The lecture on
Immigrant Families in Transition drew a variety of
audience from CUNY, including student representatives. Three
Asian newspapers sent reporters to cover the event, as it
marked an important step in bridge building between academia
and the community.
The seriousness of the
problem was illustrated by the many newspaper headlines cited
by Ms. Susan Chan, a thirty years veteran clinician in Asian
American mental health services, and Prof. David Cheng, a
practicing clinical psychologist and director of counseling at
A 15 years old Asian girl,
with divorced parents, slashed her own wrist and burned
herself with cigarette butts.
A 16 years old Asian girl,
with her African boyfriend, strangled her parents and dumped
their bodies in East River.
An Asian father, in a
dispute with his sons, critically injured them when he shot
them with a pistol.
Two Asian female students,
both from Baruch College, recently committed suicide.
These tragic incidents
involved different issues: some are about money, some are
about parental pressure, others are about racial intolerance.
They are shocking revelations of the troubles festering in a
community that has long been considered a model minority.
The source of
intergenerational conflict within the immigrant family can be
traced to the different rates of acculturation between the
parents and the children. Their difference in the adjustment
process when settling in a new social environment include
languages, customs, habits, lifestyle, values, family and peer
relations. Conflicts may stem from dual expectations of the
two generations. The greater the acculturation gap between
parent and children, the greater the conflict.
Conflict between people is a
part of everyday life, however, its resolution need not end in
violence, or running away, or going against one's own feelings
and beliefs. The key to successful conflict resolution is open
communication, which begins with good listening skills, and
honest depiction of what one hears and what one thinks.
To solve problems
peacefully, it is important to calm down, be specific, think
of solution, consider opposing ideas and their consequences.
It is best if the two parties can negotiate among themselves.
When that is not possible, it is always a good idea to get, as
a mediator, someone who can maintain objectivity. Finally, in
handling really difficult people, it is important not to take
it personally, to provide oneself with an escape route, in
case of violence, and to get help from friends or
professionals. It also helps to take time off to calm down.
Questions raised by the
audience include the adequacy of counseling services for Asian
students at CUNY, to which Prof. Cheng indicated that there is
room for improvement. There are more than twenty thousand
Asian students in CUNY, he said. Baruch College, with more
than thirty percent of its students being Asian, has only
three psychologists working there. He praised AAHEC's effort
to promote mental health among Asian students, and promised
that he would help.
Ms. Susan Chan reassured the
audience that referral services are available at her Chinatown
Family Consultation Center (212-966-3414). She also commended
AAHEC for promoting the training of bilingual mental health
workers at CUNY. References to the lecture topic were given
out at the end of the talk. They include an article written by
Ms. Susan Chan, on Chinese Families in Transition: Cultural
Conflicts and Adjustment Problems, published by the Journal of
Social Distress and the Homeless, Vol. 3. No. 3, 1994.