The large influx of immigrants to the US created an opportunity for a large
melting pot however, the ability for immigrants to hold onto their native traditions would
almost all disappear over time. This research would study the losses in native culture
that the children of the immigrants would face. The focus will be on the influence on
retention of language through two generations down from the immigrants and how one
generation born in America, can affect the major loss of almost all native culture. It will
demonstrate the diminishing culture through interviews from multiple culture
backgrounds such as, Scottish, Cuban, Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, and Moroccan.
The research will cover but not go in depth in medias role for loss of culture and
communities that the person grew up in. Although the topic is broad, the research does
not cover immigration anywhere else in the US. In the research it will not go past the
major groups that immigrate to the US. The main groups that will be focused upon are
Asians and Hispanics and will touch lightly on Eastern Europeans. Education levels
and emphasis on standards of living will be covered because within each ethnicity, the
standards are different. For example in Asian communities although they are poor,
public education is seen as a good thing and is shown in a positive light. On the other
hand, Hispanics are more likely to base life off of helping family and caring for family.
Another limitation the research includes the immigration of immigrant children. The
research will solely be on children of immigrants. The research will briefly go over
interracial families and how having only one immigrant parent can affect the loss of
culture however, the research will not go in depth.
Methodology
The research methods used will be based off on interviews because of the real
life examples of how culture can diminish through generations. It also shows how many
traditions and customs can disappear within two generations from the immigrants.
Qualitative research will best answer the question through analyzing the US Census to
see the amount of immigrants that move into the US each year. Although outside
information from the internet can help guide the research, the real research will be done
by the interviews mainly. There will be a total of six interviews with question tweaked
for each person.
The first two people will be the direct immigrants to see how much of their native
culture they have retained themselves since moving to America. The next two people
will be first generation Americans from their family. Questions will be asked about the
retention of language and what traditions are still practiced. They will be asked
questions of what type of community they grew up in, to see if they had major
influences, for example, Chinatown, Spanish-speaking dominant areas, and Korea
town. Location where the person was raised will have an impact on the retention of
native cultures. Next, they will be asked how much of their native culture was provided
for them as they grew up. The last two people will be second generation Americans. It
is expected that the people will lose a majority of the native culture and almost fully
adapt to the American culture. It is expected that some holidays from the grand
motherland will still be practiced however the knowledge of the significance of the
holidays will be lost. Language may still be known but not commonly spoken or
rejected completely. Lastly, the people will be asked what they would have liked to
have retained to see how much they know of old traditions. The internet will be used to
guide questions along by giving details of the usual things lost from immigration and the
problems they may cause.
Literature Review
The sources used were mainly journals of US censuses and studies of the
impacts and possible causes of acculturation in children with immigrant parents. In the
first source, it is unbiased because it contains straight facts and statistics for
immigration and the children of immigrants. The article mainly focuses on the statistics
and causes of the US allowing in certain immigrants. The Migration Information Source
focuses mainly on the areas where the immigrants come from and the income levels the
people tend to make.
The Growing Up in America journal focuses on the background of Asian and
Hispanic immigrants. This journal compares the upbringing and the standards that
each culture has and its effect on the speed of acculturation of the children. This article
is a bit biased because of the focus on Asians and how the importance of education
implies that they get better grades. Compared to the Latinos, whom the author claims
are more family oriented and are less likely to blend into the American culture and hold
closer to their native traditions. The journal does go into the differences American
traditions have compared to the Asian and European beliefs however, it mainly focuses
on the teenage life such as dating, sex, and family orientation.
The next article in the Washington Times Newspaper is about nations worrying
about culture loss through immigration. This article focuses on immigration but on a
international standpoint. This source was used so that the research from American
immigration could be compared to other nations. Immigration is becoming a large
problem due to some cultures with slow acculturation rates but only serves as a
supporting role for the research.
The Political Association Research discusses the native born Americans view on
immigration and the effects that it has on the native born children. It also compares the
dominant American Anglo-Saxon views to the less popular beliefs. Assimilation is a big
focus on this article to prove that children born in America and younger immigrants are
more likely to assimilate into American society rather than staying to their roots. This
discusses the effects in school and also provides information on bilingual education and
how it may help a student push further away from their native language.
The Impact of Migration speaks about how the immigrant parents will carry
culture bags with them upon moving into America. The culture bags are the traditions
and culture immigrants hold upon moving to a new country. This article provides extra
information by explaining the parents that completely abandon their native culture so
that their children do not have to face the problems of choosing which culture they will
follow. Abandonment of language and customs are focused upon and the article
provides quotes of people who made the decision to abandon their native culture.
The literature review for children of immigrant parents is the most useful because
it discusses the culture conflicts and the problems that the children would face from their
life at home to their life with their peers. It compares the major differences from the two
main ethnic immigrant groups, the Asians and the Hispanics.
Although the Adaption of Immigrant Children into the Americas is about
immigrant children, children from immigrant parents often face some similar problems of
the immigrant children. The loss of culture between child immigrant and children of
immigrants are alike because of acculturation and the struggle to fit in amongst their
peers. The new and freer American customs are usually more appealing to kids if their
community is mainly Anglo-Saxons.
The next few sources are of the acculturation of the three main groups that
immigrate to America. The first source is of how quickly Asian Americans can become
acculturated to America. This source is not biased because it uses experiments and
observational studies to provide information about all races such as Vietnamese,
Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. This article compares other types of Asian with the
Japanese because the Japanese are more acclimated to Western culture compared to
the other cultures due to the accessibility of the American and Western media.
The next article is of the minority population of students in America. The focus is
on Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans. This article focuses on the family life of
each ethnicity and shows how each could become more acclimated and the differences
in beliefs such as male dominance in the family, womens role in life, education, and the
stress in family over the individual. This also focuses on the model minority student. It
shows how the parents cannot relate because they do not come from the same
background and do not have the same relations as they once had with their families.

Main Body
About 28% of children in the United States come from immigrant parents or have
one immigrant parent. (Migration) The retention of native culture in children of
immigrants is almost impossible due to the influences of American media, schools, and
their peers. Maintaining traditional beliefs may cause complications with the American
society standards which make it harder for the children of immigrants to choose
between their peers and society or their family. Strict native customs may also cause
the rejection of native culture within the generation because of the freedoms that
American culture allows.
Acculturation
The common problem in migrant families is that in-between generations, a
majority of culture is lost and problems within the family can arise. Acculturation begins
to happen in the first generation American children and the gap between parents and
children grows. In acculturation, the type of community and family ties the person has,
language retention, and religion can determine how much faster he or she would adopt
American standards. (Immigration, Nations) In many immigrant families, dissonant
acculturation occurs where the children learn the English ways and language and
therefore pushes out their parents traditional beliefs. (B. Impact) For the original
immigrants acculturation is much harder because if they have to learn a whole new
language, it also comes with trying to understand a whole new culture which further
adds stress and can prevent the proper acculturation. Pressures from the community
the immigrants are surrounded by may delay acculturation because the immigrants may
feel forced to learn the new culture rather than learning at their own pace. (Zhou) The
forced feeling may cause resentment against the American culture and the added stress
may discourage immigrants from being properly acclimated to the standards of
American society. Also the sense of community would be lost because of the distance
from their loved ones or friends. (Chae)
Children can become acclimated to a culture much faster than their immigrant
parents may which may cause problems with in the family because the children then
take on a different way of mind and the parents may feel that they are losing control
over their children. In turn, this could push for a stricter home life to ensure that the
traditional beliefs are still ingrained in the child and that the child will not be fully
Americanized. (B. Impact) Although many immigrant parents feel like they are losing
their children to American society, they still tend to hold leverage over their children
because of the sacrifices that could have been made to come into a new country and
have a better life for their children. (Zhou) This culture gap is the main source of
problems within immigrant families. (Nunez)
Growing up, children of immigrants face problems with their identity and who
they want to be because of the mix of cultures they have to face. (Nunez) There are
four ways a child could go about their identity. The first way is to completely abandon
their native heritage and completely adopt their country of births standards. However,
with this option, the parents have to be fairly acclimated themselves into the new areas
cultures so that the child will know that they will have a choice. The second option is, if
the child chooses to retain their native culture but incorporate some of mainstream
culture to be able to identify with their peers. (McCarthy) Third, the child chooses to
completely block out the mainstream culture and only follow their heritage culture. This
option is less likely because of the pressures of peers and media in the new country are
harder to resist. Lastly, the child chooses to reject both the mainstream and heritage
culture. (Kramer) What most children strive to achieve is bicultural competence where
they are able to balance home (native traditions) and outside (mainstream/American)
life. (Detlaff)
Asian Americans
Asians have the fastest amount of immigrants into the United States each year.
