Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 43, Issue 12, pp 2028–2040 | Cite as

Youths’ Imitation and De-identification from Parents: A Process Associated with Parent–Youth Cultural Incongruence in Mexican-American Families

  • Norma J. Perez-Brena
  • Kimberly A. Updegraff
  • Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor
Empirical Research


Cultural adaptation and parent–youth cultural incongruence have strong implications for individuals’ social adaptation and family dynamics. This study highlighted adolescents’ active role in parent–youth cultural incongruence through their decision to imitate or de-identify from parents, parent–youth warmth, and demographic similarities. Longitudinal data, spanning 8 years, from 246 Mexican-American families (mothers, fathers, and an early adolescent child), were used to address two study goals. The first goal was to link parent–youth relationship qualities and demographic similarities (i.e., gender, immigration status) at Wave 1 to adolescents’ imitation and de-identification from parents at Wave 2. Findings revealed that adolescents who reported more parent–youth warmth reported more imitation and less de-identification. Also, adolescents who belonged to U.S.-raised dyads reported less de-identification. The second goal tested adolescents’ reports of imitation and de-identification as predictors of parent–youth cultural incongruence in Mexican and Anglo cultural orientations at Wave 3. Results indicated that more imitation was associated with less mother–youth Anglo incongruence and that more de-identification was associated with more father–youth Anglo and Mexican incongruence. The unique relationship dynamics of mother–youth and father–youth dyads and the implications for intervention programming focused on reducing cultural incongruence and increasing family cohesion are discussed.


Acculturation gap Adolescence Mexican-American Parent–adolescent relationships 



We are grateful to the families and youth who participated in this project, and to the following schools and districts who collaborated: Osborn, Mesa, and Gilbert school districts, Willis Junior High School, Supai and Ingleside Middle Schools, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Gregory, St. Francis Xavier, St. Mary-Basha, and St. John Bosco. We thank Susan McHale, Ann Crouter, Mark Roosa, Nancy Gonzales, Roger Millsap, Jennifer Kennedy, Leticia Gelhard, Sarah Killoren, Melissa Delgado, Emily Cansler, Lorey Wheeler, Shawna Thayer, Devon Hageman, Ji-Yeon Kim, Lilly Shanahan, Sue Annie Rodriguez, Kelly Davis, Anna Solmeyer, and Shawn Whiteman for their assistance in conducting this investigation. Funding was provided by NICHD Grants R01-HD39666 (Updegraff, PI) and R01-HD32336 (Ann C. Crouter and Susan M. McHale, Co-PIs) and by the Cowden Fund to the School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU.

Author contributions

NPB conceived the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; KU and AUT participated in the study design, interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norma J. Perez-Brena
    • 1
  • Kimberly A. Updegraff
    • 1
  • Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social and Family DynamicsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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