Raising “Authentic” Indian Children in the United States: Dynamism in the Ethnotheories of Immigrant Hindu Parents


  • Hemalatha Ganapathy-Coleman


What deeply held beliefs guide first-generation Asian Indian parents in the United States? How do parental conceptions of childrearing change as a result of immigration? What cultural conceptions of children and childrearing are maintained despite the pressures of assimilation? These were the core questions for this qualitative cultural psychological study of the ethnotheories of 10 Hindu parents of Asian Indian origin residing in Baltimore in the early 2000s. I employed caregiver diaries, ecological inventories, repeated in-depth interviews, and informal observations to gain access to these ethnotheories. The parents emphasized interpersonal skills, family ties, and daily routines in relation to social responsibility—ideas that relate to contemporary psychological paradigms but that also resonate with some idealized traditional core concepts from Hinduism. This article explores the constancy of certain cultural ideals in parenting across two continents and highlights the creation of a new conception of parenting based on the shared experience of immigration from various parts of India. In the process, it provides insights into the psychology of parenting among parents who purposefully integrate their culture of origin into the culture of their U.S. host land to define a new “authentic” Indian identity for their children.