Sociocultural Context and Family Functioning (*)

Family can be defined as an organized, dynamic, natural, and social system with critical dimensions for psychosocial analysis such as structure, functions, and influence (Winch, 1963). As an ongoing living and developing system, family members are essentially interconnected and tied to one another by powerful, durable, reciprocal, emotional attachments, and loyalties that may fluctuate in intensity over time but nevertheless persist over the lifetime of the family. Similarly, as an interdependent network of individual forces, the family relates and reacts as a unified whole, a whole that transcends the sum of its separate elements. The family’s interdependence and mutual influence goes beyond what family members do and say to each other when they are together. It also includes the family member’s attitudes and dispositions as well as the patterns of activity that family members engage in when they are apart (Houston & Rempel, 1989).
According to family life cycle theory, family systems must continually adapt to the individual development of its members. Since much of the individual development is incremental, little substantive change in the family is required; rather the simple addition or deletion of behaviors is adequate. In contrast, major developmental thrusts and unexpected circumstances, which usually require a transformation of the status of family members, demand a new repertoire of behavioral sequences, and subsequently require the emergency of a new structural organization. Therefore, a key to adaptive family functioning is the ability to shift internally to accommodate intra- and extra-familiar pressures, while simultaneously maintaining the continuity essential to family cohesion and individual security. In sum, family functioning requires a range of patterns of behavior that can be mobilized for new operations but also requires flexibility to develop alternative patterns of behavior that can be incorporated in time of crisis without disorganization.
Another important dimension of family theory is the concept of family boundaries that represents the “perimeter” of the family. Family boundaries hold together the components that make up the family system, protect them from outside stresses, and control the flow of matter, energy, and information to and from the system itself (Miller, 1978). If boundaries are too permeable, the system loses its integrity and identity. If boundaries are too impermeable, the system is cut off and isolated.
In conclusion, the nature of the family life could be seen as dynamic, fluid, interactional, with members constantly working to achieve the desired ends in the context of ever-changing and emerging family-related values (Mace & Mace, 1978).

Family Internal Organization as a Response to the Sociocultural Context
An understanding of the functioning of any family requires attention be given to the environment in which the family interacts. This includes the neighborhood, peer groups, church, school, and workplace that touch family members directly, as well as the larger political, governmental, and economic situations.
Every family belongs to a defined cultural community by identifying itself with a common group as set off by race, religion, nationality, or by some mixture of these categories that serve as social-psychological referents and create, through historical circumstances, a sense of peoplehood (Gordon, 1964). Consequently, every family is interwoven in a continuous interchange with its own economic and sociocultural environment to accomplish its universal functions or tasks (Bronfenbrenner, 1986).
The family’s four universal functions or tasks are: (a) the function of replacement or reproduction; (b) the function of position conferring by introducing the new member into the ethnic and cultural larger societal group to which the family belongs; (c) the parentifying function–fulfillment of basic physiological and psychological survival needs through nurturance, emotional gratification, and support; and (d) the socialization/enculturation of the offsprings so they can qualify as full members of society (Winch, 1977, p. 108).
Ideally, the relationship between the family and its sociocultural environment involves mutuality and reciprocity, social articulation, and recognition, so it can create a sense of belonging and of historical continuity for the family and its members. The environment should provide the protection, security, support, and supplies that will enhance family functioning. Therefore, when these resources are inadequate, the results may be stress and conflict within the family and failure in the individual development of its members.
The way in which a family is organized is determined by the way people make their living, that is, by the mode(s) of subsistence and the related technology (Winch, 1977). Consequently, in response to its sociocultural environment, all families develop some type of internal structure that serves as the family’s organizational framework. This framework is a manifestation of the values of the cultural group to which the family belongs and is responsible for developing culturally typical procedures and relationships that will make it possible for the family to achieve its goals and actualize its potential. Family structure can be defined as the set of rules, roles, power distribution, specific forms of communicating, and ways of negotiating and problem solving. The interactions that define the internal organization of every familial group also serve to maintain the integrity and balance of the family system as a whole.
Some characteristics of the family structure are: (a) it gives to each family its identity, unity, and stability; (b) it regulates and facilitates family members’ psychosocial development, and family members’ coping mechanisms to deal effectively with stress, as well as facilitates family fulfillment of its own tasks as a family; and (c) in the presence of external stress or unexpected crisis, the family structure develops and arranges itself into a functional group to jointly perform family-related functions, preserve the family values, and transmit their behaviors.
Finally, since family structures as an adaptive response of the family to the sociocultural system and to the historical circumstances in which it is embedded, it is expected that family structure changes its power structure, rules, and role relationships in response to situational and developmental stress (Olson, Russell, & Sprenkle, 1983).

