Abstract: Raising Bicultural Asian Indian Children: Strengths and Challenges Faced By Bicultural Families (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

334P Raising Bicultural Asian Indian Children: Strengths and Challenges Faced By Bicultural Families

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hermeet Kohli, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
Caroline Shanti, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
Paula Gerstenblatt, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME
Background and purpose:

Asian Indians are immigrants who are from or trace their ancestry to India. There is a dearth of research specific to strengths and challenges of Asian Indian families in the U.S.. This paper is a first step toward filling that gap through exploring the experiences of eight families currently living in southern Maine while raising bicultural children. The purpose of this study was to examine the strengths and challenges faced by parents when raising bicultural children where one parent identifies as Asian Indian.


Eight in-depth semi-structured interviews explored specific concerns, strengths of, and challenges faced by biracial families (where one parent is an Asian Indian) and their children when dealing with the complex issues of identity, parenting, and sociocultural interactions. The sample was primarily female (75%) and all the spouses of the Asian Indian participants identified as Caucasians.  The Asian Indian participants identified as: Christian (2), Hindu (4), and Sikh (2), and their partners identified as Christian (6), and Jewish (2). Participants were recruited using snowball sampling, which was begun through the lead Primary Investigator contacting individuals in her own local community. Interviews, conducted in locations selected by participants and averaging 40-60 minutes), explored experiences of families as described above. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using phenomenology.


All the participants shared that the biggest strength when raising biracial children was the ongoing opportunities their children had to immerse in two diverse cultures simultaneously.  It provided their children with not only exposure to diverse cultural and religious traditions, but also enabled them to understand, reflect upon, and interpret cultural expectations in both the cultural groups. All the participants highlighted that both Indian and Caucasian worldviews were incorporated in their daily lives.  This also put their children at an advantage as they were able to better fit in with the dominant perspectives than were their peers with both parents of Asian Indian origin.

Despite these strengths, all participants touched upon their various struggles when raising biracial children, primarily that it takes huge effort to integrate both cultures in their everyday life.  Their children struggled to fit into both the cultural groups, as they were not able to relate 100% of either one. Their children encountered anxiety and self-esteem issues as they continue to develop their racial identities and interfaced racism and ongoing discrimination in the school system and the community.

Conclusions and Implications:

The parents’ experience raising their biracial children in one of the whitest states in the U.S. was a lonely one. Overall, parents reported their children experiencing constant social pressures to fit in one or the other cultural group.  They were constantly subject to discrimination and racism at school and in the community because they were biracial. They faced struggles fitting in to the Caucasian group if they didn’t look white enough to pass as being White. The interviewees provide recommendations for human service professionals serving this hidden cultural group that are discussed in depth in this paper.