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Abstract

According to U.S. Census Bureau data (2003), intercultural relationships are on the rise, and much has been written on cultural differences in marriage. Furthermore, a significant amount of literature has discussed differences in parenting based on racial, ethnic, and religious value differences between culturally different families. However, much less has been written on how parenting amplifies differences because of cultural diversity within a family. The purpose of this article is a review of the literature specifically on intercultural parenting. Differences that arise in intercultural relationships are briefly reviewed, followed by how those differences can be managed. Finally, a review of the literature specific to intercultural differences in parenting style and the development of a transcultural family is discussed.
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The Family Journal
DOI: 10.1177/1066480706297783
2007; 15; 107 The Family Journal
Cheryl Crippen and Leah Brew
Intercultural Parenting and the Transcultural Family: A Literature Review
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According to U.S. Census Bureau data (2003), intercultural rela-
tionships are on the rise, and much has been written on cultural
differences in marriage. Furthermore, a significant amount of
literature has discussed differences in parenting based on racial,
ethnic, and religious value differences between culturally different
families. However, much less has been written on how parenting
amplifies differences because of cultural diversity within a family.
The purpose of this article is a review of the literature specifically
on intercultural parenting. Differences that arise in intercultural
relationships are briefly reviewed, followed by how those differ-
ences can be managed. Finally, a review of the literature specific to
intercultural differences in parenting style and the development of
a transcultural family is discussed.
Keywords: intercultural parenting; transcultural families; cultural
diversity; parenting style; intercultural relationships
C
ulture is a “frame of reference that consists of patterns
of traditions, beliefs, values, norms, symbols, and
meanings that are shared to varying degrees by interacting
members of a community” (Ting-Toomey, 1999, p. 10).
Culture is also a set of symbols and tools that define reality
and worldview (Peterson, Steinmetz, & Wilson, 2003), pre-
scribe properly sanctioned behavior (Chung & Bemak,
2002), and provide the means by which humans adapt to
their ecological and social environment (Bojuwoye, 2001).
Within a family, culture can define boundaries, expectations,
rules for interaction, ways of defining problems, communi-
cation patterns, and specific coping skills (Thomas, 1998).
Recent demographic trends indicate a substantial increase
in the past several decades in the number of intercultural mar-
riages in the United States (Lee & Bean, 2004; Qian, 1999),
Australia (Luke & Carrington, 2000; Owen, 2002), and
Canada (Tzeng, 2000), among other countries. According to
Qian (1999), the rate of interracial marriage, which does not
include interethnic, interfaith, or other types of intercultural
marriage, in the United States increased from 0.7% in 1970 to
2.2% in 1992. The 2000 U.S. Census Bureau reported that
7.4% of all married households in the United States, and
15.6% in California, have partners with a different racial or
Hispanic origin background. Waters (2000), Jacobs and
Labov (2002), and Lee and Bean (2004) have all noted that
although the rates of intermarriage have increased overall,
these rates vary for different groups within the United States.
For example, Asian American and Hispanic American indi-
viduals are more likely to marry outside of their ethnic group
than either Euro- or African Americans. These differential
rates suggest that racial and cultural boundaries are more
prominent and salient for some groups than others. However,
despite one’s particular cultural identity, a cultural home is a
reference group that represents a cognitive and behavioral
point of reference, which tends to persist over time and place
(Vivero & Jenkins, 1999).
Several terms will be used with slightly different connota-
tions in this article. The term intercultural relates to bringing
together or the meeting of two different cultural backgrounds
into one relationship. The terms bicultural or multicultural in
this article refer to the children from these couples. Finally,
the term transcultural in this article represents the new family
culture that is created when the cultures of two people from
different backgrounds intersect to form a new culture.
The Intercultural Couple
All intercultural couples face the dilemma of resolving
cultural differences because the process of negotiating cou-
plehood represents a transition from dual individuality to a
partnership within the relationship (Horowitz, 1999). This
Intercultural Parenting and the Transcultural
Family: A Literature Review
Cheryl Crippen
University of New England, Armidale, Australia
Leah Brew
California State University, Fullerton
THE FAMILY JOURNAL: COUNSELING AND THERAPY FOR COUPLES AND FAMILIES, Vol. 15 No. 2, April 2007 107-115
DOI: 10.1177/1066480706297783
© 2007 Sage Publications
Authors’ Note: Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to Cheryl Crippen at cheryl_crippen@yahoo.com.
107
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partnership requires a realignment of individual psycho-
logical realities into a conjoint marital reality (Burrell &
Fitzpatrick, 1990), and for intercultural couples, this often
requires the negotiation of divergent cultural values.
One of the first important decisions for an intercultural
couple from different countries of origin is to determine a
place of residence. Most studies of migration view the house-
hold as a monolithic unit pertaining to decisions about where
to live, yet partners have different emotions and desires prior
to a decision-making process that is characterized by negoti-
ation and tension and is affected by differential levels of
power. In a study of cross-national relationships, Adams
(2004) found that the decision-making process about where
to reside was dynamic, occurred in stages, and was largely
affected by emotions and the subjective meanings of home
rather than strictly rational inputs. Another finding was that
the decision-making process was not limited to the couple.
Adams found that there were many other parties to the
decision-making process, including peers, children, families
of origin, and community members.
Thomson (1990) developed a model of couple agree-
ment and the resolution of disagreement. In her model,
the processes involved in facilitating marital agreement
evolve from daily interactions, shared life experiences, and
homogamy. Homogamy refers to “marriage of persons from
the same economic, social, or cultural categories, [which]
facilitates agreement and understanding, and should there-
fore result in shared interests and life goals” (Thomson,
1990, p. 131). Typically a high degree of homogamy exists
among couples because people generally prefer a partner
with similar values and worldview (Corijn, Liefbroer, &
Gierveld, 1996). In comparison with intercultural couples,
Corijn, Liefbroer, and Gierveld found that monocultural (or
homogamous) unions more frequently shared similar social-
ization experiences in their families of origin, which pro-
moted marital agreement. Thus, according to models of
homogamy, intercultural couples lack a primary process in
facilitating marital agreement.
When disagreements arise in marriage, Thomson (1990)
noted that several models of resolution occur in marital
dyads, as there is no possibility of a majority solution. The
patriarchal rule is one in which conflict is resolved through
the decision of the husband. In the power rule, decisions are
made according to the resources and power of each individ-
ual relative to the outcome of the decision. The sphere of
influence rule is a decision-making process where each
spouse makes decisions within their respective sphere of
interest. Although spheres of influence vary by couple, it is
presumed in most studies that fertility and childrearing goals
are within the female sphere of influence. Finally, de facto
decisions are made by couples who in effect decide not to
change the status quo by doing nothing (inertia rule) or
because of persistent disagreement (social drift rule). These
de facto decisions can be inconsistent with one or both
spouses’ goals. Corijn et al. (1996) identified an additional
process of decision making in an application of Thomson’s
model to fertility decisions among heterogamous couples.
They concluded that an egalitarian rule of compromise in
between the preferences of both partners occurred among
educationally heterogamous couples in the Netherlands.
Some scholars have applied Levinson’s (1986) theory of
adult life transitions to adaptation in marriage. Marriage
transitions involve changes as spouses negotiate modifica-
tions in the existing marital structure, such as early marriage
to parenthood to postparenthood. Consistent with other
research on parenting, Mackey and O’Brien (1998) empha-
sized that most marital relational difficulties occurred during
the childrearing phase. In their study of marital conflict res-
olution in long-term marriages, Mackey and O’Brien con-
cluded that styles of conflict management varied by gender
and were influenced by ethnicity. This finding, based on an
ethnically diverse sample, indicated that intercultural cou-
ples were more likely to exhibit differences in negotiation
style as they embodied both dimensions of gender and eth-
nic difference within the relationship. In their study, it was
not the persistence of conflict or type of negotiation style per
se that contributed to marital instability and dissatisfaction
but how the conflict was managed. Mackey and O’Brien
found that a confrontation style was more adaptive than
avoidance in managing conflict, because the latter led to
unresolved tensions and additional conflict.
Falicov (1995) postulated that in intercultural marriages,
couples entered a form of cultural transition in which ini-
tially there could be “conflict with the other’s norms, values,
meanings, and rituals in a manner akin to the dissonance that
accompanies migration and cultural change” (p. 234).
Romano (2001) suggested that this stage was akin to the cul-
ture shock and psychological disorientation that individuals
experienced when living in another culture. Molina, Estrada,
and Burnett (2004) believed that stereotyping and negative
systemic factors such as the family and community can cre-
ate additional sources of conflict. Nevertheless, through the
process of mutual adaptation and accommodation, intercul-
tural couples could gain increased understanding and toler-
ance, which leads to “personal transformations that could be
compared to a process of mutual acculturation” (Falicov,
1995, p. 234). Molina et al. (2004) further agreed that the
intercultural relationship can be complementary and create a
richness that would be less likely to exist in less culturally
diverse relationships. Thus, the experience of raising chil-
dren together is both a challenge and an opportunity for
intercultural couples.
The Challenges of Childrearing
for Intercultural Couples
For all couples, Beck (1988) and Tseng and Hsu (1991)
postulated that following marriage, a stress point is the birth
of the first child because of a necessary realignment within
the marital dyad to a family triad. Common themes in the
general literature on parenting and childrearing are the inher-
ent stress on couples following the birth of a first child
because of dislocation and realignment in the marital rela-
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tionship (Beck, 1988; Berg-Cross, 2001), diminished marital
satisfaction during the first 3 years following a birth (Belsky
& Rovine, 1990), and other relational difficulties associated
with the childrearing years (Mackey & O’Brien, 1998). For
intercultural couples, this life cycle change is more dramatic.
Mann and Waldron (1977) found considerable variation in
childrearing practices among different cultural backgrounds,
which represented differences in fundamental values such as
interdependence, autonomy, conformity, and obligation, for
example. This can also be true for intercultural marriages
that “may be stable and work well until children enter the
scene” (McDermott & Fukunaga, 1977, p. 82) because pre-
vious cultural compromises that had been negotiated are no
longer sufficient to incorporate new children in a reinte-
grated family system. In addition, the birth of children could
be a catalyst for conflict with intercultural couples who pre-
viously minimized the impact of their cultural differences
(Romano, 2001; Tseng & Hsu, 1991). Consequently, child-
rearing and parenting style differences can produce conflict
in these relationships.
For example, several studies highlighted that childrearing
was a significant source of conflict for intercultural couples
(e.g., Bhugra & De Silva, 2000; Crohn, 1995; Durodoye,
1997; Gaines & Brennan, 2001; Ho, 1990; Romano, 2001).
Ho (1990) found that the birth of a child reactivated each par-
ent’s own childhood experiences, which underscored their
respective beliefs about childrearing. In a book on intercul-
tural marriages based on clinical observations, Crohn (1995)
identified the birth of a child and the process of raising chil-
dren as the most dramatic catalyst that exposed cultural and
religious differences between an intercultural couple and
their families of origin.
Furthermore, each developmental stage of the child initi-
ates a potential stressor for intercultural parents because of
potentially contradictory goals. For instance, during the early
stages, there could be conflicts over discipline and parenting
style, and later conflicts could pertain to the racial and cultural
identification of the child or the appropriate age of individua-
tion and separation from the family of origin (Mann &
Waldron, 1977; Tseng & Hsu, 1991). Additionally, the issue
of racial identity becomes salient for children at different
developmental stages. Issues of racism, rejection, and harass-
ment when the parents themselves have had different racial
experiences with privilege and discrimination can further
complicate matters (Wehrly, Kenney, & Kenney, 1999).
In a study on cultural variation in parenting style, Quah
(2003) found that culture (operationalized as ethnic identifi-
cation and religion affiliation) had a significant influence on
several aspects of parenting style, including methods of dis-
cipline, expectations of child behavior, demonstration of
affection, and roles of the parents. Berg-Cross (2001) noted
that the parental role was a primary source of conflict for
couples, particularly those with divergent styles of parenting
(i.e., authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or uninvolved).
Research for other sources of conflict included divergent
roles and expectations of extended family members (Joshi &
Krishna, 1998); styles of communication with the children
(McDermott & Fukunaga, 1977); varied levels of emotional
involvement with children (Tseng & Hsu, 1991), such as
distal versus proximal styles of mother-child interaction
(Keller et al., 2004) and parent-child relations in general
(Aptekar, 1990); and the symbolic meaning of the child in
providing the continuity of cultural values and rituals (Perel,
2000). Thus, the research indicates that parenting style can
be a source of conflict. Discussions regarding potential
growth rather than conflict are included later in this article.
Cross-Cultural Attitudes and Beliefs
There is much debate in the literature on the significance
and meaning of cross-cultural differences in parenting atti-
tudes and beliefs. Jambunathan, Burts, and Pierce (2000)
concluded that there were statistically significant variations
in parenting attitudes and beliefs across different cultural
groups in the United States. These differences included
beliefs about corporal punishment, parental expectations of
children based on developmental capability, and the ability
to empathize with children’s needs.
In contrast, other scholars have stressed the subjective
meaning of different parental beliefs that vary according to
cultural context and cannot be compared as universal con-
structs (Stewart & Bond, 2002). This suggests that although
cultural differences in parenting beliefs persist, it is not
meaningful to compare them in absence of a broader social
and cultural context. For example, the construct of parental
warmth may be regarded as universal, although the meaning
and significance of this belief varies among different cul-
tural groups. Likewise, the parental goals of autonomy and
connectedness frequently have been viewed as incompatible
in the United States, whereas in other cultures these could be
perceived as complementary traits to be balanced (Peterson,
Steinmetz, & Wilson, 2003).
Julian, McKenry, and McKelvey (1994) found cultural
variations in parenting beliefs among different groups within
the United States, although when socioeconomic status was
controlled, there were more similarities than differences
between these groups. Kagitcibasi (1996) also discussed the
confounding problem of socioeconomic status and ethnicity
as a common methodological problem in cross-cultural com-
parisons of parenting. She elaborated that parental beliefs
were cultural constructions and that cross-cultural differ-
ences in parental values reflected more general cross-cultural
differences in societal values.
In a 2001 study, Kagitcibasi noted that despite within-
group differences, there were greater differences in parental
beliefs between groups across social class, ethnic, and cul-
tural backgrounds. This could be attributed to the stability of
parenting values and beliefs. Keller et al. (2004) concluded
that parenting ideas and beliefs constituted cultural values that
were relatively resistant to change, despite changes in cultural
context such as immigration. Lam and Zane (2004) concurred
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that cultural values tended to acculturate at a slower rate than
behaviors. In a study of acculturation and change, Cote and
Bornstein (2003) found that not only did parenting cognitions
differ among cultural groups, but these mental schemas were
stable and slow to change over time because they represented
an individual’s core identity.
Culture-Specific Examples of
Parenting Style Differences
The literature is extensive on the challenges of intercultural
couples. However, this section focuses on a sample of research
that specifically demonstrates intercultural parenting style
variations. As with research on parenting attitudes and beliefs,
Bornstein (1991) cited an ongoing debate regarding universal
versus culturally specific processes of parenting. Bornstein
asserted that culture shapes systematic parenting practices, yet
in a comparative study of parenting practices in the United
States, France, and Japan, he found patterns of culture-general
processes in addition to culture-specific practices of parenting.
For example, mothers across all three cultures had greater
responsiveness to infant vocalization in comparison with
infant eye contact, representing a universal or culture-general
childrearing practice. In contrast, the same mothers demon-
strated significant cultural variation in the degree of object
stimulation, social stimulation, responsiveness, and rates of
speech, suggesting that these varying patterns of maternal
behavior could be attributed to cultural differences in underly-
ing parental beliefs and philosophies.
Joshi and Krishna (1998) discussed the challenge of dis-
crepant models of parenting between Hindu and Western cul-
tures when couples from these backgrounds intermarry. They
cited the most common North American model was that of
intense attachment between mother and child where “early
dependence forms the basis for the development of the child’s
inner sense of security and later independence” (p. 179). In
contrast, the Hindu model was one of extensive socialization
with the extended family, because “separation and aloneness
are to be avoided at all costs in Indian [families]...depen-
dence and interdependence are far more valued and cultivated
than autonomy and separation” (p. 180). Thus, potential con-
flicts over childrearing emerged for women in the study
because of disparate cultural values and goals in a range of
practices such as parental authority, sleeping arrangements,
privacy, or role of the extended family.
As cited previously, childrearing is a source of potentially
significant conflict for intercultural couples, and the literature
on parental conflict suggested that this could lead to dimin-
ished outcomes for children. To address these problems and
challenges, most of the literature on intercultural couples and
parenting focused on raising children in Jewish-Christian
households (e.g., Crohn, 1995; Heller & Wood, 2000), par-
enting biracial children (e.g., Alperson, 2001; Nakazawa,
2003; Reddy, 1994; Wehrly et al., 1999), the construction of
racial identity in biracial children (e.g., Kerwin, Ponterotto,
Jackson, & Harris, 1993), and the process of acculturation and
biculturalism in multiethnic children (e.g., Benet-Martínez,
Leu, Lee, & Morris, 2002; Verkuyten & Pouliasi, 2002;
Vivero & Jenkins, 1999). There is limited research addressing
how intercultural parents in general can negotiate their cul-
tural differences and integrate their cultural values about child-
rearing to create beneficial outcomes for their families.
