Southeast Asian Refugee Children and Adolescents Research Project Annotated Bibliography

Keywords: class, comparative family forms, family history, family diversity, gender and age relations, marriage. Notes

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Keywords: class, comparative family forms, family history, family diversity, gender and age relations, marriage.


Historical perspective adds an important dimension to the reevaluation of causality in family studies. This is because history is the discipline of context. Any form can only be given meaning within an ensemble of other meanings. Any “fact” can become remarkably something different in another context depending on what it is surrounded by. This reinforces the cautions that careful researchers have always raised about what generalizations may be drawn from quantitative analysis. To find meaningful patterns, the researcher must not look at structures, categories, or attributes of individuals but at the larger relationships among those structures, individuals, and institutions. All these considerations complicate the notion of what constitutes an “at risk” behavior or status for families or individuals. Being prudent in an impoverished or homeless environment may mean passing up chances for long-term betterment. Behaviors that are judicious for a middle-class, professional environment can be risky for lower-class individuals. What is considered deferred gratification in middle-class youth may also be the easiest path and most socially rewarded while not so for lower-class youth. There needs to be a continuing dialogue among researchers from different disciplines about ways to cut across generalizations and simplistic interpretation of correlations that currently deform so much of the public discussion of families.

Farrell, M. P. & Barnes, G. M. (2000). Family stress and adolescent substance abuse. In P. C. McKenry & S. J. Price (Eds.) Families & change: Coping with stressful events and transitions (pp. 208-228). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.

Keywords: adolescents, substance abuse, family, stress


Stress, conflict, and negative affect in families can lead to adolescent substance use. Once this use becomes heavy, it has consequences that can accumulate as stress in families. When an adolescent becomes a problem user, it is difficult to bring under control. This review concludes that parents can reduce the chances of heavy use by their adolescent children. The earlier an adolescent begins using, the greater the risks that he or she will become a heavy user. Parents must intervene early. They should take into account several factors: adolescents are influenced by their parents’ attitudes and behaviors, how parents treat their children makes a difference. Coercive punishment may backfire.


Although researchers agree that peers as well as parents influence adolescent drug and alcohol use, they are not clear on how the effects of these two primary groups are related. They may be separate risk factors that have a cumulative impact. Parents may be able to buffer the effects of choice of friends by careful supervision or maintaining a supportive relationship. Longitudinal research suggests that the effects of supportive parenting and parental monitoring unfold sequentially. Between 12-15 years, supportive parenting has a direct effect on problem behaviors. As adolescents get older, supportive parenting has less of a direct effect and more of an indirect effect through parental monitoring. If the parents had not provided supportive parenting, they have less of a chance of being able to successfully provide monitoring at later ages. The level of parental support in year one influences the level of monitoring that adolescents allow, and this in turn influences the slope of the rate at which they acquire the pattern of heavy drinking use over the subsequent 5 years.

Single parents may be less available to socialize the adolescent into appropriate behavior, provide supportive parenting, or monitor adolescent involvement with peers. Family structure affected alcohol and drug use in white males but not black males. It is important to not overgeneralize. What works in preventing substance abuse for one group may not work for another.
Fuligni, A. J., Tseng, V., & Lam, M. (1999). Attitudes toward family obligations among American adolescents with Asian, Latin American, and European backgrounds. Child Development, 70(4), 1030-1044.


This study was designed to examine the attitudes toward family obligations among over 800 American tenth and twelfth grad students from Filipino, Chinese, Mexican, Central and South American, and European backgrounds. Asian and Latin American adolescents possessed stronger values and greater expectations regarding their duty to assist, respect, and support their families than their peers with European backgrounds. These differences tended to be large and were consistent across the youths’ generation, gender, family composition, and socioeconomic background. Whereas an emphasis on family obligations tended to be associated with more positive family and peer relationships and academic motivation, adolescents who indicated the strongest endorsement of their obligations tended to receive school grades just as low as or even lower than those with the weakest endorsement. There was no evidence, however, that the ethnic variations in attitudes produced meaningful group differences in the adolescents’ development. These findings suggest that even within a society that emphasizes adolescent autonomy and independence, youths from families with collectivistic traditions retain their parents’ familistic values and that these values do not have a negative impact on their development.


