Acculturation and the Family: Core vs. Peripheral Changes among Korean Americans

Chaeoe Hanin Yon Gu. 2010;21(2010):135-190.


The traditional cultural characteristics are challenged and negotiated in the process of acculturation; some characteristics are discarded, others are maintained, still others may get strengthened, new characteristics from the new cultures are adopted, and possibly a new hybrid of a culture of family socialization may emerge. The focus group interviews conducted with Korean-American parents and their children attest to the complexity of this process mixed with core and peripheral changes. The study findings show that Korean-American families appear to live more distinctly in the Korean culture than the mainstream Western culture, and the parental cultural adaptation is, at least at this point, minimal. Korean immigrant parents show reluctance and resistance to change, except in some of the areas that they believe are necessary and potentially helpful to their children. Family values are core values that parents are eager to maintain and transmit to their children. Korean-American parents are also deeply concerned that their children are growing up as a racial and cultural minority, which, they believe, is likely to impede children's development and future prospects. To protect their children, parents focus quite intensely on ethnic socialization within the family - a pattern that is shared among many Asian subgroups, particularly among Chinese and Vietnamese immigrant families, because they strongly believe that a clear sense of ethnic identity and the deliberate preservation of the tradition helps buffer the risks and negativities derived from being an ethnic and cultural minority in the U.S. Youth, mostly second-generation immigrants, have internalized the Korean traditional family values and behaviors, probably more than their parents think that they have - a sign of successful enculturation. Unlike parents' fears, children do not seem to suffer greatly from identity confusion. The overall responses suggest that Korean-American youth are aware of their minority status and cultural differences but have a positive and strong sense of ethnic identity as Korean-Americans, which also might be a sign of successful familial ethnic socialization.