Special Feature: Immigrant Parents' Concerns Regarding Their Children's Education in the United States

Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal 05/2009; 37(4):422 - 441. DOI: 10.1177/1077727X08330671


A growing body of research suggests that as immigrant families assimilate into U.S. culture, their children's academic achievements and aspirations decline. This article explores possible reasons for this finding from the perspective of immigrant parents from Eastern European countries whose children attend U.S. schools. In-depth, qualitative interviews are conducted with 50 married mothers and fathers who hold professional-status employment. The data are analyzed using open and axial coding approach and three central, recurring themes emerge: (a) Parental Influences: “Education is a must…. The sky is the limit”; (b) The Educational System: “Parental guidance and resources are required”; and (c) Sociocultural Influences: “Everything here is about making money…. But what about our children'” Supporting, illustrative narratives are presented in connection with each theme to explain the perspectives of these immigrant parents on their children's schooling in the United States, and to add other tentative factors for further research into the decline of the children's academic achievement and aspirations with longer residence in the United States. Implications for family and consumer scientists are presented.

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    • "The longer period that rural migrant children reside in a city, the more positive effects of the improved educational resources in the city can be seen (Lin, Fang et al., 2009;Xu, 2012). For immigrant students in Western countries, as suggested by the Accommodated-without-Assimilating theory (Gibson, 1988), immigrants with shorter durations of residence adapt to new environments by selectively absorbing " the good way of the native culture; " their parents also discourage their children's interactions with the native peers to shield them from negative, risky behaviors that may be adopted in the new environment (Gibson, 1988;Nesteruk, Marks, & Garrison, 2009). First-generation and second-generation immigrant students have different durations of residence in a host country, and researchers from Western countries investigated the disparate impact of school immigrant composition on the two groups (Brännström, 2008;Okamoto et al., 2013). "

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    ABSTRACT: The present study examines the experiences of 50 immigrant mothers and fathers from Eastern European countries raising children in the United States. Qualitative analysis of in-depth personal interviews resulted in three themes related to: (1) issues of discipline and decline of parental authority; (2) opportunities to build a child’s self-esteem and confidence; and (3) a need to balance and integrate two cultures. This study illustrates the process of negotiation between two cultures that immigrant parents engage in and provides support for integration as an acculturation strategy. Narratives of immigrant parents demonstrate that they are changing their childrearing practices to give their children more choices and allow children more power in the family, while, at the same time, trying to maintain their authority and discipline. As a result of exposure to the host culture, these immigrant parents also report placing greater value on developing their children`s self-esteem and assertiveness as important qualities for successful adaptation to the new context. While selectively adopting new childrearing values and strategies, these parents report retaining some attitudes and practices from their original cultures in order to keep their children grounded in reality. Participants` quotes provide rich descriptions of their experience of parenting in immigration and contribute to our understanding of the cultural factors guiding their childrearing decisions. This study may be useful to researchers and practitioners working with immigrants.
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