Parents and Children Only? Acculturation and the Influence of Extended Family Members among Vietnamese Refugees

Int J Intercult Relat. 2012 Mar 1;36(2):260-270. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2011.03.005.


The nuclear family is often the point of departure in much of the existing acculturation research on refugee youth and children of refugees. The influence of other extended family members appears to receive less attention in understanding acculturation processes and intergenerational perspectives. This qualitative study explores the influence of extended family members upon a small sample of Vietnamese refugee parents and their adolescents while they undergo acculturation through their long-term resettlement process in Norway. With repeated interviews over a time span of 3 years, we identified situations and processes in family life in which extended kin become particularly activated and influential. Vietnamese refugee families in Norway keep close contact with extended kin even in the face of geographical distance to kin remaining in Vietnam, or globally dispersed. Aunts, uncles, and cousins are experienced as significant persons in the lives of many adolescents. Additionally, birth order of parents can often influence relationship dynamics among siblings and siblings children. Extended kin surfaced as especially important and influential at critical stages and crisis situations in family life. Extended family, and in particular, parental siblings play important roles in the acculturation experience and family functioning of Vietnamese refugee families in Norway. This has important implications for the study of Vietnamese and other refugee and immigrant families in acculturation research.

Keywords: Acculturation; Extended Family; Mental Health; Qualitative Methods; Refugees; Vietnamese.