The links between beliefs and behavior of adolescents are not always strong. The demands of adolescent life in American society may make it difficult for youths to fulfill their perceived obligations. Adolescents in the United States tend to spend large amounts of time away from their families. The contrast between American norms and their families’ traditions is salient to youths from Asian and Latin American families. “To be American, you can do whatever you want, but to be Vietnamese, you must think of your family first,” reflects many responses from youth. It would be interesting to research the development of these values in youth in early childhood to see how they are internalized. It would provide insight on how these values change as adolescents move out of the teenage years and into postsecondary education and employment.

Furstenberg, F. F. (2000). The sociology of adolescence and youth in the 1990s: A critical commentary. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 896-910.

Keywords: adolescence, multiple contexts, 1990s, social science research, transition to adulthood.


This article provides a critical commentary on research on adolescence and youth focusing on the causes and consequences of the period in which the transition to adulthood occurs. It provides a history of adolescent research, identifies a set of topics, themes, and research problems. It includes peer group relations, biological influences, employment experiences, increased autonomy, and racial and gender differences. It concludes with suggestions for future research on adolescence.


Beginning a century ago, scholars placed a strong emphasis on adolescence as a problematic life stage in modern society. Themes of the twentieth century have been the emphasis on the growing autonomy from the family, peer group relations, and problematic aspects of youth. There has been a shift of emphasis to race and ethnic variations and gender has become a much larger topic of scholarly concern. A closer look at contexts needs to be made. If we are to gain a more complete understanding of when, how, and why different contexts shape development, research needs to be done in more than one context at a time. Large scale longitudinal surveys have been made more available that follow children through the transition into adulthood.

Garcia Coll, C. & Magnuson, K. (1997). The psychological experience of immigration: A developmental perspective. In A. Booth, A. C. Crouter, & N. Landale (Eds.) Immigration and the family, pp. 91-131. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.


The focus is on the psychological effects of migration on children. The extant literature presents studies using conceptual models derived from research with immigrant adults and lack developmental perspective. The emphasis has been on problematic outcomes rather than normative experiences or processes that lead to differential outcomes. The chapter looks at the impact and process of immigration and subsequent acculturation. These are dependent on the person’s developmental needs and the attitudes of the primary caregivers. Immigrant children and adolescents must learn to cope with racism, discrimination, and prejudice as it is manifested in subtle and overt ways. Coping mechanisms that children develop include both behavioral and psychological skills.


Children who began to be socialized in their homeland and then moved to the United States, the 1.5 generation, are often overlooked in the discussion of immigrants and in generational comparisons. The age they migrate and how long they have been in the U.S. make a difference and need to be articulated in the theories and principles. A large number of studies have focused on the comparative rates of maladjustment among young immigrants as presented in personality disorders rather than on the normative development. Ironically, studies have shown that the majority of immigrant children are not maladjusted. They are able to overcome the difficulties of immigration and acculturation and adapt readily to their surrounding at home and school. When disorders appear, they manifest in two distinct ways: as behavior disorders and as identity disorders in adolescence. Acute psychotic disorders are less often presented in immigrant children. The manner in which research has been conducted has disposed them to overlook measurement of normative outcomes inclusive of the experiences and processes involved in acculturation and adjustment. It has been proposed that it would be better to compare the differences between immigrant children who have been born in the host country to those born in a foreign country who have migrated. The lack of developmental perspective combined with the emphasis on migration as a stressful experience has prevented researchers from trying to understand the ways immigration might serve as a growth-enhancing event. Results of studies usually show rates of maladaptation and little on subjective experiences of how they cope, their ability to grow, and the impact that immigration has had on their lives.

There is no linear increase or decrease in vulnerability to stress associated with the development of children. The nature of the events and the coping responses elicited changes as the child develops. Younger children who are not aware of the meaning of the stressor are less vulnerable and are buffered by their age and their relationship with their caretakers. Studies show that a stable relationship with an adult is associated with better social adjustment. Low rate of deviance may be attributed to the quality of family life, which reduces the risk of developing disorders. Studies show the effects of the preexistence or concurrent background of chronic psychosocial adversity. The effect of a number of stressors is not merely cumulative but potentiates each other. Coping refers to intrapsychic processes and environmental manipulations that solve problems and regulate emotional distress. Although a child may possess a good repertoire of coping strategies and competencies in one cultural context, they might be ineffective, inappropriate, or even offensive after immigrating. The context effect becomes important across cultures.