(*) This article is based on the Qualitative Study of the Acculturative Process of Immigrant Hispanic Parents. Marquez (2000). Doctoral Dissertation.

Academic English Language Program

This specific initiative was designed to provide English as a Second Language classes to the Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners (LCDL) of an elementary school. Language and Cultural Diverse Learners are those students whose home languages are not English, whether they are immigrant or native born. Those students were placed in a Bilingual Education class. The ultimate goal of the Bilingual class was “to provide a comprehensive instruction in the content areas of the school curriculum”, while “the goal of the content-based language learning period was primarily, to master the English language” (Castro Feinberg, 2002, p.6).

Review of relevant literature on this topic highlights these two studies. Castro Feinberg (2002) noticed that over the past two decades researchers with professional standing in the field of language education have studied how long it takes to develop the more complex level of language proficiency needed for academic use have concluded that for students at the k-12 level, social and survival skills are not sufficient to enable English language learners to meet required standards in the content areas (p. 10). Its consequences are described by Macias (1998) who reviewed different state educational reports to conclude that Limited English Proficiency students are more prone to be retaineed, dropped of school, and score below state norms in math, science and social studies.

Objective of the Program

The overall goal of this initiative is the development of “academic English language” (Cummins, 1981) necessary to achieve competence to support learning in both regular bilingual and later monolingual English classes. During the first phase of this initiative, the principal goal was English language acquisition by providing formal instruction in English language skills, with emphasis on developing the writing skills, for two consecutive periods five days of the week.

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (BSPTS) refers to the overall objective of this program as “th as e development of English as a New Language”.


  • Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners wwew tested at the beginning of the school year with the district-wide selected instrument which determines not only language dominance but also the oral, writing and reading levels of English Language Proficiency -non, limited, competent. Those students who do not reach the limited level in the test received comprehensive input in English through English as a Second Language classes for two consecutive learning periods five days a week.
  • While Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners were receiving English as a Second Language classes their bilingual peers placed in the bilingual classes were receiving two consecutive periods in Communications.
  • Both, Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners and bilingual students eeceived together a third period of communications every day, five days a week. This period of Communications was taught in English following the principles of “Sheltered Instruction”. Sheltered Instruction communicates meaning by presenting concepts in contextually rich environments; for example, with pictures, graphs, charts, maps, and models. Hands-on activities and cooperative learning (in-class projects in which students discuss the content while they work with it) augmented the impact of visual aids on the development of higher-order thinking skills and study strategies. It is, this third period provided content-area instructions, at grade level, that students who had not yet mastered English can understand and use to promote their English language development.
  • Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners as well as bilingual students received the rest of the academic subjects following the accepted routine of the bilingual setting: (a) by teaching in English and translating into Spanish only when it is needed, and/or (b) by providing instruction parallel to facilitate the transfer of concepts learned in the home-language and supporting and promoting the commands acquired in the English as a Second Language classes.
  • These Linguisticallt and Culturally Diverse Learners faced formidable obstacles to learn the content material, at grade level, while also learning English. Consequently, the principles of Sheltered Instruction discussed previously were applied always again and again.
  • In English as a Second Language classes, the English language was the object and the means of instruction. The English as a Second Language Standards for Pre-K-12 students emphasize the foundational function of language as a tool by which other subjects are acquired. The English as a Second Language standards are organized around these three goals: using English to communicate in social settings; using English to achieve academically in all content areas; and using English in culturally appropriate ways (TESOL, 2001). The English as a Second Language curriculum included the skills involved in English language acquisition for academic purposes: listening, speaking, reading and writing. This Program emphasized learning materials and experiences organized around the structure of language, or grammar.
  • Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners received one weekly 37 minutes class of Spanish as part of the Whole Language Program. Their participation in this home-language course was based on evidences from research which emphasized that high literacy achievement in the home-language is associated with high achievement in second-language learning.
  • The achievement in English as a Second Language of every Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners placed in the Academic English Language Program was measured at the end of every marking period using the Bilingual Verbal Abilities Tests (BVAT), created by Ana F. Muñoz Sandoval, Jim Cummins, Griselda G. Alvarado, and Mary L. Ruef and published by Riverside Publishing.

