Never Mind the Acculturation Gap: Migrant Youth’s Wellbeing Benefit when They Retain Their Heritage Culture but Their Parents Adopt the Settlement Culture

  • Qian SunEmail author
  • Nicolas GeeraertEmail author
  • Andrew Simpson
Empirical Research


The extent to which migrant families successfully navigate their settlement and heritage cultures has been associated with family members’ well-being. Specifically, parent-offspring acculturation gaps are purportedly linked to negative outcomes. Inconsistences in prior research are discussed in light of possible concerns relating to conceptual clarity and methodological limitations. To examine these, a study of 153 youth-parent dyads (youth sample: 58% female, Mage = 19.64, range = 13–25) was conducted. Participants were asked to assess their acculturation and that of their relative. Using multilevel regression, individual acculturation, but not acculturation gaps, was associated with youth well-being. Heritage engagement of youth and settlement engagement of their parents was beneficial, whereas parent’s heritage engagement was detrimental. Thus, integration at the family level is likely to maximize migrant youth well-being.


Immigrant Youth Acculturation Gaps Family Well-being 



The authors wish to thank all the families who participated in the study, and Fiona Chui, Luis Bonnelame, Zahra Sepaul and Alana Asare-Ansa for their help in the data collection.

Authors' Contributions

Q.S. and N.G. conceived of the study, designed and coordinated the study, performed the statistical analysis, participated in the interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript; A.S. participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was supported by a China Scholarship Council grant.

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study procedures were approved by University of Essex Institutional Review Board. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and national guidelines.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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