Japanese parents’ experiences supporting their school-aged children’s acculturation to the U.S.

Misa Kayama, Wendy Haight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 19th century roots of social work in social justice movements within immigrant communities continue to thrive in contemporary social work. Yet relatively little attention has focused on the challenges faced by Asian immigrants, currently the second largest immigrant group in the U.S. Indeed, Asians in the U.S. have long been stereotyped as a “model minority,” perpetuating the myth that Asian children do not need special attention when acculturating to U.S. schools. Yet parents report obstacles to their children’s acculturation, including racism. As part of a larger ethnography, this study examines how Japanese immigrant and temporary resident parents understand their children’s acculturation to the U.S. We conducted in-depth, individual interviews with 14 Japanese immigrant and temporary resident parents of school-aged children. They discussed acculturation challenges centered on differences in the Japanese and U.S. cultural self, and how they modified their socialization practices to support their children’s acculturation. Rather than employing Japanese child rearing practices that implicitly guide children by shaping their environment, parents shifted to explicit efforts to ensure their children’s development of Japanese cultural selves in the U.S. Such practices, however, may result in children losing a sense of independence and autonomy important to both U.S. and Japanese cultural selves. These experiences of Japanese parents challenge the stereotype of Asians as a model minority. We discuss social work implications for culturally appropriate support for acculturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1009
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded, partly, by the Gamble-Skogmo endowment, University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • Culture
  • Japanese immigrants
  • acculturation
  • children’s cultural self
  • race
  • socialization


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