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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

April 29, 2007

Written by C.N.

Adult Asian Americans Helping Their Parents

For many Asian Americans, parent-family relationships can be a little tricky as each side tries their best to negotiate generational differences and the complex process of assimilating into American society and carving out a new life and identity for themselves in a new social environment. As the Orange County Register points out, one evolving trend is how many adult Asian Americans have now come full circle and are now reaching back to help out their parents:

It is not unusual for adult children in Asian families to contribute money to their parents on a monthly basis to help pay for their parents’ mortgages and other living expenses. “It is the ultimate symbol of gratitude that a child can show to his parents,” said Cal State Fullerton professor Son Kim Vo. “In the Vietnamese culture, it shows the complete cycle of a family. Parents raise their children, and now the children give back.” . . .

Among those who do give their parents money, there is another half-joke that those who give the most money receive the most love from their parents. “In a weird way, it is kind of like buying the parents’ love and approval,” Mai said. “I don’t want to say it, but it’s true.”

Tracy Pham, 34, of Garden Grove, said it can raise feelings of resentment among siblings. “My two sisters make way more money than I do, so they can afford to give my parents more,” said Pham, a hairstylist. “So, in my parents’ eyes, I know I’m not respected as much as my other sisters, and I feel like I can never measure up.”

For many immigrant families, Asian or otherwise, there does seem to be a consistent (although not universal) cycle of the second generation wanting to separate from their parents because they represent “old” or “foreign” ways, whereas the children just want to be like their (predominantly White) friends. Then somewhere in college, many young Asian Americans eventually rediscover their racial/ethnic identity and pride and come to finally appreciate the love their parents have for them. Then as adults, they then try to “repay” their parents back in whatever ways they can.

As an Asian American immigrant, scholar, and parent myself, I have seen this pattern over and over again and it always warms my heart each time to see each generation reconnecting with the other. The process may not be completely smooth at times, but ultimately, the results usually represent a positive reinforcement of not just the bond between family members, but also the bond of ethnic solidarity within each Asian/immigrant community.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Adult Asian Americans Helping Their Parents" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/04/adult-asian-americans-helping-their-parents/> ().

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