The Consequences When Differences
Are Not Addressed
It remains clear that intercultural couples have a higher
probability than same-culture couples to encounter differences
in parenting beliefs and practices, based on their respective
cultural backgrounds, values, and worldview. For intercultural
parents, the challenge is to reconcile different childrearing
practices that have contradictory aims and goals. So what can
be the consequences of these potential conflicts, if unresolved?
Some scholars have emphasized the relationship between par-
enting style and developmental outcomes for children (e.g.,
Shucksmith, Hendry, & Glendinning, 1995). Bradford et al.
(2003) found a significant relationship between marital con-
flict and diminished parenting, which correlated to maladap-
tive behavior in adolescents across cultural groups in nine
different countries. Heath (1995) established a clear trend
across cultures of increased parental involvement and similar
parental expectations with better outcomes for children.
McDermott and Fukunaga (1977) suggested that a clash in
parents’ cultural values can produce emotional problems for
children as well as difficulties in their identity formation.
Although the birth of children can serve as “forceful
reminders of any unfinished business in defining the identity
of a family” (Crohn, 1995, p. 169), this critical juncture could
also present opportunities for intermarried couples to confront
previously avoided cultural differences. Ho (1990) concurred
that the birth of children for intercultural couples symbolized
the transformation of two cultures into one integrated family
system. So how can these differences be reconciled?
Negotiating Differences in Parenting
Negotiating differences in parenting begins before children
are part of the household. Corijn et al. (1996) studied the influ-
ence of heterogamous couples’ characteristics on the timing of
the birth of the first child. Based on their review of the litera-
ture, homogamous couples were assumed to have greater value
consensus and shared outcomes and were more likely to have
developed a common lifestyle, such as decisions over fertility.
This study found that heterogamous couples made decisions
about the timing of the first child based on a sphere of influence
rule in Belgium and an egalitarian rule in the Netherlands. As
stated before, the sphere of influence rule is when each partner
makes decisions within their respective sphere of interest, and
egalitarian rule is when they make decisions collaboratively.
These findings suggest that the cultural context of the couple
affects decision-making processes and outcomes.
Gilani (1999) found that parental styles of conflict
management were as varied as childrearing practices. In
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contrast, Romano’s (2001), Thomson’s (1990), and Ho’s
(1990) research findings were quite similar to each other in
that there seems to be a continuum from giving up one’s cul-
ture to retaining differences and that an abdication of
responsibility had negative consequences for the children.
In her qualitative research on international marriages,
Romano (2001) highlighted some conflicts that emerged over
raising children. These parental conflicts included divergent
values and beliefs, educational and disciplinary styles, and
forms of parent-child relationships. Based on her interviews
with intercultural couples raising children, she observed that
couples reconciled their conflicts over parenting and family
structure in one of three ways: conformity with the norms of
the host culture (country of residence), adaptation to the style
of the other parent, or retention of individual differences in
parenting style through a division of roles. These methods of
decision making parallel Thomson’s (1990) rules of power
and sphere of influence.
Other studies focused on intercultural marriage and child-
rearing have reached similar conclusions. Ho (1990) found
that intercultural couples in a clinical setting used one of the
following methods of reconciling differences over childrear-
ing practices: One partner assumed responsibility for all
decisions (power rule or sphere of influence rule), and a com-
partmentalized arrangement emerged where each partner
assumed responsibility for different aspects of childrearing
(sphere of influence rule) or an arrangement where both
parents abdicated responsibility over childrearing out of
deference to the other’s culture (inertia rule). Crohn (1998)
referred to the latter strategy of avoiding cultural confronta-
tion as cultural amnesia among intercultural spouses, which
led to weakened ties with both cultures. Ho concluded
that this method of decision making had deleterious conse-
quences for the children, as they were left with parental and
cultural vacuums.
In a study of intercultural family interaction patterns,
McDermott and Fukunaga (1977) described destructive and
constructive patterns of negotiation and cultural adjustment
used to resolve intercultural differences over childrearing.
Destructive patterns included cold war, competitive, and
reluctant adjustment. Cold war adjustment was character-
ized by the consistent use of one spouse’s cultural values at
the expense of the other, with the result of different and con-
flicting styles and values. Competitive adjustment referred
to the simultaneous competition for leadership and the fail-
ure to resolve fundamental unspoken differences. In their
study, this led to ambiguous parenting styles and values.
Reluctant adjustment is similar to the inertia rule and cul-
tural amnesia in that both parents had passive roles and each
parent deferred to the children, which again left a parental
vacuum for the children to fill.
McDermott and Fukunaga (1977) identified complemen-
tary and additive adjustment as constructive patterns of cul-
tural adjustment for intercultural parents. Complementary
adjustment consisted of parental functions with coordinated
and consistent leadership where parents expressed culturally
assertive behaviors in a constructive and receptive atmos-
phere of the other spouse’s culture, and they shared similar
views on parental roles and childrearing. Finally, additive
adjustment among intercultural parents was used as a means
to extract desirable qualities from each culture and to par-
ticipate as equal partners. In this pattern, parents blended the
positive attributes from each culture to develop new patterns
of interaction.
As discussed previously, extensive literature exists on the
cross-cultural variation in parenting (comparing and con-
trasting different cultural styles). In general, the literature
illustrates not only the challenges and potential conflicts for
intercultural parents but the opportunities as well. Cultural
socialization influences parenting attitudes, beliefs, style,
practices, and parent-child interactions (Thomas, 1998), and
simultaneously, it is the process of parenting that represents
the primary mechanism for the transmission of cultural val-
ues and practices between generations (Keller et al., 2004).
