Examining the Interdependence of Parent–adolescent Acculturation Gaps on Acculturation-based Conflict: Using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model

  • Meme Wang-SchweigEmail author
  • Brenda A. MillerEmail author
Empirical Research


While some studies have supported the conceptual models developed to explain how conflict may result from parent–adolescent acculturation gaps within immigrant families, others have produced contradictory findings. Therefore, the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model may be a step toward explaining the discrepancies in the field. It is a model for dyadic data analysis. It differs from prior approaches for assessing acculturation gaps because it considers the interdependence between two family members, suggesting that adolescents’ perceived degree of conflict may be a response to their own acculturation (actor effect) and at the same time, to their parents’ acculturation (partner effect), and vice versa. The purpose of this study is to assess parent–adolescent acculturation levels on perceived acculturation-based conflict using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model within Chinese American families (n = 187 dyads). The mean age of the adolescents was 12.3 years old (SD = 0.95). Findings from the study demonstrate that adolescents perceived greater conflict the more they were acculturated but perceived less conflict the more their parents were acculturated. Parents perceived less conflict the higher their adolescents scored on both acculturation and cultural maintenance. However, parents perceived greater conflict the higher they maintained their own culture. Results suggest that the partner effects reveal information that may help clarify whether acculturation gaps are related to conflict within immigrant families.


Actor-Partner interdependence model Acculturation gaps Acculturation-based conflict Intergenerational cultural dissonance Acculturation gap-distress hypothesis Acculturative family distancing 



The authors want to thank Dr. David A. Kenny and Dr. Randi L. Garcia for their exceptional teaching of the class, Dyadic Analysis Using Multilevel Modeling, at the Data Analysis Training Institute of Connecticut (DATIC) at the University of Connecticut.

