Abstract: Uncovering the Parenting Practices of Mexican Immigrant Mothers (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

13262 Uncovering the Parenting Practices of Mexican Immigrant Mothers

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 9:15 AM
Pacific Concourse L (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Lorraine Moya Salas, PhD , Arizona State University, Lecturer, Phoenix, AZ
Purpose: This study explores the parenting practices of Mexican immigrant mothers. One in four children in the U.S. is an immigrant or has an immigrant parent. An estimated 32% of all immigrants are from Mexico with Mexican immigrant families facing higher rates of poverty than U.S born families (Garcia & Jensen, 2009). Socioeconomic barriers, anti-immigrant sentiment, and acculturation challenges place immigrants at risk for numerous social issues increasing the likelihood that families will come into contact with child welfare agencies. Yet, relatively little literature is available to guide practitioners in providing culturally grounded services to Mexican immigrant families. Research on ethnic parenting is inconclusive, has focused on families with social problems, and confounds economic factors with parenting practices (Garcia Coll, Meyer, & Brillon, 1995). Furthermore, despite the current emphasis on evidence-based programs, there are virtually no best practice programs designed specifically for Mexican immigrant parents. A few programs have been adapted and translated into Spanish but they do not address the unique challenges faced by immigrants such as acculturation issues and how to raise bicultural children in a society that expects assimilation (National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs, 2009). This study addresses this gap in the parenting literature.

Method: Repeated focus groups (10-sessions) were conducted with twelve Mexican immigrant mothers. A flexible interview schedule was utilized to promote reflection and dialogue about the mothers' experiences rearing children in a foreign land. Mothers were asked about the socialization practices of their parents, about the challenges they encounter parenting in the U.S, how they deal with barriers, and about their own parenting practices. Participants were from rural and urban areas of Mexico, half had been in the U.S. ten years or more, nine had seven or more years of education, and while all had children only three had adolescents. Data were analyzed using constructivist grounded theory methods: simultaneous collection and analysis of data, initial line by line coding, focused coding, and memo writing (Charmaz, 2006). To promote trustworthiness member checks were conducted and the mothers' feedback incorporated into the findings.

Results: Several themes emerged from the data including the mother's commitment to raising bicultural children. They wanted to instill cultural values in their children and also teach their children skills necessary for success in the new environment. They labored to raise children who did not lose a sense of themselves as Mexican while they accepted that their children were also American. Their stories revealed the parenting strategies of previous generations and how they modify these practices to deal with challenges in the host environment. Strategies included native language maintenance, verbal instruction, modeling, use of cultural stories, engaging children in traditions, and use of logical consequences.

Implications: This research provides rich information about the parenting practices of Mexican immigrants that can be used to create culturally grounded programs enabling child welfare practitioners to work more effectively with Mexican immigrant families. This study also demonstrates how immigrant mothers can successfully enculturate their children and assist them in adapting to the dominant culture.