This process of cultural transmission does not lead to an
exact replication of culture in successive generations
(Schönpflug, 2001); thus, it can be concluded that intercul-
tural parents have an opportunity to blend and create new
cultures through the process of childrearing.
Transcultural Families
The literature demonstrates that intercultural couples
have several additional layers of complexity in comparison
with monocultural couples. In addition to the negotiation
and integration of their cultural differences as a couple, if
they become parents, they are challenged to create a new
family identity from disparate cultural backgrounds (Crohn,
1995; Ho, 1990; Luke & Luke, 1998; Owen, 2002; Tseng &
Hsu, 1991), and they must develop strategies to construct a
third, transcultural family system (Crohn, 1998; Falicov,
1995; Perel, 2000).
Family identity development is influenced by two pri-
mary factors: family identity of origin and family identity
formed through marriage and childrearing. In their research
on family identities, rituals, and myths, Bennett, Wolin, and
McAvity (1988) found that a new family identity integrated
and reflected both partners through a reconstruction of the
past and a construction of a new family identity. Thus, it is
a goal for newly married intercultural couples to create a
single family identity that will become consolidated during
the childrearing years. In their 1988 study, Bennett et al.
found that a strong family identity represented a mitigating
force against change, and it encouraged cultural continuity
during transitions in the family cycle. However, for intercul-
tural couples who came from highly divergent families of
origin, family rituals and traditions can be used at times as a
means to indirectly negotiate the formation of their family
identity.
There is a paucity of literature on the construction of trans-
cultural families, although several researchers alluded to the
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benefits associated with multiple frames of cultural reference
within a family. Although their article focused on the chal-
lenges associated with cultural homelessness among multieth-
nic individuals, Vivero and Jenkins (1999) wrote that this
diversity in worldview within a functional family system could
be associated with beneficial outcomes. For example, trans-
cultural families promoted broader, stronger social and cogni-
tive skill sets, as well as personal strengths such as cultural
adaptation, intercultural effectiveness, greater interpersonal
flexibility, and less ethnocentric attitudes. They suggested that
the following conditions promoted a successful integration of
diverse cultural experiences in transcultural families: equal
social status of parents within the family, explicit mutual sup-
port among family members, different shared traditions with
no familial pressure to choose, and the recognition and resolu-
tion of cultural contradictions.
Finally, Mann and Waldron (1977) concurred about the
benefits of cultural diversity within the family. They noted
that although cultural differences presented more areas for
discord, the presence of more than one culture within a fam-
ily provided greater richness and variation in potential solu-
tions. In a model of resiliency in family systems, Johnson
(1995) noted that this type of variety and tolerance for diver-
sity in problem solving was associated with a family’s abil-
ity to use its inherent strengths to triumph over adversity.
Counseling Intercultural Parents
Consistent with increasing demographic trends and the
predominant focus on challenges for intercultural couples, a
growing literature has emerged pertaining to counseling
interventions with this unique population. Many scholars
agreed that therapy for intermarried couples follows the
same general principles as traditional couple’s therapy, but
special consideration needs to be given to the unique diffi-
culties and challenges facing intercultural couples. The lit-
erature was quite limited in providing specific parenting
strategies for intercultural couples. The connection between
conflicts because of parenting and other types of intercul-
tural conflicts are difficult to sort out. Therefore, this review
of the literature describes the varying views for counseling
intercultural couples and can be applied to parenting issues.
In a chapter on therapy with intermarried couples, Hsu
(2001) outlined several of these considerations in working
with couples from different cultural backgrounds. First, it is
important to establish the cultural perceptions of the thera-
peutic process from the perspective of each partner and to
consider the issue of “ethnic matching” with one spouse in
an effort to avoid an unintended alliance or misunderstand-
ing of therapeutic resistance. Second, the therapist can
emphasize the resolve and determination the couple has
exemplified during prior difficulties to confront current
challenges. Third, psychoeducation is another appropriate
strategy to use with intercultural couples because contrast-
ing views or behaviors are often based on divergent cultural
origins, and misunderstandings are intensified when there is
a failure to recognize the impact of cultural norms on the
individual. Thus, Hsu concluded that a goal of therapy is to
promote cultural understanding and to assist the couple in
becoming curious as well as appreciative of their partners’
cultural influences.
Hsu (2001) further elaborated on the necessity of the
therapist to function as a cultural referee and a cultural bro-
ker. In these roles, the counselor will “help the couple clar-
ify which behaviors are rooted in culture, and which are
better seen as manifestations of the person or the relation-
ship” and to “encourage the couple in their appreciation of
and adaptation to their cultures and to liberate them from
rigid cultural restraints” (pp. 238-239). Consistent with
other researchers, Hsu argued for the creation of a new cul-
ture that incorporates aspects of both cultures at various
times. The counseling interventions that he proscribed to
facilitate that goal include taking language lessons, partici-
pating with their partner in cultural activities, and allowing
cultural holidays or cultural regression where the spouse can
have a designated time to experience all of the cultural tra-
ditions and rituals without explanation. The current authors
believe that by sharing each other’s culture, the couple can
pick and choose what aspects to retain and what aspects to
discard, thereby creating a third, new culture.
Previous research conducted by Tseng and Hsu (1991)
identified several focal points of therapy with intercultural
couples. During the initial phase of therapy, the counselor
should acknowledge the existence of different cultural back-
grounds as a potential source of marital dissatisfaction.
Many conflicts are rooted in cultural heritage rather than
as a reflection of feelings and attitudes toward the other.
According to Tseng and Hsu, the goal of therapy with inter-
cultural couples is to encourage the partners to value each
other’s culture, to respect their differing needs, and to learn
to negotiate in a way so that both will feel valued and
comfortable.