The main problem within the children of immigrants is that they normally are more
depressed and their family ties are often strained if they decide to become acclimated to
the American culture. Honor to the family name is very important in Asian societies. An
individuals success not only reflects upon them but on their family as well. Bringing
shame to the family name shows that the familys children are not being brought up
correctly and the parents are not diligent parents. This causes a problem because with
the acclimation of Asian American children, the values in America are more relaxed and
more individualized as opposed to family oriented. Asian American children often face
depression or suffer from mental health because of the constant pressure from parents
to succeed and prove they can rise to the expectations of the family. In many Asian
households the children are expected to speak the native language fluently however,
still become Americanized to be able to blend in with society. Asian beliefs are that
you must do things for yourself, however; you must do good things to make the family
honorable. The Japanese children tend to have better family ties and are more easily
acculturated because of the large western influence that preexists in their native land.
On the other hand countries with limited Western exposure, such as, Korea, China, and
Vietnam, take more time to adapt to the new culture and push towards a traditional
family status rather than adopting the American standard. For many Asian parents,
they view Americans as materialistic and disrespectful, which is a complete 180 from
traditional Asian beliefs. That is why keeping traditional values remains a huge stress in
Asian families. (Misunderstood)
Education has a large emphasis in Asian culture, being seen as a gateway for a
better life and promotes social status. The push for the children to excel in academics
is stressed upon very heavily. However, the parents involvement in their childrens
education tends to be very limited as they leave the responsibility on the schools and
teachers. The language barrier also provides to further the gap in parents involvement
leaving the child to figure out how to balance their lives. (Chae) Asian Americans are
more likely to become acclimated to the American culture by school and their peers.
The stress on education and the many hours that are put into study are the main ports
that the kids can become acclimated. The things taught in school and the childs peers
are major influences for the child to become Americanized. Trying to blend in with their
peers and not be an outcast is normal amongst the Asian student society because
being different and unique from the majority population is looked down upon. (Zhou)
Uniqueness and personal interests are usually pushed aside by Asian Americans to be
able to adopt the American way of living.
Hispanic Americans
The next major group is the Hispanic Americans. Hispanic immigrants compose
a large majority of the United States and are primarily living in the southern states while
slowly migrating upwards to the South Eastern states as well. (Divino) There is a large
push for the Hispanic community to become acclimated to American society; however,
Hispanic immigrants are more likely to settle in Hispanic communities. The acceptance
of Hispanic people into the community is key for their acculturation because by rejecting
their beliefs, they are more likely to turn to their peers with the same beliefs for comfort
and resent the American society. Hispanics tend to be more family oriented and family
hierarchy is very important. For example, the older men are always wiser than the
younger. However in American society, there is role diffusion and all family members
have a say. (Rambaut) In family life, called familismo, the family as a unit tends to
reject outsiders and the whole family is a collective unit and every decision is made for
the family as a whole not tailored for individuals. (Acculturation: A Non-Linear)
Acculturation within Hispanic communities is much harder because of the close
family ties. Hispanic people tend to think for others and their community over
themselves therefore, up keeping the culture and rejecting the American belief of
individualism. Another reason why it is much harder for Hispanic children to blend in
with American society is because education is not as focused upon. In public
education, American beliefs are built into the curriculum and serve as a building block to
understanding and integrating with American peers. However, if education does not
have an emphasis, the focus will tend to shift towards family wellbeing and social
circles. (Immigration) The close ties to family maintain the traditional beliefs which is
good for self-esteem; however, it can make acculturation much harder and can lead up
to more prejudice from outsiders. Although acculturation is harder for Hispanic children,
it still is very common because of medias role. The music and television can push kids
away from their native norms and make the new way of being seem more appealing.
