The American Journal of Psychoanalysis

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 143–153

Immigrant Parents and Their Emigrant Adolescents: The Tension of Inner and Outer Worlds

  • Mali A. Mann

DOI: 10.1023/B:TAJP.0000027269.37516.16

Cite this article as:
Mann, M.A. Am J Psychoanal (2004) 64: 143. doi:10.1023/B:TAJP.0000027269.37516.16


This article examines different experiences of immigrant parents and their children in transit between the parents' ethnic world and American culture through three clinical cases: a 16-year-old male, whose mother is Persian and father East Indian and who presents with depression and lack of focus; an 18-year-old girl, whose mother is Nigerian and father African American and who was reporting depressive symptoms and confusion about sexual identity; and an 18-year-old depressed male from an Assyrian Iraqi background whose parents both are from Northern Iraq, but have lived in the United States for 20 years. Adolescents of immigrant families have much more complicated tasks during this phase of their development to establish a future sense of self-identity. A well-consolidated sense of self-identity is more complicated for these types of multiethnic immigrant families. The adolescents must rely on parental ego functions and their coherent sense of identity to weather this stage of their turbulent experience. In their strong fantasy framework, these adolescents strive to belong to their new peer groups, in which parents do not belong, particularly when the immigrant parents present a variety of different social and cultural values discordant to the contemporary culture. The cases suggest that both positive and negative aspects of ethnic identification become diluted during adolescence, when identification with parental mores occurs.

ethnicity self-identity mourning immigration Oedipus complex 

Copyright information

© Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mali A. Mann
    • 1
  1. 1.San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute and SocietyStanford University School of MedicineUSA

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