In a case study analysis of marriages between Asian
women and American men in the armed forces, Kim (1998)
observed that it is not ideal to have conjoint first sessions
in therapy with couples from these cultural backgrounds.
Because of a power differential in many Asian and American
military marriages, the wife should be seen first or therapy
could begin with individual work with each partner.
According to Kim, only after each partner has resolved indi-
vidual issues can the couple learn how to collaborate in their
marriage.
Ho (1990) had the opposite perspective in a book on
intermarried couples in therapy. He concluded that inter-
married couple therapy is most beneficial when the therapist
works with the couple together in conjoint sessions from
the beginning. The goal of transcultural therapy is to help
the couple clarify their personal and cultural standards and
expectations within the marriage and to identify which
aspects of the conflict are attributable to cultural factors
rather than family of origin or personality traits. Ho argued
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that this can be accomplished through the use of sociocul-
tural maps that include transitional positions of multigener-
ational family members. Ho also advocated for the use of
cultural reframing and using cultural traits as a resource
rather than inflexible features.
Ho (1990) cited that therapeutic effectiveness is contin-
gent on the counselor’s credibility as well as sensitivity to
cultural differences between intermarried couples, regard-
less of theoretical orientation. This is largely influenced by
the understanding of and sensitivity to the ethnocultural
background of the couple. Ho stated that “it is essential to
understand the biculturalism of clients in a cross-cultural
setting in order to work effectively with bicultural couples”
(p. 43). To achieve this, the therapist must be able to leave
his or her own cultural background and join the culture of
the couple as a unit rather than with one spouse or the other.
Durodoye (1994) agreed that counselors should be judi-
cious in their use of assumptions and beliefs pertaining to
couples from different cultural backgrounds. She emphasized
that counselors need to be aware that many of the stressors
facing intercultural couples are the same as those facing
monocultural ones but that differences in culture may exacer-
bate feelings of misunderstanding and marital dissatisfaction.
Falicov (1995) identified different developmental stages that
cross-cultural couples experience during their marriage, where
culture can be used as a therapeutic resource to explore sources
of marital dissatisfaction. During a period of cultural transition,
couples experience a form of culture shock with the other’s cul-
tural norms, values, and traditions. The primary developmental
task for couples at this stage is to negotiate cultural conflicts,
make mutual accommodations, and ultimately develop new
cultural codes in the final process of mutual acculturation. This
developmental stage requires the therapist to function as a cul-
tural mediator to clarify, legitimize, and reframe cultural values
as complementary rather than oppositional and to identify
underlying symptoms that are masked by cultural stereotypes.
Finally, it is necessary for the therapist to function again as a
cultural mediator when exploring the marital dyad within the
context of families of origin to negotiate boundaries and
realignment with the extended or multigenerational families.
Ibrahim and Schroeder (1990) emphasized that it is impera-
tive for therapists to understand the cultural context of intercul-
tural couples before initiating therapeutic interventions. They
proposed a developmental, psychoeducational intervention to
assess worldview in cross-cultural couples counseling that
includes a Scale to Assess World Views to gain understanding
about the clients’ worldview and the Multicultural Marital and
Family Therapy Checklist to better understand the presenting
problem, relationship dynamics, communication patterns, and
expectations of family roles. The authors noted that it is also
important to incorporate psychoeducational interventions such
as cross-cultural communication techniques such as using more
precise language and listening skills to improve understanding
of different patterns and expressions of communication, to
resolve conflicts, and to enhance multicultural relationships.
Crohn (1998) described the assessment of cultural history
as a therapeutic tool to assist intercultural couples in under-
standing the salience of their respective cultural identities.
Differences in gender roles, family cohesion, emotional
expression, cultural identity, and religion underlie many of the
presenting problems in couples therapy. Gaining awareness
and understanding of these differences enables couples to
compromise or blend their divergent views. This is particu-
larly important for intercultural parents as they assist their
children in developing bicultural or multicultural identities. In
his earlier work, Crohn (1995) outlined a framework for deal-
ing with cultural conflict that included clarification of cultural
identities, unconditional experimentation without time pres-
sure, negotiation processes, and commitment to renegotiate as
appropriate. The author concluded that it is critical for thera-
pists to be mindful of their own cultural biases and counter-
transference. It can be deceptive to assess or evaluate an
intercultural family system within the parameters of the ther-
apist’s referent culture.
CONCLUSION
The literature on intercultural marriage demonstrates that
this is a growing demographic group in the United States, par-
ticularly in California. A primary conclusion of the research
on intercultural marriages has been on the challenges con-
fronted by couples in these partnerships as well as potential
conflicts and decreased marital satisfaction. A relatively small
proportion of the literature in this field has focused on the
opportunities rather than conflicts associated with cultural
differences. In part, this is a consequence of a large proportion
of the literature that has derived from clinical populations or
pathological perspectives of intercultural marriage.
One convergent theme in the literature on intercultural
marriage is that parenthood is a particular flashpoint for con-
flict in these marriages. However, less has been researched
on how intercultural couples resolve these conflicts, particu-
larly in nonclinical populations. Finally, there are few schol-
ars that have addressed the question of how transcultural
families are constructed when two individuals from disparate
cultural backgrounds decide to raise children. As a result,
more research is needed in understanding the experiences of
nonclinical populations in intercultural parenting to help all
couples make the most of their differences as a family.
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Cheryl Crippen has an MA in international relations and an MS in
counseling psychology and is completing a PhD in counseling from
the University of New England, Australia. Her research interests
include cross-cultural counseling, intercultural families, and tran-
scultural adoption. She works as a clinical research coordinator
for the Women and Children’s Health and Well-Being Project at the
University of California, Irvine.