Exit from the Program:

Limited review of literature in the area of Second Language acquisition determined that the development of academic language requires from four to seven years of instruction. For example, Cummins’ research (1981) with immigrant second-language learners in Canada concluded that it takes from five to seven years or more for these students to reach grade-level norms; Collier’s (1987) analysis of the tests scores of English-Language learners led to the conclusion that four to eight years of study are needed. Thomas and Collier (1997) of the Center for Research in Education, Diversity & Excellence found that the amount of instructional time needed to become sufficiently proficient for academic purposes is from four to seven years (CREDE, 1998). Finally, Hakuta, Butler, and Witt (2000) reported that it takes from four to seven years to develop the ability to use language that is needed for long-term success in school.

An important factor to consider is not only the in-school efforts but also the our-of school support for English Language acquisition. In that regard, Marquez (2000) noticed how the recent immigrants to the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area remain closely connected with different ethnic clubs, ethnic churches, social committees, or ethnic organizations that work together to maintain Spanish language and ethnic traditions. In all the five towns where the sample for the qualitative study was taken, more than half or its inhabitants were Hispanics and Spanish was part of the daily living of the community-hospitals, banks, stores, travel agencies, mass media, etc. Two of the five mayors were Hispanics, and in the five towns there was at least one city councilman who was Hispanic. In addition, the responses obtained in this study revealed that other social institutions such as bodegas, beauty-parlors, newspapers, radio stations, theaters, churches, schools, and other ethnic organizations in general continually provide parents with a Hispanic cultural framework of values and and behaviors socially accepted by both Anglo-Americans and Hispanics This sample and findings also illustrate what was happening in the district where this program was developed, and probably can be found in different educational districts throughout the United States.

At the end of the academic course, all the Linguistically and culturally Diverse Learners were evaluated using the same Proficient instrument used at the beginning of the academic course. Only those students who reached the competence level on this instrument exited the Academic English Language Program.

Psycho-educational intervention for both Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners and their parents:

The psycho-educational part of this intervention was directed to the informal discussion of the history and culture of their own ethnic group and of the history and culture of the United States. The purpose of this informal discussion was to contribute to the development of students; sense of bi-cultural pride as well as their bi-cultural sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Using the home culture as a reference point for teaching the culture of the United States also “applies the pedagogical principle of using what the students know as a means to aid new learning” (CastroFeinberg, 2002, p. 18).

In addition these students attended eigth group sessions of “culturally sensitive” counseling. During these sessions students got amiliarize with cultural differences and their impact on their learning and behavioral difficulties, a positive by-product of these interventions was the improvement of students’ assertive behaviors.

In addition, the parents were invited to attend four group sessions. The first session provided opportunities to discuss., clarify, vent and alleviate the psycho-socio-cultural stresses associated with immigration and acculturation in order to improve their socio-emotional adjustment and the quality of life at home (Clark, 1983).

The next three sessions provided culturally sensitive parent enrichment programs on child rearing practices, negotiation and decision making skills, cultural values differences, and child cognitive development.

Program evaluation

The Academic Language Program was evaluated during the last month of the academic year using the comparison of scores obtained by each one of the students at the end of the every marking period.

A second instrument selected to measure students progress was the Bilingual Verbal Abilities Tests (BVAT) created by Ana F. Muñoz Sandoval, Jim Cummins, Griselda G. Alvarado, and Mar L. Ruef and published by Riverside Publishing. This instrument is intended for measuring bilingual verbal ability, or the unique combination of cognitive/academic language abilities possessed by bilingual individuals in English and in another language. This test was selected based in the fact that bilingual students know some things in one language, some things in another language, and some things in both languages. Traditional procedures only allow the student’s language ability to be measured in one language, usually the one considered to be dominant.


Castro-Feinberg, R. 2002. Bilingual Education: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Center for Research on Excellence and Diversity in Education (CREDE). 1998. Findings on the effectiveness of bilingual education. Talking Leaves 2,No. 3, (Summer).

Clark, R.M. (1983). Family life and school achievement: Why poor black children succeed or fail. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Collier, V. (1987). Age and rate of acquisition of second language for academic purposes. TESOL Quarterly, 21, No. 4, December.

Cummins, J. 1981. Age on arrival and immigrant secobnd language learning in Canada. A reassessment. Applied Linguistics, 11, No. 2.

Hakuta, K., Y. Butler, and D. Witt, January 2000. How long does it take English learners to attain proficiency? Polocy Report 2001, University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute (Online). Available: Long.pdf

Macias, R. 1998. Summary report of the survey of the states’ limited English proficient students and available educational programs and services 1996-1997. The SEA Report. Washington, DC: Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.

Marquez, G. 2000. Qualitative Study of the Acculturative Process followed by Immigrant Hispanic Families. Doctoral Dissertation. Fordham University. Unpublished.

Teachers of English to Speakers of other Language, Inc. (TESOL). 2001. The ESL standards for pre-K-12 students: Table of Contents. Alexandria, VA: Author. (Online)

Thomas, W. & V. Collier, 1997. School effectiveness for language minority students. NCBE Resource Collections Series, No. 9. Washington, D.C. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. (Online).

Immigrant Hispanic Families in Cultural Transition (*)

Gurak and Kritz (1984) found two competing conceptual frameworks in the study of the relationship between family and acculturation. One proposes that the migrant person with close family ties in the receiving community will be less likely to seek out support networks, information, and activities with non-immigrants in the host community because the closeness and mutual dependence within the family serve to insulate the migrant from the extra-familial world. The other one affirms that the presence of relatives facilitates the migrant’s initial adjustment process in the host community, in that such familial support fosters the migrant’s reaching out to the extrafamilial world.
Although immigrant Hispanic families must be involved in a process of internal modification to answer the demands of the host society, they too have to insure a sense of continuity with their own home culture and tradition. Thus the family has to regain its social articulation and sense of pertinence and recognition in the mainstream culture of the host society without losing the historical connection with their own ethnic roots. Consequently, immigrant Hispanic families are within two different cultural environments, while they are working out a path from one culture to the other.
As happens with individual immigrant persons, the transition of progressive change of immigrant Hispanic families from one cultural set to the other is possible only through the cumulative interaction between the families and both cultures. Similarly, during the transition from one culture to the other, these immigrant families need to do selective adaptations over and over again, and they also need to undergo processes of differentiation in order to make healthy decisions and choices for their accommodation to the new socioeconomic and cultural context.
The normal changes and stresses (as well as the reactions and disruptions in family patterns that arise as a consequence) bring about a systematic need for these families to restructure, reintegrate, and realign so as to meet the needs of its members before, during, and after the event of migration from one culture to the other. Moreover, where the stresses are extreme and the support systems of the family are insufficient, severe crisis frequently results. In addition, the lack of resolution of these transitional issues and the unresolved transitional conflicts may lead to dysfunction in the family system.
The need for restructuring is particularly important because it is within the family and/or with its support that the individual family members will develop the inner balance necessary to relate to the new culture (that demands adjustment and change) without losing their cultural identity and traditional roots.
Immigrant Hispanic families also experience a shift from an extended family in their homeland that provided a social network and emotional support to a nuclear family. Some immigrant women acquire better status through the opportunities for employment and education and consequently, tend to acculturate faster than men. This specific situation also fosters the opportunity to develop greater independence and husbands become upset by their wives’ ready acceptance of their new gender roles and by the challenge to their patriarchal authority (Espin, 1987).
In addition to the conflicts arising between husband and wife, there are also intergenerational conflicts. In the process of acculturation and the learning of English, Hispanic children in the United States acquire values and attitudes that could be different from those of their parents. The differences between the family’s child-rearing practices and their children’s newly acquired set of values lead to chronic unresolved conflicts within the family. When these intergenerational differences arise, the parents experience alienation from their highly acculturated children, and the children, in turn, experience alienation from their poorly acculturated parents.
In an effort to cope with these differences, the parents attempt to restrict the process of acculturation in their children. However, such attempts could either (a) further alienate the youngsters from family interactions and the values of the parents’ culture, precipitating a rejection of the parental lifestyle and a fuller adherence to the behavior characteristics of the host culture; or (b) some become marginalized–belonging to neither group–and eventually may become outcasts.
The differential rates of acculturation across generations of family members not only have impact on the nuclear but also on the extended family members as well. For immigrant Hispanic grandparents the exposure to stressors such as loss of country, in some cases loss of status, as well as failure to adjust to the new environment due to the lack of knowledge of the language and United States ways, result in anxiety, depression, withdrawal, despair, meaninglessness, anomie, and loss of a sense of purpose in life (Szapocznik & D. Santisteban, 1977).

As Baptiste (1987) has stated, immigrant families were unaware that migration and acculturation would be an stressful experience that could result in family conflicts. Furthermore, since the conflicts often occurred after a lapse of time (for some families as much as five years) following their arrival in the United States, most families tended not to ascribe any importance to the move itself as having contributed to their problems. (p. 237)

It is only when individual family members start to experience the lack of skills necessary to cope adequately with adaptation to the new culture that symptoms of maladaptive behaviors and family disorganization appear, and they begin to recognize the stressful nature of the migratory experience as well as the cumulative impact on them as members of immigrant families (Sluzki, 1979). However, Sluzki also stated that a countless number of people manage to break away from their basic support networks, sever ties with places and people, and transplant their base, their nest, their life projects, their dreams, and their ghosts.
In conclusion, migration can produce family disorganization (Gurak & Kritz, 1984) and the likelihood of persistent handicaps in its members due to language barriers, lack of knowledge of rules and regulations, limited financial means, and lack of adequate reference groups. In addition, the continual interaction that immigrant families have with both environments and the short- and long-term consequences of such interactions pose a challenge for research of the nature of these dialectic and transactional influences.


(*) This article is part of the Chapter II of the Study of the Acculturative Process of Immigrant Hispanic Families (2000). Doctoral Dissertation.

Hispanic Cultural Patterns (*)

Bernal, Knight, Ocampo, Garza, and Cota (cited by Casas and Pytluk, 1995), stated that based on a small but growing body of literature, the nature and degree of Hispanic ethnic identity play a very important part in the way Hispanics manifest their ethnic culture on a daily basis. Marin and Marin (1991) summarized evidence about Hispanics from a variety of sources and proposed that they are characterized by high levels of interdependence, conformity, and a readiness to sacrifice for the welfare of in-group members. Individual self-assertion, competitiveness, and aggressiveness are discouraged.

Similarly, honesty, respect, and the individual’s sense of honor are grounded in the concept of dignity (dignidad) which means inner worth. Personal dignity is not equated with achievement or success, but with the individual’s self-respect which originates from accepting one’s role in life and fulfilling that role to the best of one’s capacity. Hispanics are said to give importance to personal ties (personalismo) by avoiding conflict in interpersonal situations; consequently their social behaviors promote smooth and pleasant social situations (simpatía) so they can maintain their own personal respect (respeto). Hispanic children are taught to respect authority, whether familial or institutional.

Hispanics are people of faith–they have a strong belief in the existence of a higher being and the need to follow prescribed formal practices to worship this being. However, their religiosity exhibited marked features of cultural fatalism (form of existentialism expressed in a tendency to take life as it comes with a “resigned” mind set), as well as external focus of control (luck, supernatural powers, God). Religious leaders are viewed as substitute parents; therefore, they must be respected and obeyed.

However, since Hispanic culture is an aggregate of distinct subcultures, these descriptors are not equally shared by all Hispanic groups and/or by individuals in these groups. Furthermore, because of their dispersion and mixing with both mainstream American culture and with other ethnic groups in the United States, Hispanic ethnic culture is not a discrete entity but rather part of a diverse cultural mix (Szapocznik & Kurtines, 1993). Thus, due to this heterogeneity, cultural blending, and cultural change, it is not clear whether particular individuals or samples actually reflect the culture they are thought to represent.

Preeminence of the Family
The discussion of family is particularly important in Hispanic culture.

The importance of the centrality of family in terms of feelings of loyalty, reciprocity, and familism for Hispanics has been documented as a distinct and enduring characteristic among Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Central and South Americans. (J. M. Rodriguez & Kosloski, 1998, p. 376). Family orientation or familism encompasses such things as feelings of mutual obligation, reciprocity, and solidarity toward one’s family members.

Literature and cultural traditions show that the family has always been the heart and soul for Hispanics, the primary social security system, caring for its members from birth to death. External interference in this process is still viewed as crippling the family’s honra (honor).

The individual is primarily responsible to the immediate and extended family network, which has established clearly defined roles and expectations for all members. Children are precious and to be enjoyed. Elders are respected and to be obeyed. Family hierarchy delineates the status of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, etc. Reliance and compliance with family roles and goals have fostered the image of docile, dependent Hispanic women. The compadrazco system includes comrades y compadres who may or may not be blood relations. Compadres earn their position in the family through friendship, godparenting at the baptism or confirmation, or by being a best man or maid of honor in a wedding.

The family network demands an ardent sense of commitment to the family and an intense obligation and responsibility to the family network (Garcia-Preto, 1982; Rogler & Cooney, 1984), especially by feeling solidarity with those who have problems or bad times and even by fulfilling for them their family duties and obligations. Parental or compadrazco disapproval should be sufficient to promote behavioral changes in offspring. The opinions of others and vergüenza (shame) are the best forms of social control. The rewards of belonging to the family group are manifested through warmth, gregariousness, affection, generosity, expressiveness, intimacy, hospitality, support, and cooperation. In sum, Hispanic family kinship is the basic relationship and the primary socialization agent, especially for teaching obedience and discipline.

Research on familism values among Hispanics after migration and in relationship with the process of acculturation presents contrasting results. Vega (1990) did a selective review of literature covering the period of 1980 until early 1990, and concluded: (a) there is a tendency to participate in relatively large kin networks and to engage in high rates of visiting and exchange; (b) although there is a consensus regarding the family as the dominant source of advice and help in all generations, differences were found on the topic of the family as the resource for dealing with problems; and (c) non-Hispanics migrate away from kin networks while Hispanics migrate toward them. Relationships between expressed values and actual behaviors cannot be precisely understood without taking heed of how interpersonal transactions occur in the process of daily living. Some familial interactions may be instrumental, others may be symbolic, while others may be inescapable. (p. 1019).

Marin (1993) and Sabogal, Marin, and Otero-Sabogal (1987) have identified three dimensions on familism, as follows: (a) familial obligations, that is, the perceived obligations, to provide material and emotional support to the members of the extended family; (b) support from family, which is the perceived support from relatives to solve problems; and (c) family as referents, which is the perception of relatives as behavioral and attitudinal references. Their empirical findings indicated that Hispanics, which includes Mexican, Cubans, and Central Americans, scored significantly higher than did non-Hispanic Whites on all three dimensions of familism. J. M. Rodriguez and Kosloski (1998) examined the relationship between acculturation and familism in a sample of 182 Hispanics of Puerto Rican descent. For two dimensions of familism (familial obligations and support from relatives), acculturation was positively related to familism; for the other dimension (family referents), the relationship was nonsignificant.

Finally, Negy and Woods (1992a) observed that findings are not uniform, and additional research is necessary to clarify these complex issues.
This article is part of the Chapter II, of the Qualitative Study of the Acculturative Process of Immigran Hispanic Families, Doctoral Dissertation of the author.

Comprehensive and Culturally Sensitive Program in Response to the needs of Immigrant and First Generation Hispanic Children and their Parents (*)


The processes of migration and acculturation experienced by immigrant Hispanic students and their parents have been the topic of interest to a great number of investigators in recent years, specially in the states of California, Florida and New York. In these states during the last two decades there has been a steady influx of Hispanic, Haitian, South Asian, and other ethnoculturally diverse families. It is very probable that the social institutions more affected by these changing demographics are the private and public schools that have received and continue to receive the children of those immigrant families. For these families the school has had to perform an extraordinaly different role, that of serving as “an intersection between the home culture and the mainstream American culture” (Provenzo, 1985, p.iii).

Whether migration is voluntary or involuntary, it constitutes an “uprooting” experience when immigrant persons need to interrupt their personal histories, sever their social ties, and later begin the formation of new relationships in a foreign environment. Hence both processes, migration and acculturation, often creates confusion and disorganization for individual members as well as for the whole family (Ho, 1987).

The review of relevant literature suggested that after migration takes place, the newly arrived persons must face and experience a psychosocial process of adjustment to the new setting. Throughout this process immigrant persons move through several phases while they undergo behavioral and attitudinal changes and modifications at different levels of functioning (Padilla, 1980). Moreover, this acculturative process of learning (Marin, 1992) resulting from the day-to-day mutual contact and communication of immigrant persons with both native and host cultures (Kim, 1988).

In conclusion, the adaptive process of cultural transition involves

  • (a) becoming knowledgeable of the language, norms, and values of the new culture; and
  • (b) readjusting to a new system of values by modifying behaviors and attitudes, and by relinquishing some old customs, beliefs, and behaviors.

In that sense, acculturation can be conceptualized as the path that facilitates the movement from one cultural system to another. For Hispanics, this transition is particularly demanding because of difference of values, religious practices, language, political system, and other social attributes.

To understand the importance and the effects of those changes on the immigrant family, at least two very complex situations requires attention.

  • The social sciences suggest that every family is involved in a continuous interchange with its economic and sociocultural environment to accomplish its universal functions or tasks (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). Consequently, the cultural values and ethnicity of the family not only mediates these interactions with the external world but they also define the family structure and internal organization of its values, ways of communication and behaviors (Ho, 1987).
  • By the same token, either through generalized learning in a particular milieu or as a result of specific instruction and training, parents teach their children -through language, rituals, customs, habits, roles, and ethnocultural modes of behavior- how to live together in their immediate environment (Rodriguez & Vila, 1982).

Consequently, the migration experience may interupt and ruptures the continuity of the family interactions with its environment as well as their socio-cultural parenting experiences.

Sluzki (1979) suggested that the family passes through five stages during the process of migration and adjustment to the new setting. According to Sluzki each of these stages “has distinctive characteristics, triggers different types of family coping mechanisms, and unchains different types of conflicts and symptoms” (p. 380). Siomilarly, each stage presents a unique set of crisis and challenges that the family must negotiate and to which the family system has to adapt. Throughout the transition from one cultural environment to the other, immigrant families give up roles and ways of functioning that do not fit with the new cultural values of their immediate environment and adapt to those demanded by the new society (Eisenstadt, 1955). A number of changes and modifications help the immigrant family

  • to continue being the matrix of its members’ psychological development (Minuchin, 1974), and
  • to accommodate to the different cultural requests and challenges.

It should not be assumed that immigrant Hispanic families migrate in a planned fashion or at optimal moments. An extensive number of Hispanic immigrants saw their nuclear families broken when individual family members began their migratory journey one by one, leaving behind the resources and support of their own family systems. The resulting membership change within every fragmented familt bring the need for each family (both here and there) to restructure its roles, functions and transactions. Moreover, since individual family members migrate at different points of the family life cycle, when the nuclear family is finally reunited, each one of the family members may have different definitions of themselves and of their family’s internal organization. Of course, the effects of these disruptive changes and interruptions vary, depending on the inner resources of each specific family, its strength, and its previous history and ability to adjust to stressful situations without falling into disruption.

F inally, review of literature revealed that one of the most far-reaching effect that acculturation has on the immigrant family is the increased instability and disorganization within family structure.

Immigrant Children Within the Elementary Schools.

In many educational districts of the United States immigrant Hispanic children as well as first generation Hispanic children constitute the majority of the student body. This Hispanic presence has been recognize during the past years, and also it has been predicted that this presence will continue to outnumber other racial and ethnic groups (2000 Census Report).

The informal assessment of those immigrant children shows that they are coming from a variety of racial, ethnic, and educational as well as socio-economic backgrounds. There are three generation family network with diffuse boundaries, families who came from rural areas who have to face the stress of living in rubanized neighborhoods, high risk families due to unemployment and underemployment, single parent families, ethnic blended families, overcrowded apartments hosting more than one family as well as other relatives, undocumented families, and so on.