Not all children who are exposed to stressful situations are adversely affected by their experiences. This has led to studies in resilience, the ability to recover from or easily adjust to misfortune or sustained life stress. It is hard to distinguish between a risk factor and a protective factor and a factor that is merely influential in a child’s development. Three broad factors have consistently been found to characterize invulnerable children: dispositional and constitutional traits of the child, the presence of a supportive family environment, and a supportive individual or agency outside the family. These might include: temperament and sex, influences outside the home such as the school, the scope of opportunities, high self-esteem, scholastic achievement, cognitive structure and locus of control, one good stable relationship with an adult, and skills on how to deal with a variety of new situations as they grow up.

Stressors of the Migration Experience:

Children mourn the loss of loved objects. They may long for familiar sights, beloved relatives and friends. During the weeks immediately following migration they may obscure feelings of loss and longing, but these feelings resurface months or even years later. Migration that included an extended separation from parents affected children in an adverse manner. Children who migrated with their mothers had adapted more easily than those who remained behind with maternal grandmothers and later rejoined their mothers. Role changes encountered during the migration can act as stressors.

Refugees frequently encounter greater stress due to the nature to their pre-departure experiences. Exposure to war is a probability. Children are more likely to manifest severe stress reactions such as PTSD but they may be overlooked because children do not speak for themselves and the problems presented by adults overshadow those of children. Refugee children face more undesirable life events, a greater degree of danger, and a lesser degree of control than those who immigrate voluntarily. Children’s responses depend on other developmental processes. Pre-school-age children react with anxious attachment behavior. School-age children seem to change dramatically, becoming rude, irritable, argumentative, and complaining of somatic problems. Their school performance declines. Adolescents react more like adults, engage in antisocial behavior or lose impulse control. They tend to fear being ostracized and are pessimistic about the future. The reaction depends on the degree of violence, presence or absence of personal injury, and access to family support.
Ho, M. K. (1992). Differential application of treatment modalities with Asian American youth.

In L. A. Vargas & J. D. Koss-Chioino (Eds.). Working with culture: Psychotherapeutic interventions with ethnic minority children and adolescents. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.


This chapter focuses on the differential application of treatment modalities within a conceptual framework for therapy with Asian American children. This ecological approach considers the child’s reality, culture, bicultural ism, family tradition and structure, degree of acculturation, language, and help-seeking behavior. It views the problem as a lack in the environment, dysfunctional transitions between systems, or interrupted growth and development. The diversity of Asians is emphasized. It uses illustrations of case examples to show how traditional techniques may be modified for use with Asian American children and youth.


The author provides helpful guidelines for therapists in choosing treatment modalities to use to achieve goals based on the working relationship between the client and therapist and how they define the problem. Five ethnic-related factors can affect the choice: the native culture, the child’s and family’s level of acculturation, speech and language, the child’s and family’s conceptualization of the problem and help-seeking behaviors, and the degree of pathology and motivation of the child and family members.

Ho reviews relevant cultural dynamics and their impact on treatment. Asian Americans have been shown by research to be emotionally restrained a nonexpressive compared to other groups. Group treatment might be suggested because of the collectiveness of the Asian American culture. There is a high degree of interdependency. Individual treatment may be less appropriate because the child would be the focus of attention and would make him/her a recipient as opposed to being able to help others in a group setting.

Level of acculturation is important to consider in order understanding with which group the child identifies. There are four criteria to determine the degree of acculturation: a) years in the United States, b) age at time of immigration, c) country of origin and political, economic, and educational background, and d) professional background of the parents.

Speech and language is important in the assessment since they affect the therapeutic process and outcome. Asian American children have a special problem involving language. Seventy percent of Asian American children under the age of fourteen still speak their native language at home. Lack of English proficiency exacerbates every problem area perceived by Asian Americans. Most of the children are bilingual which drastically reverses the hierarchical role in the family if the parents are monolingual.

Conceptualization of the problem and help-seeking behavior are important in understanding how the child views dysfunctional behavior. Childhood socialization in this area is considerable no matter what level of acculturation has taken place. In a survey of Asian Americans regarding their attitudes toward mental health, ministers, relatives, friends, and family doctors were mentioned as resources more frequently than professional mental health workers. Over half reported they would rather work out their problems on their own. Mental health problems may need to be reframed in terms of concrete and practical needs.

Degree of pathology and motivation of the child and family are also important. A child displaying extreme behavior should not be exposed to group or family therapy. Cultural biases should not be included in making assessments. In the past, negative experiences with social services agencies may lead the Asian American family to be reluctant to seeking help from professionals. There is an excellent example with notes in the margins identifying the concepts presented in the chapter using a Vietnamese family.
Ho, M. K. (1992). Minority children and adolescents in therapy. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.

