Features Of Parenting In Asian American Culture

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Asian American culture is very different from Western culture. Many of these families come to the United States for a better life for their children. Asian immigrant parents are portrayed as strict and controlling in the media and show a lack of empathy for their children. These cultural factors may impact the mental health of their children, which will be discussed later. Many immigrant parents either come from poverty, war, or sacrificed everything from their home country including their houses, jobs, and families. They come in hopes to increase education, better living, and opportunities for their children to thrive. By providing resources and everyday needs for their children, it contributes to the parents having higher expectations and standards. Many Asian American adolescents and adults express that they do not feel their parents provide enough emotion or affection.

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Asian immigrant families face a lot of hardships adapting and affording to live in the states. When arriving, Parents have to adapt quickly to the American culture and typically have to work low wage jobs and working in unfamiliar fields. A language barrier may decrease opportunities and the adaptation process may significantly be tougher and longer for parents. In an interview a father states his concerns about his child’s education, “It is very hard for me being the only one in the family who works. I am a fisherman. I make enough money for us to live, but I worry all the time. My wife, her English is not good, and she cannot work. So, I want my daughter to go to school so that she and her future family will not have these problems. My daughter is good, so she will do what I say and her life will be better than ours”. Obedience plays an important aspect in Asian parenting. This father may sound controlling by saying she WILL do everything he says but his reasoning behind it is to provide everything he can for his daughter hence to have a successful and bright future. He wants his daughter to have a better life and future to be able to support her family. He doesn’t want her to struggle as he and her mother did. Therefore, Authoritarian parenting is used significantly in the Asian community.

For western culture, many use authoritative parenting, a parenting style that is more supportive, more responsive, and tend to their children’s emotional. Whereas authoritarian is the total opposite the parents may show less support, enforce obedience and high control which Asian parents use substantially more. The western culture portrays these behaviors as damaging to the child’s mental health but to the Asian culture, control is necessary and important in Asian American traditions. It is commonly used to shelter and protect their children but this may cause some emotional and development issues further down the line. Most parents mean well but with so much control sometimes children feel like they are trapped. In an article, Vietnamese participants stated, “Vietnamese adolescents perceived their parents as too protective and controlling, rarely allowing them to assert their independence. One adolescent said, “My parents are so protective. [They] never give any power for me to do anything on my own”. The adolescents believe that parents have to learn to let go of their children and allow them to experience what is right and wrong in life, and learn to take responsibility for their own actions”. Many parents arrange regulations and boundaries for their children and they are just expected to listen and follow the rules, comparable to one-way conservation. These adolescents feel like their parents have too much control in their life where they cannot even experience or enjoy it. Instead, they’re in hopes that their parents would be more involved emotionally and understanding in the future. They view their parents very negatively that it can cause developmental issues and interactions with others.

Parent’s authoritarian methods may give their children successful education but it affects poorly to their relationship with each other. Children may look at their parents negatively. Asian parents repressed their emotions and expect their children to do as well. If you want to discuss issues they take it as you are disagreeing and talking back and not doing what you are told. In a research/interview study most of the participants voiced numerous negative accounts over positive about their relations with their parents. One of the participants expressed, “ The great divide between immigrant parents who emphasize instrumental forms of love and children who carve open displays of affection was evident in the following conversion, which occurred between Dat and his father… Dat recalled, “I tried saying ‘I love you’ one time and he looked at me and said, ‘Are you American now? You think this is The Brady Bunch? You don’t love me. You love me when you can support me.”’ These different cultural definitions of love contributed to respondent’s constructions of immigrant parents as unloving and cold”(Karen Pyke, 2004, p.247). Dat was only around eight years old when his father said this to him. He would dream about them sitting down together and communicating about their feelings although his dad would always shut him down when he tried. This affected his development and he felt like he could never speak or express affection to his father about anything. He would watch American family TV shows and hang out with his American friends and questioned why his father could not be like that.

Mental health can be influenced badly by the authoritarian parenting style. Children may feel depressed and have lower self-esteem then parents who provided an authoritative parenting style but more research needed to explore possibilities. In a research study about Vietnamese American teenagers, “Accordingly, results indicate that adolescents who experience this type of parenting style do generally report higher levels of depression and lower levels of self- esteem. The logistic analyses with parenting style as the dependent variable also found that adolescents who report higher depression or lower self-esteem tended to perceive their parents’ parenting style as authoritarian… These dynamics can cause tension in the family, create a strained parent – child relationship, and adversely affect the mental health of adolescents as well as their parents”. The findings indicate the authoritarian method does affect depression and may cause lower self-esteem. Vietnamese American adolescents face hardships in adapting to Western values/parenting and their parent’s traditional values/parenting. This may cause a difficult relationship with their parents and mental health will start declining substantially.

Research from the following study suggests that the challenge that affects Asian families are overcoming the language and cultural barriers that may affect their relationships with each other. These families should be provided with support groups, education forms their ethnic community center, church, temple, or schools. The research states, “ Because the core challenge lies in the families’ ability to overcome cultural and language barriers, it would be helpful for practitioners to link their services through these cultural media to lessen mental health stigma and, most importantly, to increase the family’s willingness to share and allow access to intimate family issues and to participate in treatment. With support from bicultural, bilingual social workers, Vietnamese parents might be willing to talk about their issues while they are waiting for the children to complete their language or religious classes.” For a mental illness to decrease this study suggest to go to support groups or classes. Families must be willing to talk about their issues with another individual. Bilingual social workers must know cultural differences in parenting styles and support Asian parents to talk about their problems and feelings to others. If they do not have the resources or go out to seek help it will affect one’s mental state.

Asian immigrant parents, most of the time want the best for their children. However, do not successfully show it. They, besides, don’t know that it might affect their child’s mental health negatively. Their child may even look down upon them for not showing enough affection and love. Asian parents are perceived as uncaring and demanding but in reality, they just want the best for you but express it in their way. They seem controlling and always regulate everything in your life but their reason for that is they don’t want you to suffer like them and want you to have a better future. The child and parents should comprehend the western and traditional culture/values to understand one another. Adolescents and parents should reach out for additional help if they feel their mental health is declining and be willing to communicate with each other instead of repressing emotions. 

10 Jun 2021

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