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Asian-American Families

Varied Immigration Histories, Family Structures And Gender Roles, Religion And Cultural Values, Regional And Generational Differences

Asian Americans in the United States are a heterogeneous group of many ethnicities, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Asian (East) Indians, and Southeast Asians. They are neither a single identity group nor a monolithic culture; therefore it is more accurate to speak of Asian-American cultures (Zia 2000). Early Asian groups were voluntary immigrants, but after the Vietnam War, Southeast Asians were primarily refugees (Ng 1998). Although immigration policies historically limited or even barred entry of Asians into the United States, eventually a 1965 amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act promoted family unification, allowing spouses and parents of Asians legally residing in the United States not to be counted in the established yearly quotas (Ng 1998). Pacific Islanders are also included in this group, creating an APA or Asian and Pacific Americans category. The term Asian American identifies people with origins in twenty-six countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and many Pacific Islands (Hildebrand, Phenice, Gray, and Hines 2000).

This population also includes Amerasians (children of U.S. servicemen during the Vietnam War and their Indochinese mothers), adopted Asian children (a large number from Korea), and multiracial children of mixed Asian and European or African-American marriages. Originally this mixed-heritage group included the children of war brides (wives of U.S. soldiers stationed abroad) primarily from Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. Currently, it also includes children of interracial Asian-American marriages and intra-ethnic Asian-American marriages, more commonly found in places like California and Hawaii, where there are large Asian populations.

During the pre–World War II period, ethnic groups such as the Japanese named their generations starting with immigrants as the first, or Issei generation, followed by the second, or Nisei, born in the United States generation, and their American children, the third, or sansei generation. The fourth generation, the yonsei, included biracial children. By the third and fourth generations, after the war, children did not speak Japanese and were culturally assimilated (Adler 1998). New Japanese immigrants arriving after 1946 were referred to as Shin-Issei (or new immigrants). This post–World War II immigrant group and their children do not share the negative legacy of internment and racial segregation, although they may also experience discrimination. As new immigrants arrived in the United States, Asian-American ethnic groups created categories relevant to their immigration patterns. For some groups, first generation meant foreign-born adolescents thirteen years or over, 1.5 generation referred to foreign-born ages five through twelve, and second generation include United States–born or arriving at preschool age, zero to four years.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects