Mind the Gap: How Generational Differences Affect the Mental Health of Asian American Families

Asian father and son riding train
Photo credit: Flickr User Joi Ito

By Matthew Miller, PhD (Asst. Professor – University of Maryland, College Park)

What do the words “generation gap” mean to you?

For many people, “generation gap” conjures up memories of conflict with their parents over differences in music tastes, career choice, political affiliation, lifestyle choices, etc.

However, for many Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families, typical generation gap conflicts are exacerbated by the acculturation gap – the phenomenon where children of immigrant parents adapt to a new culture faster and in a different way than their parents (Lee et al., 2000).

What are acculturation gap conflicts?

Acculturation gap conflicts occur when parents expect their children to maintain their traditional AAPI culture (e.g., filial piety) and lifestyle but the children are more inclined to adhere to the new culture and lifestyle (e.g., individualism and independence). Ultimately, these conflicts are associated with higher levels of stress and poorer mental health (Miller et al., 2011).

How can the stress of acculturation gap conflict be addressed?

  • Seeking social support from friends with similar experiences might benefit those experiencing a high level of acculturation gap conflict. It may help to buffer against the stress created by the conflict (Lee et al., 2005).
  • Helping AAPI families understand that acculturation gap conflict is part of adjusting to life in a new culture may help to normalize, validate, and alleviate the stress experienced by parents and children.

We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments:

  • How have acculturation and generation gap conflicts affected you/your friends and family?
  • What solutions would you offer to bridge the acculturation gap?

You may also be interested in:

Great expectations: Exploring family dynamics and stress among Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders


Lee, R. M., Choe, J., Kim, G., & Ngo, V. (2000). Construction of the Asian American Family Conflicts Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 211-222.

Lee, R. M., Su, J., & Yoshida, E. (2005). Coping with intergenerational family conflict among Asian American college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 389-399.

Miller, M. J., Yang, M., Hui, K., Choi, N., & Lim, R. H. (2011). Acculturation, enculturation, and Asian American college students’ mental health and attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 346-358.

1 Comment

  1. This photo would be state in the trains of Japan. (Office workers and high school students) From this photo, I can not grasp all of the social issues, but I also fear certainly gap generational issue. It is wide-ranging from little social issues, more about international issues. I think that is the reason. Seniors is no idea while having as it is the problem of the historical past and to the improvement by self pride. And no understanding of young people. Nation is keen to education for discharging to the world elite, do not attach much importance to the growth of humanity of an important young people. Young people of the good next generation will not grow, under the such adults and senior. I think the education of the intermediate layer is actually important. Psychologists of one person change religious issue, conflict, the social system is impossible. However, I believe strongly that, it is possible that healing due from them and the mental problems of human beings to prevention.


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