Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Migrant youth in NZ face daily struggle with identity

Ann An, 19, moved to New Zealand as a child with her parents from China - and still wakes up in the morning asking "who am I?"

"If I said I felt fully Chinese I would be lying, because I see myself more as a New Zealander," said the AUT University Communications student.

"I have a Singaporean step dad and a Chinese mum who both want me to carry on with heir ethnic values and identity, and I've got a bit of a culture clash".

For Miss An, balancing her parents' expectations and being like her Kiwi mates has been a daily struggle since primary school.

"In primary school, it's about what they put in my lunchbox, red bean buns and fried rice instead of sandwiches like what my non-Asian friends had," Miss An said.

"More recently it's boyfriends ... mum wants me to find a guy who's really smart, have a good background and a typical Asian, but that's not really me."

AUT Professor of Diversity Edwina Pio said migration had contributed to the number of young people here who face the challenge of "double transitions" into adulthood.

A forum at AUT on Thursday will discuss the issue of intergenerational relations between migrant youth and their parents.

According to figures released to the Herald by Immigration New Zealand, between 8652 and 9939 people aged 19 and under were granted permanent residency each year since 2011.

Last year, 9664 moved here mostly with parents, with the highest numbers coming from the Philippines (1142), China (1053) and Samoa (989).

Over the same period, Statistics New Zealand figures showed 107,583 children were born to fathers who were not born in New Zealand.

Among them, 12,576 babies were fathers born in the United Kingdom, 10,191 from China and and 8586 from Samoa.

"A key challenge confronting migrant children and their parents is the acculturation gap that develops between the generations over time," said Professor Pio, a keynote speaker on Thursday.

"For migrant adolescents, besides going through development transition, they move from one culture to another.

"Their position is therefore one of double-transition."

A panel of youth from different ethnic backgrounds will talk on Thursday about issues they face with their parents and how they resolve them.

Four in 10 Aucklanders, or 517,182, are born overseas, with the most common birthplace reported at the last Census was Asia, followed by the Pacific Islands and the United Kingdom.

Professor Pio said migrant parents generally suffer from a conflict between their fear of losing their children to the new culture and their aspirations for their children to have a better life.

"Immigrant parents may have strict parenting styles that for them reflect strong care, but in the host culture is perceived as being authoritarian," she said.

"Many young immigrants do not want to have to choose either/or for their cultural identity, but rather an overlapping and situational blend that works in defining who they are.

"Youth generally tend to identify more with their peers in their new country than their family ... this may lead to complicated relationships and negotiations with their parents."

Migrant youth

• 56,329 - aged 19 and under moved to NZ since 2011

• 107,583 - babies born to fathers who were not born in NZ

• 517,182 - Aucklanders are born overseas

(source: Immigration NZ, Statistics NZ)

- NZ Herald

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