Living at the Crossroads of Cultural Worlds: The Experience of Normative Conflicts by Second Generation Immigrant Youth



The children of immigrants are often referred to as second-generation youth. Although there is tremendous diversity among them, they often share the common experience of being bicultural by holding both heritage and mainstream cultural identities. Given that cultures generally promote similar expectations for youth (e.g., showing respect for parents), holding two cultural identities is not necessarily problematic. Even when cultural expectations do differ, these individuals can typically switch between cultural identities (e.g., South Asian at home; mainstream Canadian at school) as a strategy to avoid conflict. For some issues, however, switching between identities will not resolve the conflict because fulfilling the normative expectations associated with one identity is done at the expense of the ones of the other identity (e.g., choosing a romantic partner that is either from the heritage culture or from mainstream culture). The current paper presents a normative approach to understanding the experience of culturally-based conflicts among second-generation youth. In addition, research stemming from this normative approach in the area of intimate relationships is presented to further illustrate the value of the model in understanding the potential cultural conflicts of second-generation youth and how they may be negotiated.