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The experience of being Chinese for three adolescents living in the Midwest, U.S.A.: A qualitative multiple case study

Sherry C Wang, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The study of acculturation gap is replete with methodological and conceptual limitations, with problems in measurement, research design, and interpretation of the gap (Tardif-Williams & Fisher, 2009; Telzer, 2010). These issues affect the kinds of research conducted and the clinical services designed for immigrant youths and their parents. In order to address the inconsistent findings that have emerged in this line of research, the current study takes an exploratory approach to understand how three adolescents experience enculturation within multiple ecological levels. Guided by a qualitative, multiple case study approach (Stake, 1995; Yin, 2009), this inquiry was designed to explore how three Chinese adolescents experience being Chinese: individually, within their families, and as part of their Midwestern community. Data were gathered through two one-on-one interviews with three adolescent and their respective parents, participant photos of their experiences of being Chinese, and the researcher's reflexive journal entries and field notes. Based on rich, in-depth descriptions of three youths and both their parents, this study sheds light on the diverse and varied experiences of three youths and their negotiations of being Chinese within multiple cultural contexts. A total of six cross-case themes emerged, which are 1) differences and similarities in being Chinese, 2) parent strictness: adolescent autonomy and academic achievement, 3) absence of a Chinese community, 4) consistent adolescent and parent perceptions of adolescent enculturation, 5) influence of adolescent peer groups, and 6) influence of stereotypes. The findings from this study underscore the complexities of enculturation and how developmental, cultural, and contextual processes intersect in adolescent experiences of being Chinese. The results highlight the varied experiences of three adolescents and shed light on areas of consonance and dissonance in individual and parent-adolescent enculturation. This study can assist researchers and clinicians to better understand enculturation as a process of negotiation across multiple contexts. In order to advance extant research and services for immigrant youths such as the ones studied in this study, scientists and practitioners are encouraged to recognize the interplay between individuals, families, and communities in individual and parent-adolescent enculturation.

Subject Area

Asian American Studies|Counseling Psychology|Individual & family studies

Recommended Citation

Wang, Sherry C, "The experience of being Chinese for three adolescents living in the Midwest, U.S.A.: A qualitative multiple case study" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3512948.