Thanks but No Thanks? Gratitude and Indebtedness within Intergenerational Relations after Immigration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Objective To explore how 1.5-generation immigrant adolescents' feelings of gratitude and indebtedness toward their parents are manifested and shape their intergenerational relations after migration. Background The emotions of gratitude and indebtedness result from experiences of receiving and are central to the process of reciprocity. Although closely connected, gratitude and indebtedness are distinct and may have different consequences for intergenerational relations. The contextual nature of gratitude and indebtedness becomes particularly evident in immigration context. Method Semistructured interviews were conducted with 80 adolescents who were 1.5-generation immigrants. Data analysis was guided by the grounded theory approach. Results Results comprise an evolving theory of adolescents' gratitude and indebtedness in intergenerational relations after family migration. In immigrant families, intergenerational relations are strained by a sense of indebtedness and bolstered by a sense of gratitude. That said, gratitude and indebtedness are also associated with ambivalence and intersect to affect intergenerational relations concurrently. Conclusion Emotions of gratitude and indebtedness toward parents are often experienced by immigrant adolescents after migration regardless of their cultural or ethnic background. These emotions shape intergenerational communication in immigrant families. Implications Social workers, teachers, integration services, and anyone working with immigrant families with teenagers may benefit from better understanding how adolescents experience gratitude and indebtedness within intergenerational relations and how these emotions are associated with parent-child relationship characteristics after migration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5144 Social psychology

Cite this