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Unformatted text preview: Psychotherapy Volume 28/Spring 1991/Number 1 TRANSGENERATIONAL IMPACT OF THE JAPANESE- AMERICAN INTERNMENT: CLINICAL ISSUES IN WORKING WITH CHILDREN OF FORMER INTERNEES DONNA K. NAGATA Smith College The transgenerational effects of World War II Japanese-American internment on third-generation Japanese- Americans whose parents were interned are evaluated. Issues related to the impact of the internment are discussed. Strategies for eliciting internment- related themes are examined. The psychotherapeutic literature has paid in- creasing attention to the need for culturally sensitive interventions. Included among the recent publi- cations are those which highlight particular issues to be addressed when working with Asian and Asian-American clients (e.g., Chien & Yamamoto, 1982; Leong, 1986; Root, 1985; Sue & Morishima, 1982). This literature provides important infor- mation and guidelines for practicing clinicians. However, there is a significant degree of diversity between various Asian-American groups and it is critical that therapists recognize the unique socio- historical past of each group when treating a given client. For Japanese-Americans, the World War II re- moval and imprisonment of 120,000 men, women, and children by the United States government represents the most traumatic and salient episode of the past. Over 60 percent of those incarcerated were United States citizens. Despite this, the Jap- anese-Americans, both citizen and alien alike, were ordered into concentration camps presumably for fear that they presented a threat to national security. In reality, there was no evidence to support The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments and suggestions of Ann Yabusaki and Steven J. Trierweiler. Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Donna K . Nagata, Department of Psychology, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063. the need for this massive and racist military action (Commission on Wartime Relocation and Intern- ment of Civilians, 1982). No formal charges were ever brought against them nor did they have an opportunity for a trial of any kind. Often given less than a week's notice of their removal, the Japanese-Americans took only what they could carry and had to sell businesses, property and personal possessions for a fraction of their worth. Most were forced to move twice, first to temporary assembly centers located in animal stalls at horse tracks and fair grounds and later to the internment camps themselves in desolate areas of the interior. The Japanese-Americans lived an average of two to three years in the camps enclosed by barbed wire and armed guards. The trauma of the internment affected virtually all those who were interned (Mass, 1986; Mori- shima, 1973). In addition to the severe economic losses, Japanese-Americans suffered psycholog- ically from the indignity of being suspected of disloyalty and the harsh communal conditions im- posed upon them. Those who were second-gen- eration Japanese-Americans, the Nisei, felt es-...
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