Racial Self-Identification in the Children of Asian Immigrants in America


Immigration practices become more frequent in the modern environment, prompting the occurrence of various ethnic phenomena. The process of racial self-identification is currently considered a prominent research topic that encompasses multiple cultural issues and allows to establish the factors contributing to an individual’s ethnic account of themselves (Mowen and Stansfield 324). However, immigrating to a foreign environment has been reported to alter personal identification strategies, resulting in a diverse range of consequences for immigrants (Harris et al. 776). In this regard, of exceptional interest are the children of immigrants who only begin to develop an understanding of their self-identification and might be affected by the changes in location or immigrant status. The children of Asian immigrants in America have been reported to manifest a tendency towards racial self-identification shifts, beginning to describe themselves as biracial, multiracial, or Asian American (Duncan and Trejo 1147). This paper focuses on the current research findings related to the changes and self-identification in children of Asian immigrants in America, proposing the significance of multiculturality.

The Importance of Racial Self Identification in the Young Age

Identifying is a part of a social or ethnic group is a significant aspect of an individual’s social standing, which allows them to manifest social belonging. During childhood and adolescent years, individuals undergo a considerable number of changes related to psychosocial development, learning to identify themselves and others (Mowen and Stansfield 324). As such, children begin to interact extensively with the external environment and engage in the process of identification, clarifying who they are in the community. Although some authors argue that racial and ethical identities might change over the years based on the surrounding environment, it is evident that the basis for this notion is created during childhood (Mowen and Stansfield 325). Therefore, self-identification is one of the vital processes that may be altered due to relocation, compelling individuals to adapt to the novel environment.

Given that racial identity is influenced by the surrounding social factors, it might be subject to change if a young individual transitions to a different social setting. The concept of racial fluidity has been suggested to explain the shifts in ethnic identification, proposing that racial identity is an unstable construct that develops during the earlier ages (Mowen and Stansfield 324). Currently, the children of Asian immigrants in America manifest the highest propensity towards racial identity shifts, more frequently identifying as biracial or multiracial rather than Asian in comparison to other immigrant children (Harris et al. 778). From this perspective, it is possible that children of Asian immigrants relocating to a more diverse social setting might alter their understanding of race and ethnicity, adopting additional cultural characteristics as a part of their self-perception.

Factors Contributing to Racial Fluidity: Primary Aspects of Identity Shifts

Family Ties

Although the emergence of racial fluidity has been recognized for several years, only a small sample of studies address this phenomenon, and the processes undergoing a change in children’s self-identification remain relatively undiscovered. However, scholars have proposed several factors that can contribute to the shift in racial or ethnic identity in the children of Asian immigrants. A vital aspect of the child’s propensity towards self-identification changes is reported to be the level of cultural expression present in the relatives’ behavior. Mowen and Stansfield discuss a positive correlation between the parents’ presentation of their cultural origin and the children’s identification with a specific ethnicity (325). For instance, children who grow in a family environment that does not endorse frequent demonstration of cultural belonging are less likely to display ethnic fluidity. In contrast, young individuals who observe their family members adopt different racial identities are more likely to manifest the same behavior in the future. Nevertheless, family cohesion is a critical detail in this consideration, as it significantly correlates with the children’s tendency for identity changes. When interpersonal ties within a family are weak, young individuals exhibit a low possibility of altering their ethnic identity (Mowen and Stansfield 325). Thus, family becomes an important factor that establishes a solid basis for future multiculturality or contributes towards the lack of cultural identity shifts.

Considering the significance of family ties, it is possible that the children of Asian immigrants are influenced by the behaviors of their parents. Scholars claim that the Asian culture and the parenting practices of Asian parents are based on a different approach to the definition of race and racial boundaries, establishing a more lenient attitude towards adopting the characteristics of other cultures (Mowen and Stansfield 326). While the black-white color divide is a well-recognized and sensitive phenomenon, the racial and ethnic distinctions have not been acknowledged as an issue in Asian countries, suggesting that children are less impacted by racial discrimination. Furthermore, Asian immigrants are more likely to incorporate the cultural practices of the surrounding populations, which often leads to parents affecting their children, either indirectly by personal example or directly through communication.