Also the views on gender roles are more appealing to Hispanic females. In Hispanic
culture, females roles are to raise children and to have children. This is called
marianismo, the female role in Hispanic families. The American standard for females is
more appealing because it allows more freedom within the family, allows women to
have a voice in decisions and independence is more common. With the males their role
in the family is called machismo; the roles include being the sole provider for the family,
and making all decisions for the benefit of the family. In a traditional family, the males
do not have a large influence in their childrens lives, that role lies on the females. In
American customs, both parents share the influence in their childrens lives and the
children are both parents responsibility. In terms of personal space and way of being,
Hispanics tend to be less about personal space and more about bonds. (Divino)
Traditionally, Hispanic people do not take into consideration personal space and are
usually spontaneous people. Social class and face are very important, but with
acculturation, kids are worrying less on the appearance of their family but on their
individual appearance. They are very adaptive people and instead of facing up to
authority they will adapt to fit the rules to avoid confrontation. Americans generally try
to change the rules to suit what is best for them and with the uprisings for fair pay and
equal opportunities, the first generation Hispanic American community is rising up for
their rights which is very uncommon. (Rambaut)
Interviews
For additional research, four interviews were conducted with first and second
generation Americans. The first interview was with Lynelle Bernardo, a first generation
Filipino American. In her family, education was stressed and family bond was also a
large part of her life; however, she knew hardly anything of her native culture. She
could not speak Tagalog because of her parents fear of her not being able to learn
English properly. She was not informed of her native culture so that she could
completely assimilate herself to the American culture and be able to have more
opportunities. Also, although her parents did stress for her academic success they
remained very involved in her school life to ensure that she benefits in any way she
could. Lynelle said that the main Filipino traditions for Catholic holidays and celebration
of New Years are still celebrated in the family; they more minor holidays and lesser
traditions were not carried here to the United States. The next interview was with Kevin
De Cristoforo. He is a second generation Spanish-Italian American. When asked
about traditions that were passed down from his grandparents, the ones that were still
practiced were very limited such as going to church (Catholic) during holiday seasons
and celebrating Three Kings Day. Kevin did not speak any Spanish or Italian because
he saw no use of the language. If given the chance to go back to his native roots and
follow some traditions he declined and said he would rather live in American society.
Also the emphasis he put on his family was the religion; Catholicism. The religion was
practiced heavily by his grandparents then passed down to his father however, Kevin
was given the option of following the religion and he declined choosing to stay open to
any religion instead.
The third interview was done by Sze Fong, a Chinese American. His parents were
immigrants from Hong Kong. In the interview, he was asked about family traditions and
he knew that most of the traditions were based off of the Chinese calendar and said his
parents still followed a majority of the traditions thus, he did as well. He said that his
parents understood that since he lived in United States that all traditions and beliefs
could not be followed. The major holiday he practices is Chinese New Year and does
the standard house cleaning rituals. The stress on education was very enforced upon
in his family because of the importance of education was to his parents. They were
poor immigrants coming to America for better opportunities and so he felt that he had to
prove that their immigration to this country was worth it. He said that he will pass these
traditions onto his son but will not force the language or strict customs upon him. The
last interview was with, a direct immigrant to see the major culture differences she has
faced since coming to America. Joan Boyd immigrated to America over 40 years ago.
She has visited Scotland frequently for family and friends through the years. She said
there is not much of a difference from Scotland and America because of the strong
western influences both countries share. She also partakes in Scottish community
group so she can keep her traditions. Although she has joined the Scottish community
group, she has married an American man which further allowed her to adapt to the
American way of life.
Conclusion
The loss of culture in children of immigrants is bound to happen because of the
want to be included and accepted by their peers. Although it is possible to hold onto the
idea of some traditions the strict following of those are often lost because of the want to
be accepted by society. The old world values are abandoned because it no longer is
socially acceptable or fails to compare to the standards of the mainstream culture. The
pressure form family and the childs home life can create depression, low self-esteem,
and possible health issues and that is a major concern in the population of children of
immigrants.
The research showed the major problems in Asian and Hispanic culture. It also
showed how each abandoned some values and took on American values. The freedom
and individual expression are main components that make American values seem more
appealing in traditionally suppressive cultures. There are some benefits to adopting the
American culture such as higher self-esteem through schools encouragement of
individualism and self-expression. Also, there is increased freedom and equality
between genders and more freedom within family boundaries. However there are some
downfalls such as the loss of close family ties because of the focus on individual
accomplishments. Also American values tend to be more materialistic and media
portrayal of the newest and better things serves to further push kids to wanting better
things. If born in almost any country with different values the children will almost always
adopt the new culture to fit in with society to not be an outcast. It is very common to
find tensions within families but in the end it is bound to happen.

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