Keywords: ethnic minorities, assessment, children, adolescents


Low-income minority children and adolescents are at increased risk for psychological disorders and behavioral problems because of their socioeconomic status. School dropout rates for minority youth in some urban areas exceed 60%. Ethnic minorities show three times the rates of White youth in psychiatric hospitalizations and teenage pregnancies and twice the rate in suicides. This book provides a comprehensive examination of therapy with minority children using an analytical and functional format to structure empirically based information. It aims to provide a delineation of practice knowledge without using stereotypical descriptions. The book is divided into chapters on a general transcultural framework for assessment and therapy; separate chapters on each minority group of children and adolescents: Asian American, Black, and Hispanic; and separate chapters on individual, family, and group therapy.


Three perspectives are important in providing assessment and treatment with minority children and adolescents: a) an ethnicity and cross-cultural mental health perspective, b) a psychosocial developmental perspective, and c) an ecological perspective. Ethnicity dictates the help-seeking behavior that minority group parents use to find relief for their children or adolescents’ dysfunctional behaviors or symptoms. They consider the extended family the primary resource rather than mental health services. According to Norton’s Dual-Cultural Perspective, every minority child is embedded simultaneously in at least two systems, that of the nurturing environment and then the larger sustaining environment of the majority culture.

Ho also presented the ecological perspective developed by Bronfenbrenner to understand minority children and adolescents. At the individual level, the focus is on biopsychosocial development. The family-level focus is on lifestyle, immigration history, culture, family organization, gender-role structure, division of labor, and the management of internal and external stress. At the cultural level, the focus is on understanding the value system, beliefs, and societal norms of the host culture as well as the norms of their native culture. At the environmental level, there is a focus on oppression and discrimination.

Chapter 2 addresses Asian American children and adolescents. Ho lists seven salient values operating among them. These are “filial piety,” an expectation that Asian American youth will comply with familial and social authority even to the point of sacrificing personal desires and ambitions; “shame as a behavioral influence,” where the threatened withdrawal of support may shake a person’s basic trust and cause anxiety; “self-control;” “middle-position virtue,” in which the child is encouraged to avoid being haughty or unworthy, “awareness of social milieu,” in which the Asian American is concerned with the welfare of the group and subordinates himself to the needs of others; “fatalism,” in which there is a philosophy of detachment allowing one to accept fate with equanimity and pragmatic adaptability; and “inconspicuousness,” in which silence is used to avoid attention.

Problems are associated with relocation. These are related to the stage of development of the child. For latency-age children and adolescents, change is experienced as significant losses with great uncertainty. Typical issues include problems with self-concept, identity conflicts, and generational conflicts with parents. The adolescent’s search for a new identity is viewed as a persistent attempt to redefine him/herself. After relocating, Asian youth find that their values are inconsistent with American society. They often find the more expressive, autonomous, and self-determining ways more attractive than their family values and refuse guidance from family members. This process often disrupts and separates Asian families. This discontinuity emphasizes the importance of the peer group. When peer groups reject them, self-depreciation and low self-worth lead to deviant behavior and occasionally psychopathology. Denial is the defense mechanism most frequently used. When it fails to protect a refugee from some of the harsh realities of immigration, psychosocial destruction such as psychosis may occur.

A national mental health needs assessment found some alarming facts concerning stress among Asian immigrants. Mental health problems among Southeast Asian immigrants who arrived in 1975 only began to surface several years later; depression was the most frequently reported problem; anxiety, marital conflict, and intergenerational conflict were prevalent; and the stress of uprooting led to many emotional problems. Today Asian Americans are often considered “model” minorities, but many still face discrimination and prejudice.

Kibria, N. (1993). Family tightrope: The changing lives of Vietnamese Americans. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press.


This book offers an analysis of the dynamic ways in which Vietnamese American families negotiate between Vietnamese culture and American culture. Topics include assimilation, adaptation, history of the waves of immigration, economic factors, gender issues, generation gaps, and trends in the family. The author conducted research among recently arrived Vietnamese refugees in an inner-city area of Philadelphia using participant observation and in-depth interviews. Myriad and dramatic quality of life changes have accompanied migration and settlement in the United States. There have been shifts in family life. Popular media reports suggest that the cultural quality of their family life has been responsible for the alleged miraculous economic progress of the Vietnamese Americans. .

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