Conflict, solidarity, and acculturation: Adolescents' adaptation and perceptions of intergenerational relations after immigration

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Migration and acculturation cause individual growth and changes in different spheres of adolescents’ lives, including family relations. Migration is known to challenge family relations and to mobilize immigrant adolescents to take the dual role of a pioneer of acculturation and a convoy of familial adaptation into a new society. This role is not taken and given without negotiations. For adolescents, the process of acculturation (e.g., learning the language, familiarizing with norms and values of the society, coping with discrimination) overlaps with the developmental phase where adolescents (re)negotiate their identities and relationships with their parents. According to previous research, much of the negotiation takes place along the continuum between autonomy and relatedness. To support the adaptation of immigrant families and adolescents in particular, it is crucial, however, to better understand the ways adolescents perceive their social environment, deal with the changes in intergenerational relations, and act as agents of acculturation and family adaptation. This is also crucial in terms of the potential consequences of adolescent-parent relations for adolescents’ adaptation. This study explores the perceptions of immigrant adolescents of intergenerational relations in their families after migration. It also examines how intergenerational relations are manifested and negotiated in the school context and are associated with the adaptation of adolescents in Finland. The theoretical background of the study combines an ecological perspective on adolescents’ development with acculturation psychology, cultural psychology, and youth and family studies. The study includes qualitative and quantitative research methods. The main data used in the study consists of 80 semi-structured interviews of 1.5-generation immigrant adolescents (aged 13 to 18). The Finnish School Health Promotion Study (N = 2697) is utilized to analyse the association between perceived intergenerational relations and the adaptation of immigrant adolescents with different immigration and cultural backgrounds in Finland. The thesis includes four sub-studies of which each illustrates particular characteristics of adolescent-parent relationships after migration from the perspective of adolescents. Study I explores the contexts of immigrant adolescents’ autonomy negotiations in intergenerational relations, and examines the multiple positions that adolescents use in their reflections on autonomy after immigration. Study II focuses on adolescents’ experiences of gratitude and indebtedness towards parents and asks how these emotions shape intergenerational relations after migration. In Study III, intergenerational negotiations are studied in relation to the school context, focusing on information flows between adolescents, parents, and school personnel. Finally, Study IV examines how the perceptions of adolescents of their relationhips with parents, particularly perceived parental knowledge, are associated with their psychological (i.e., anxiety symptoms) and socio-cultural (i.e., school achievement) adaptation, and whether the effect of perceived parental knowledge on adaptation outcomes depends on their migration backgrounds and social characteristics (i.e., generation status, gender, and family’s socioeconomic status). The findings of the study show how adolescents’ experiences of acculturation- and development-related changes are manifested and negotiated within the families and in a larger social context (i.e., school), and how they shape adolescent-parent relationships and the adaptation of adolescents after migration. The study highlights the ambivalent nature of intergenerational relations. It shows the effort and resilience of immigrant adolescents in mastering acculturation and developmental demands. The study results suggest that intergenerational conflicts as such do not necessarily impede adolescents’ adaptation but may, on the contrary, support adolecents’ and their parents’ adaptation in a new society. From the perspective of adolescent-parent relationships, this study proposes improving open communication within families and carefully recommends that immigrant parents, like all parents, even though obviously often thinking of the best for their children, could pay more attention to listening to their children and to perspective taking – that is something their children often master skilfully. The study also sees it as crucial that building a dialogue between school personnel and parents should be encouraged in order to increase parents’ agency and knowledge. This contributes to their children’s positive development and adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
  • Jasinskaja-Lahti, Inga, Supervisor
Award date6 Mar 2020
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3429-5
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3430-1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 5144 Social psychology
  • adolescents
  • immigration
  • immigrant families
  • intergenerational relationships
  • adaptation
  • acculturation

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