Leah Brew is an assistant professor in the Department of
Counseling at California State University, Fullerton. Her research
is in the area of culture, specifically the intersection of Asian and
White American cultures because of her own identity as a first-
generation, biracial Japanese-American.
Crippen, Brew / INTERCULTURAL PARENTING 115
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... There is especially limited knowledge on the family life of Thai-British partnerships, instead focusing on public perceptions and representations of Thai-Farang relationships. Furthermore, Crippen and Brew (2007) argue that "most studies of migration view the household as a monolithic unit pertaining to decisions about where to live, yet partners have different emotions and desires prior to a decision-making process that is characterised by negotiation and tension and is affected by differential levels of power" (p. 108). ...
... However, it seems that the social connections that Thai women build over the years are concentrated in their own ethnic group. According to studies on intercultural relationships, researchers have found that some of the challenges these couples face are cultural and economic differences, which influence their approach to parenting and decision making in the household (Crippen and Brew, 2007;Rodiguez-García, 2006 Another source of family conflict is the relationship with the in-laws. Most Thai women I interviewed did not have conflicts with their in-law families. ...
... However, similar to studies of intercultural/interracial union, most shed light on children with parentage of White British and other ethnic groups such as South Asian, Black Caribbean, African, and others(Edwards, 2008;Caballero et al., 2008). Although numbers are relatively smaller, there is a research gap on the lives of Thai-British children and Thai children who are raised in the UK.Crippen and Brew's (2007) review of intercultural parenting found that challenges for couples include their different social and cultural backgrounds, which affects their approach to parenting and decision-making in the household. Having children can also trigger conflicts, which stem from cultural differences which mixed couples were previously able to compromise on (p.109). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
This thesis aims to identify opportunities and challenges of Thai marriage migrants in the UK in the context of transnational migration. In-depth, semi-structure interviews with 31 Thai marriage migrants were conducted to gain insights into their lived experiences. By identifying opportunities and challenges facing Thai women in the UK, this thesis contributes original knowledge on Thai women’s post-migratory practices, cross-border connections, and wellbeing. I argue that cross-border connections play a crucial role in Thai marriage migrants’ experiences and wellbeing in the host country. However, these connections are not static and can be strengthened or weakened depending on women’s changing life circumstances. I explore Thai women’s engagement in the home and beyond through four empirical components. First, I examine Thai women’s social network formation and exchange of social capital with their co-ethnics and local people. Essentially, how women strategically use their social networks and exchange their social capital have important impacts on their wellbeing. Second, I explore the relationship of Thai women and homeland-state-religion organisations through a case study of a Thai temple in London. Here, I investigate how visiting the temple influences the maintenance of cross-border links of Thai marriage migrants and their wellbeing. I also examine how women partake and interact with the temple’s activities and social groups. Third, I observe issues of everyday negotiations in Thai-British families, child-rearing decisions, and family aspirations, to discover how transnational practices permeate the private sphere of the family. Last, I focus on women’s personal perceptions of opportunities and challenges they face while living in the UK. Employment, improved financial situation, access to welfare, and being in a more ‘liberating’ society are viewed as prominent opportunities. Whilst deskilling, pressure from natal family, lack of social capital, family disagreement, domestic abuse, and adjustment to a new society are perceived as main challenges for Thai marriage migrants in the UK.
... Although O'Brien's study of ambiguous loss in families who have an autistic child, involved majority White mothers, these same issues have been identified in research as being synonymous with the transcultural experiences of minority ethnic families (Crippen and Brew, 2007). ...
... y focusing on the family's capacity to solve the issues they are faced with, not just the barriers they face.Resilience and agency influenced how families engaged in coping repertoires, managed expectations and set priorities as part of the process of accessing health services and deciding on the best educational provision for their autistic child.Crippen and Brew (2007) recognised this as a feature of transculturalism in their research with minority ethnic families who had disabled children. They found that resilience was associated with having broader and stronger social skill sets in terms of cultural adaptation, intercultural effectiveness, interpersonal flexibility and less ethnocentric attitudes. ...
... They found that resilience was associated with having broader and stronger social skill sets in terms of cultural adaptation, intercultural effectiveness, interpersonal flexibility and less ethnocentric attitudes. Within the family systemCrippen and Brew (2007) also noted a greater tolerance for diversity in problem-solving associated with a family's ability to use its inherent strengths to overcome adversity. ...
Conference Paper
In the UK there has been a marked increase in children from minority ethnic families receiving an autism diagnosis but there continues to be a dearth in research that has explored the diversity of families’ lived experiences. The research sought to address this under-representation by using a transcultural approach to understand how families are drawing on multiple cultural influences in response to having an autistic child. Eleven parents from nine families who lived in one London borough were interviewed using a non-directive narrative approach. The families included two parents who were born in the UK, five who migrated to the UK as children and four who came to the UK as adults. All the families had a child with autism aged between four and seventeen years old, who attended either a special school or a mainstream school in the same London borough. Combining transculturalism with a narrative interview approach made it possible to pay attention to the ways in which families’ lives are transformed when they have an autistic child, how parents develop multiple identities in their interactions with professionals and family members across different social and cultural contexts and the impact this has on their sense of belonging to the community and networks of support. Analysing the interviews followed a case-based approach with themes examined within and across all cases. A thematic analysis of the families’ transcultural experiences showed that there were commonalities in their experiences of parenting children with autism as well as distinct and relevant cultural values and resources which influenced their individual responses to having an autistic child. The families wanted teachers in mainstream schools and those in their community to have more understanding and knowledge about how autism affected their lives and positive recognition of the solution-focused strategies that they were using to advocate for their autistic child’s healthcare and education. The findings from this research supported the development of a transcultural model that will be of value in developing culturally responsive pedagogical practice in autism education. The recommendations are that there is a need to further address culture and ethnicity in research on autism and special education, encouraging teachers to think about how they work with autistic children and the social and cultural realities that are an essential aspect of families’ transcultural lives.