Authors’ Contributions

M.W.S. conceived of the study, performed the measurement and statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. B.A.M. participated in the development of the manuscript, drafting the manuscript, and making critical revisions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research study was supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health, grant T32 AA014125-08.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval was obtained for this study from the institutional review board of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aiken, L. S., West, S. G., & Reno, R. R. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Allison, B. N. (2000). Parent-adolescent conflict in early adolescence: Research and implications for middle school programs. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 18(2), 1–6.Google Scholar
  3. Bacallao, M. L., & Smokowski, P. R. (2007). The costs of getting ahead: Mexican family system changes after immigration. Family Relations, 56(1), 52–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birman, D. (2006). Acculturation gap and family adjustment findings with Soviet Jewish refugees in the United States and implications for measurement. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 37(5), 568–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Choi, M. J. (2006). Barriers to seeking mental health services among Korean American immigrant women. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (AAT 3199319).Google Scholar
  6. Choi, Y., He, M., & Harachi, T. W. (2008). Intergenerational cultural dissonance, parent–child conflict and bonding, and youth problem behaviors among Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrant families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37(1), 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cook, W. L., & Kenny, D. A. (2005). The Actor–Partner Interdependence Model: A model of bidirectional effects in developmental studies. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29(2), 101–109.Google Scholar
  8. Costigan, C. L. (2010). Embracing complexity in the study of acculturation gaps: Directions for future research. Human Development, 53(6), 341–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costigan, C. L., & Dokis, D. P. (2006). Relations between parent–child acculturation differences and adjustment within immigrant Chinese families. Child Development, 77(5), 1252–1267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Farver, J. A. M., Narang, S. K., & Bhadha, B. R. (2002). East meets west: ethnic identity, acculturation, and conflict in Asian Indian families. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(3), 338–350.Google Scholar
  11. Fuligni, A. J. (1998). Authority, autonomy, and parent–adolescent conflict and cohesion: A study of adolescents from Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, and European backgrounds. Developmental Psychology, 34(4), 782–792.Google Scholar
  12. Fuligni, A. J. (2012). Gaps, conflicts, and arguments between adolescents and their parents. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2012(135), 105–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fung, J. J., & Lau, A. S. (2010). Factors associated with parent–child (dis) agreement on child behavior and parenting problems in Chinese immigrant families. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 39(3), 314–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harkness, J., Pennell, B.-E., & Schoua-Glusberg, A. (2004). Survey questionnaire translation and assessment. Methods for Testing and Evaluating Survey Questionnaires, 546, 453–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hwang, W.-C. (2006). Acculturative family distancing: Theory, research, and clinical practice. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 43(4), 397–409.Google Scholar
  16. Hwang, W.-C., Wood, J. J., & Fujimoto, K. (2010). Acculturative family distancing (AFD) and depression in Chinese American families. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(5), 655–667.Google Scholar
  17. Juang, L. P., Syed, M., & Cookston, J. T. (2012). Acculturation-based and everyday parent-adolescent conflict among Chinese American adolescents: Longitudinal trajectories and implications for mental health. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(6), 916–926.Google Scholar
  18. Juang, L. P., Syed, M., Cookston, J. T., Wang, Y., & Kim, S. Y. (2012). Acculturation‐based and everyday family conflict in Chinese American families. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2012(135), 13–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kenny, D. A. (1996). Models of non-independence in dyadic research. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 13(2), 279–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). The analysis of dyadic data. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kim, B. S., & Abreu, J. (2001). Acculturation measurement. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (pp. 394–424). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Kim, B. S., Atkinson, D. R., & Yang, P. H. (1999). The Asian Values Scale: Development, factor analysis, validation, and reliability. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46(3), 342–352.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, E. (2011). Intergenerational acculturation conflict and Korean American parents’ depression symptoms. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 32(11), 687–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kim, E., Im, H., Nahm, E., & Hong, S. (2012). Korean American parents’ reconstruction of immigrant parenting in the United States. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 19(4), 124–132.Google Scholar
  25. Kim, S. Y., Chen, Q., Wang, Y., Shen, Y., & Orozco-Lapray, D. (2013). Longitudinal linkages among parent–child acculturation discrepancy, parenting, parent–child sense of alienation, and adolescent adjustment in Chinese immigrant families. Developmental Psychology, 49(5), 900–912.Google Scholar
  26. Kwak, K. (2003). Adolescents and their parents: A review of intergenerational family relations for immigrant and non-immigrant families. Human Development, 46(2-3), 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lee, R. M., Choe, J., Kim, G., & Ngo, V. (2000). Construction of the Asian American Family Conflicts Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(2), 211–222.Google Scholar
  28. Lim, S. -L., Yeh, M., Liang, J., Lau, A. S., & McCabe, K. (2008). Acculturation gap, intergenerational conflict, parenting style, and youth distress in immigrant Chinese American families. Marriage & Family Review, 45(1), 84–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lui, P. P. (2015). Intergenerational cultural conflict, mental health, and educational outcomes among Asian and Latino/a Americans: Qualitative and meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141(2), 404–446.Google Scholar
  30. Lui, P. P. (2018). Rethinking the acculturation gap-distress theory among Asian Americans: Testing bidirectional indirect relations. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.
  31. Marsiglia, F. F., Kiehne, E., & Ayers, S. L. (2018). Reexamining the acculturation gap: The relationship between the bidimensional parent-adolescent gap and risky behavior among Mexican-heritage adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 38(5), 581–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nair, R. L., Roche, K. M., & White, R. M. (2018). Acculturation gap distress among Latino youth: Prospective links to family processes and youth depressive symptoms, alcohol use, and academic performance. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(1), 105–120.Google Scholar
  33. Park, Y. S., Vo, L. P., & Tsong, Y. (2009). Family affection as a protective factor against the negative effects of perceived Asian values gap on the parent-child relationship for Asian American male and female college students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15(1), 18–26.Google Scholar
  34. Pasch, L. A., Deardorff, J., Tschann, J. M., Flores, E., Penilla, C., & Pantoja, P. (2006). Acculturation, parent‐adolescent conflict, and adolescent adjustment in Mexican American families. Family Process, 45(1), 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Portes, A. (1997). Immigration theory for a new century: Some problems and opportunities. International Migration Review, 31(4), 799–825.Google Scholar
  36. Qin, D. B., Chang, T. F., Han, E. J., & Chee, G. (2012). Conflicts and communication between high‐achieving Chinese American adolescents and their parents. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2012(135), 35–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Qin, D.B. (2006). “Our child doesn’t talk to us anymore”: Alienation in immigrant Chinese families. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 37(2), 162–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rasmi, S., Chuang, S. S., & Hennig, K. (2015). The acculturation gap-distress model: Extensions and application to Arab Canadian families. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(4), 630–642.Google Scholar
  39. Rhee, S., Chang, J., & Rhee, J. (2003). Acculturation, communication patterns, and self-esteem among Asian and Caucasian American adolescents. Adolescence, 38(152), 749–768.Google Scholar
  40. Ryder, A. G., Alden, L. E., & Paulhus, D. L. (2000). Is acculturation unidimensional or bidimensional? A head-to-head comparison in the prediction of personality, self-identity, and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(1), 49–65.Google Scholar
  41. Smetana, J. (1989). Adolescents' and Parents' Reasoning about Actual Family Conflict. Child Development, 60(5), 1052–1067.Google Scholar
  42. Smokowski, P. R., Rose, R. A., & Bacallao, M. (2010). Influence of risk factors and cultural assets on Latino adolescents’ trajectories of self-esteem and internalizing symptoms. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 41(2), 133–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Szapocznik, J., & Kurtines, W. M. (1993). Family psychology and cultural diversity: Opportunities for theory, research, and application. American Psychologist, 48(4), 400–407.Google Scholar
  44. Tardif, C. Y., & Geva, E. (2006). The link between acculturation disparity and conflict among Chinese Canadian immigrant mother-adolescent dyads. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 37(2), 191–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Telzer, E. H. (2010). Expanding the acculturation gap-distress model: An integrative review of research. Human Development, 53(6), 313–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Telzer, E. H., Yuen, C., Gonzales, N., & Fuligni, A. J. (2016). Filling gaps in the acculturation gap-distress model: Heritage cultural maintenance and adjustment in Mexican–American families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(7), 1412–1425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Titzmann P. F., & Gniewosz B. (2018). With a little help from my child: A dyad approach to immigrant mothers' and adolescents' socio-cultural adaptation. Journal of Adolescence, 62, 198–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tsai-Chae A. H., & Nagata D. K. (2008). Asian values and perceptions of intergenerational family conflict among Asian American students. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(3), 205–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ying Y.-W., & Han M. (2007). The longitudinal effect of intergenerational gap in acculturation on conflict and mental health in Southeast Asian American adolescents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(1), 61–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ying Y. Lee P., & Tsai J. (2004). Psychometric properties of the Intergenerational Congruence in Immigrant Families: Child scale in Chinese Americans. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35(1), 91–103.Google Scholar
  51. Ying Y.-W., & Tracy L. C. (2004). Psychometric properties of the Intergenerational Congruence in Immigrant Families-Parent scale in Chinese Americans. Social Work Research, 28(1), 56–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
corrected publication December/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Prevention Research Center/Pacific Institute for Research and EvaluationBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations