Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.


Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.


The 1.5 Generation: Succeeding for the Family

by Tomoka Adachi

Among international immigrants, there are issues from family as well society, and those factors impact the 1.5 generation. Various external elements pressure each individual immigrant and help to develop the social life of immigrants in relation to the society, whether in the native country or the receiving countries.

Mostly, the social status in the home country is less significant when people migrate overseas. Social ties and qualified careers become less useful and less important in terms of the immigrant life in the host countries. There is a status shift for immigrants, especially the first generation, resulting in various forms which heavily affect the performance of the 1.5 generation. As a consequence, 1.5 generation children are under family pressure in terms of the parents’ expectations to have better performance and social success compared to native speakers.

I would like to take a personal experience to illustrate this problem. I am a 1.5 generation migrant to Japan. I migrated with my family right after I finished primary school. Even though my mother worked as a high school teacher for 15 years in the home country, she was working in the restaurant, shops and so on service-related sectors for part-time work, which are considered as lower-class jobs in Japan. Thus, I tend to push myself and want to improve Japanese language ability as soon as possible to cope with the school curricula.

There are mainly three reasons that drive me to think that way. The first reason is an acknowledgement of the sacrifice of my family members to fulfill my education and expenses in Japan. My parents are not only giving up their stable careers but also social status in the home country to migrate to Japan. This is an invisible and indirect pressure that has influenced me to take the responsibility to work harder on my school studies and activities outside of school to financially support the family.

The potential disadvantage as a foreigner in Japan is the second reason. Scholars have argued about the notion of ‘immigrant optimism’, in that Immigrant parents tend to have expectations about their children’s advance that are significantly higher than those of natives, or the working-class (Alba & Waters 2011). Although in Japan there are privileges as a foreigner, the 1.5 generation is not able to benefit from them. Sometimes they may even have a negative influence. Compared to my classmates, our starting line is different. I am disadvantaged in various means, such as a lack of language capability, social participation, access to the job market, and the possibility to enter university. Under this circumstance, I have been forced to take more effort to compete as a 1.5 generation migrant.

The limited education support and assistance in school is the third account I took. While I was in junior high school, it was tough for me to catch up with my academic studies because there were fewer learning directions and treatment by teachers to me as an international student. Thus, Japanese public schools, like their counterparts in other countries, continue to face the responsibility of preparing immigrant children for their futures in Japan (Moorehead 2013).

Overall struggles within the 1.5 immigrant generation are likely to be ignored, based on what is appeared on the surface.


Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Moorehead, R. (2013) “Separate and Unequal: The remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3.