Socioeconomic Background

Another crucial external factor leading to racial fluidity in children is the parents’ socioeconomic status. The social and economic standing of one’s family is a vital aspect of their racial identification, and the changes in the community or financial situation might result in self-identification shifts in children of immigrants. As such, higher social status and better economic conditions have been found to correlate with a higher propensity towards racial identity change, with young people identifying as biracial or multiracial (Drouhot and Nee 180). In the children of Asian immigrants, a similar tendency can be sighted, as descendants of Asian immigrants with a higher socioeconomic standing are more likely to identify as multiracial (Duncan and Trejo 1149). Although the exact mechanisms behind the influence of this aspect on self-identification are unclear, some scholars suggest that a better social-economic status can be connected to a higher level of acceptance in the local community (Harris et al. 779). This attribute allows adolescents to identify as representatives of both ethnicities, initiating a shift toward a multiracial identity (Harris et al. 779). Therefore, children of more successful Asian immigrants are especially likely to adopt a multicultural identity.

Local Community’s Diversity

A vital environmental aspect leading to the changes in adolescent self-identification is the overall ethnical background of the community. More frequent interactions with the representatives of a diverse racial and cultural population have been shown to inhibit changes in the children of immigrants’ identities, prompting them to shift their identification (Drouhot and Nee 181). As US citizens manifest a broad range of ethnic identities, it is possible that the children of Asian immigrants are affected by cultural diversity, altering their self-perceptions to account for such a distinct social setting. Considering this information, it is evident that the multicultural world environment substantially influences young people, leading them to alter their understanding of themselves and become a part of various ethnic groups.

Finally, it is essential to note that a combined impact of various factors can account for the racial fluidity in the children of Asian immigrants. While the presence of only one of the discussed aspects might not be sufficient to elicit changes in ethnic self-identification, the impact of several attributes might promote the development of racial fluidity and the adoption of other ethnic identities. Particular research suggests that the family influence and socioeconomic status of Asian immigrants are unique in comparison to other individuals who relocate to the US, such as Hispanic or Indian minorities (Duncan and Trejo 1163). However, only a handful of studies mention the internal characteristics of the children of immigrants, meaning that additional investigations in this area are needed for further advancement.


To conclude, the changes in the racial self-identification in the children of Asian immigrants in the United States have been discussed in detail in this paper, identifying the primary factors that promote the adoption of multiple ethnic identities in this population. Racial self-identification is a highly important aspect of a child’s identity, which can be especially impacted by cultural and ethnic diversity. It is evident that the family influence, socioeconomic status, and the experienced multiracial atmosphere significantly affect the children of immigrants, causing them to alter their perceptions of their personal cultural identity. In general, high levels of family cohesion, socioeconomic background, and community diversity have been found to contribute to the changes in self-identification. Although these pathways are prominent spheres of immigrant research, the individual characteristics of immigrant children should also be taken into account in future investigations.

Works Cited

Drouhot, Lucas G., and Victor Nee. “Assimilation and the Second Generation in Europe and America: Blending and Segregating Social Dynamics Between Immigrants and Natives.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 45, no. 1, 2019, pp. 177–199.

Duncan, Brian, and Stephen J. Trejo. “The Complexity of Immigrant Generations: Implications for Assessing the Socioeconomic Integration of Hispanics and Asians.” ILR Review, vol. 70, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1146–1175.

Harris, Bryn, et al. “Adolescent Racial Identity: Self-Identification of Multiple and ‘Other’ Race/Ethnicities.” Urban Education, vol. 52, no. 6, 2017, pp. 775–794.

Mowen, Thomas J., and Richard Stansfield. “Probing Change in Racial Self-Identification: A Focus on Children of Immigrants.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 2, no. 3, 2016, pp. 323–337.

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PapersGeeks. 2022. "Racial Self-Identification in the Children of Asian Immigrants in America." December 8, 2022. https://papersgeeks.com/racial-self-identification-in-the-children-of-asian-immigrants-in-america/.


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