... Individuals from different racial or ethnic groups often differ in their concepts of self (Markus & Kitayama, 2010), communication styles (Gudykunst et al., 1988), conflict styles (Hammer, 2005), and experiences of discrimination and privilege (Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002). All these characteristics inform how individuals perceive and react to their experiences and influence how they interact with their partner (Crippen & Brew, 2007). Although several researchers theorize that these dissimilarities result in greater conflict for individuals in MER relationships (Bratter & King, 2008, Crippen & Brew, 2013, Kang Fu & Wolfinger, 2011, few studies investigate whether relationship conflict is higher in MER couples compared to MoER couples. ...
... Intercultural couples believed that their cultural differences intensified the degree to which they disagreed about and struggled with parenting decisions. The few studies about MER parents' experiences raising children describe different ways that parents perceive and cope with their differences (Crippen & Brew, 2007, Edwards, Caballero, & Puthussery, 2009), but no study specifically investigates coparenting conflict. It is also important to examine specific factors that may exacerbate or buffer coparenting conflict, namely social support. ...
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The percent of families with parents from different racial or ethnic backgrounds has risen exponentially in the last decades. Approximately 14% of children were born into multiethnoracial (MER) families in the United States in 2015, more than double the rate from 1980. Studies show that MER couples are more likely to separate or divorce than their monoethnoracial (MoER) counterparts. With the growing rates of MER couples, there has been increased interest and research addressing the unique benefits and challenges of being in a MER relationship. It is likely that the challenges that arise in MER families peak across the transition to parenthood when couples must negotiate how to merge their respective values, behaviors, and beliefs into a new family unit. Our study examines how the ethnoracial composition of couples (i.e., same versus different racial/ethnic backgrounds) predicts levels and increases in coparental conflict across early parenthood; and, in addition, the role of familial support as both a mediator and moderator of this relationship. We found that mothers in MER dyads report more coparenting conflict and lower familial support than their MoER counterparts across early parenthood. Additionally, fathers in MER dyads had marginally lower family support than their MoER counterparts predicting greater coparenting conflict across early parenthood. Identifying the processes linking couples’ ethnoracial composition to the quality of family relationships could help inform parent interventions to better support MER parents across the transition to parenthood.
... For example, interethnic couples are thought to experience relatively more relationship conflicts, less relationship satisfaction, and higher rates of divorce compared to non-interethnic couples (Bratter & King, 2008;Hohmann-Marriott & Amato, 2008). In one theoretical review of interethnic romantic relationships, Crippen and Brew (2007) also posited that the greater risk of relationship conflicts experienced by interethnic parents is likely due to ethnicity-related cultural differences in schemas about parenting, which would greatly increase interparental stress. This assertion is supported by research demonstrating that differences exist across cultures in parenting behaviors and related child outcomes (see reviews by Deater-Deckard et al., 2011;Elliott & Urquiza, 2006), as well as in parenting cognitions (e.g., Bornstein & Cote, 2004;Kil et al., 2021;Rudy & Grusec, 2006). ...
... These findings echo existing work positing that parenting may be similar across cultures because of the basic universal goals that arise in childrearing (e.g., teaching appropriate values, ensuring child's health and well-being; Bornstein, 2012). Thus, despite prominent perspectives that interethnic parents experience greater stress or challenges in parenting (e.g., Crippen & Brew, 2007;Roy et al., 2020), the reviewed studies demonstrate limited evidence for such relatively heightened parenting difficulties. However, the included studies did not measure culture-specific stress or culture-specific conflict, which may be informative and could be investigated in future studies. ...
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There has been growing interest over the years in examining interethnic unions to explore their unique parenting configurations and associated mixed-ethnicity children’s outcomes. One aspect that determines parenting is how parents perceive and experience their parenting role in relation to one another, to their children, and to society at large. The present review aimed to narratively and systematically synthesize the existing literature on the strengths and challenges that parents experience in interethnic unions about themselves, their partners or co-parents, or their mixed-ethnicity children. A total of 49 studies were identified through a systematic search. Included studies were dissertations and published journal articles that contained qualitative and quantitative findings. Five themes were identified about the interethnic parenting experience: (1) strengths in parenting mixed-ethnicity children, (2) challenges in interethnic parenting, including the specific challenge of negotiating cultural differences between parents, (3) strategies to overcome cultural differences, (4) self-reflections about parents’ own ethnocultural backgrounds, and (5) similarities in parenting between interethnic and non-interethnic parents. A Model of Interethnic Parenting Experiences summarizing the identified themes is outlined. The review findings are discussed with reference to gaps in the literature and potential moderators of the known parameters regarding interethnic parenting. Recommendations for future research are made that may further elucidate the nuanced experience of interethnic parenting.
... Kroeber and Parsons (1958: 583) define culture as "transmitted and created content and patterns of values, ideas, and other symbolic-meaning systems as factors in the shaping of human behavior and the artifacts produced through behavior." With regard to parental practices, culture determines or influences educational values, role expectations, age-appropriate behavior, communication patterns, and problem-solving methods (Crippen and Brew 2007;Dwairy and Achoui 2006). As two largest countries in East and West, China and the United States are believed to have distinct cultural traditions characterized by collectiveness or group-orientedness in China and individualism in the United States (Gabrenya, Wang, and Latane 1985;Hui and Villareal 1989). ...
... A major conclusion of past qualitative research on cross-couple populations has been on the unique stressors confronted by couples (Adams, 2004;Bratawidjaja, 2007;Cottrell, 1990;Crippen & Brew, 2007;Imamura, 1990;Seto & Cavallaro, 2007;Tosakul, 2010). This study applied statistical analysis and suggest that cross-national couples experience only slightly higher parenting stress than their counterparts in non-cross-national families. ...
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