Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Carol Stalker

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study investigates the developmental processes and outcomes of Canadian-Chinese adolescents in families who had immigrated from Hong Kong to the Toronto, Canada area between seven and fifteen years previously. In-depth qualitative interviews with nineteen adolescents, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, and ten parents were conducted between February and August 1997. The study's results describe the dynamic interplay of culture and migration that shapes the developmental processes and outcomes of adolescence in Canadian-Chinese Hong Kong immigrant families. The results also address the meanings constructed by the parents and the adolescents as a result of their experiences. Studies show that the current wave of Hong Kong immigrants are middle-class professionals who migrated to Canada to achieve democratic, social, and economic security, in response to the perceived political threat resulting from the imminent return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. In their accounts of their reasons for migration, the parent respondents revealed that they were motivated by the desire to provide their children with a foreign passport and better education opportunities. Migration, therefore, has been connoted as the parents' sacrifice for a better future for their children. As a result, adolescents have a strong sense of indebtedness and try their best to repay this debt. The concept of bao, (reciprocity) thus serves as the basis for parent-adolescent relationship and as a guide for their interaction. A "not grown up forever" theme emerged from the participants' construction of adolescent development. It reflects the traditional Chinese construction of adolescence as a continuation of childhood in which parents still guide, teach, coach, and monitor their children, and adolescents still accept and respect their parents' wishes, and remain "not grown up" and dependent. The informants' reliance on this construction reflects the influence of the Chinese perception of human development and the hierarchical parent-child relationship in Chinese immigrant families. The findings also indicate that Chinese parents and adolescents co-construct the dominant theme of "covert parental control" in the adolescent development process. "Covert control," in this context, refers to a form of parenting characterized by parental guidance, family teaching, coaching, and monitoring. Parents, through "tact" and "skills," successfully influence and guide their children. Children, motivated by their sense of indebtedness and the benefit they gain from being a dependent, reinforce their parents' covert control and the indigenous concept of guar: in Chinese parenting practice. The ideal outcome of adolescent development, as reflected in the narratives of the informants, is a "self in relational networks." The migration experience of being "uprooted" and the traditional Chinese perception of the self, which is a self that is organized and developed in the context of relationships (guanxi), contribute to the "self in relational network" construction. According to Canadian-Chinese immigrant parents and adolescents, the expected developmental outcome of adolescence is a "self" that is appropriately positioned in the relational networks. The findings of this study reveal a Chinese conception of adolescent development in the context of culture and migration.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season