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  • Writer's pictureChalita Antommarchi, PsyD

The Pressures of Being a Second Generation Immigrant

family learning new language

Migrating to the United States is a dream come true for many immigrants who seek to better their financial and social prospects for themselves and their families. First

generation parents are often met with challenges in learning a new language and culture along with external and internal pressures to succeed. 


These struggles may lead to the creation of strongly-held values of work ethic, sense of duty, familial responsibility, and sacrifice that are passed on to their children, who may or may not ascribe to these values.


No matter how these messages and expectations are experienced, these beliefs can have a significant  impact on the children of immigrant parents (second generation immigrants). Some of the same struggles listed in “The Pressures of Being a First Generation Immigrant” on our blog section can apply to second generation immigrants, but there are also some unique challenges second generation immigrants encounter.


These struggles may include:


Guilt/shame 

  • Due to being in the advantageous position of being born in the United States.

  • Second generation immigrants are often told they “should be grateful” for what they have and may be pressured into achieving more than what their parents did to “justify” the sacrifice their parents made

  • Feeling tremendous pressure to perform and to put their own needs aside for their family

  • Shame for those who may not live up to those expectations or who may choose a different path for themselves


Isolation 

  • Due to cultural differences between family and the world they interact with.

  • Second generation immigrants find themselves with multiple cultural identities that may be confusing and pull them apart from others socially. 

  • Some may find that they have to switch between two or more different cultural identities. 

  • Others may feel that they do not have a community or a cultural identity to which they fully belong.


Stress 

  • Due to role switching and unclear boundaries. Second generation immigrants may frequently shift between parent role and child role because of communication difficulties or financial needs. People from this generation may serve as a language interpreter for their non-English speaking parent(s), babysitter for their sibling(s), or financial provider at an earlier age in order to help their family out while also remaining their parents’ child. This may cause stress as they may be unable to say “no” to these expectations or lead to emotional distress or resentment in the future.


The generational pressures experienced by immigrants are intimate, complicated matters that deserve the time and attention necessary to process through. If you align with any of these struggles and feel that they have had a significant impact on your life, you may want to seek out a qualified mental health professional to provide additional support.


Chalita Antommarchi, PsyD

About the Author: 

Chalita Antommarchi is a registered Psychological Associate (#94027857) in the state of California. Dr. Antommarchi enjoys working with a variety of issues including trauma, anxiety, life transitions, adjustment concerns, interpersonal relationships and communication, identity development, LGBTQI+ concerns, grief and loss, spiritual concerns, and whole person care.

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