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Chinese Caucasian interracial parenting and ethnic identity

Jeffrey B Mar, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This exploratory study looks at Chinese-Caucasian interracially married parents' experience of raising their children. The goal is to characterize these parents' stances toward their children's ethnic identity. A semi-structured, clinical interview was developed for the study in order to gather information about the respondent's family and individual histories, as well as their childrearing practices and beliefs. The sample consisted of 29 interracially married parents who had at least one child older than nine years old. Eight intraracially married Chinese parents were also interviewed for comparison purposes. The interview data was subjected to a content analysis which generated the following six-dimensional conceptual framework of ethnic identity: (1) Group Identification; (2)Ethnic Continuity; (3) Physical Characteristics; (4) Objective Culture; (5) Subjective Culture; (6) Sociopolitical Consciousness.^ It was found that parents did not feel that their children's ethnic identity was the focus of a great deal of concern. Parents also emphasized that it had rarely been a source of psychological or social difficulty for their children. The ethnic identity of the Chinese parent was stressed far more than the ethnic identity of the Caucasian parent. Surprisingly, parents expressed very little concern about their children's racial marginality or the issue of racial continuity. On a conscious level, parents were more strongly committed to "group identification" and "objective culture." In actual practice, however, their commitment in these areas carried a great deal of ambivalence. On an unconscious level, parents were most likely to pass down "subjective culture." This was the one area of regular cultural conflict in these families, particularly around expectations about family roles. These parents' greatest concern revolved around their children losing their Chinese culture. However, parents were generally unsuccessful when they tried to actively guide their children in an ethnic direction. Parents stressed that their children's most durable ethnic commitments developed largely independently of their own efforts to influence, emphasizing that their own personal ethnic involvements (modelling) seemed to have the most impact.^ The study concludes by offering some integrative comments about the nature of ethnic identity and the forces that propel it across generations. An important area of future research would be to talk with these parents' biracial children about their ethnic identities. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Individual & family studies|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Mar, Jeffrey B, "Chinese Caucasian interracial parenting and ethnic identity" (1988). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8813254.