Rutter (1980) said that a single stressful situation/ experience typically carries no appreciable psychosocial risk for children. However, when children are exposed to multiple stress situations the adverse effects usually multiplies. Review of relevant literature found that culturally different children wxhibit relatively weak self-concept in their answers to direct questions about how they perceive themselves, and also about how they think others perceive them. As a result, usually they set goals for themselves that are less in line with their actual potential. Secondly, culturally different children appear to be more vulnerable to peer pressure that other children and less independent in their perceptions and behaviors.

Tharp (1989) stated these important variables to consider when working with minority children: educational frustration, language development, context instruction, social organization and motivation. In addition, culturally different children experience academic stress usually related to learning a new language -even when a child has learned the conversational aspects of the second language, it may take him/her five years, on the average, to learn the aspects of language related to cognitive functioning.

While researchers agree that children from different family backgrounds can acquire basic school skills, the general consensus among them is that to master these skills children must get some minimal as assistance from their parents (Edwards, 1990). Many Hispanic parents cannot help their children with schoolwork due to their own limited English proficiency and lack of education, but it does not mean that they are not concerned about their children’s school success.

Secondly, Marquez (2000) study on Immigrant Hispanic families found that their interactions with intermediate structures like schools and churches are are very important in their first years after migration. However, the review of literature stated that Hispanic famiy interaction with those social structures dropped as the family the family is less in need of structural support and is more able to profit from direct exposure to the new environment.

Therefore, there is a great need for programs

  • that bridge the communication gap between schools and Hispanic homes,
  • that minimize the psychosocial and cultural effects associated with migration and acculturation.
  • that provide parents not only information but strategies for parenting their children in the new environment,
  • that create a consultive and collaborative alliance between school professionals, teachers, students and their immigrant Hispanic parents.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Theoretically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, views emotional problems and responses as influenced by negative or extreme thought patterns. Therse patterns have frequently become so habitual that they are experienced as automatic and go unnoticed by the individual.

Review of literature found this technique successful with self-defeating behaviors, lack of assertiveness in interpersonal relatioships, as well as poor social skills and self-esteem.

These principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been selected for this progran because this method is:

  • Goal oriented -the counselors work with teachers, students, and/or parents to met goals for counseling and also to monitor progress periodically to assess whether the goals are being met.
  • Practical and concrete -Counseling goals will focus on solving current, specific and concrete problems experienced by students in the classroom.
  • Active -Counselors, teachers, students and their parents play an active role in counseling.The counselors in consultation with parents and teachers will (a) direct students attention to the discovery of their behavioral and learning problems, (b) serve as teachers and coach of the expected behaviors; and (c) engage students in their own change by assigning homework and by encouraging them to practice the strategies learned in the session.
  • Collaborative -counselors, teachers, school administration, students and their parents work together to understand and to develop strategies to address the students’ learning and behavioral difficulties.
  • Short-term: -the counseling interventions with students and/or their parents will not last more than 12 sessions whenever it is possible.

The Program:

This comprehensive response encompasses a period of one academic year.

The overall goal of this response is to assist immigrant Hispanic families with their immigrant and first generation Hispanic children who are experiencing learning andd behavioral difficulties. This assistance will consist in providing

  • to immigrant Hispanic parents psychological support, opportunities for emotional ventilation as well as parenting techniques, and
  • to their immigrant and first generation children opportunities for training in new patters of learning and behavior within the school setting.

This overall goal will be fulfilled through these objectives:

  • the provision of opportunities for Hispanic parents to discuss, clarify, vent and alleviate the psycho-soci0-cultural stresses associated with immigration and acculturation in order to improve their socio-emotional adjustment and the quality of life at home (Clark, 1983).
  • (if needed) the provision to Hispanic families of counseling services using a short term and task oriented approach.
  • the provision of culturally sensitive consultation with teachers and school personnel working with immigrant and fiest generation Hispanic children aimed to discuss different patterns of cognitive functioning as well as different system for organizing learning and thought.
  • the provision of culturally sensitive parent enrichment programs on child rearing practices, patterns of communication, conflict resolution, negotiation and decision making skills, cultural value differences, and child cognitive development.
  • the provision of individual and group counseling to immigrant and first generation Hispanic students to help them deal with their learning and/or behavioral difficulties as well as to improve their self esteem and assertive behaviors.

The methodology to implement the above goals and objectives will follow this schedule:

First Academi Marking Period:

  • based on teachers request of services to the Student-Staff-Support Team prepare the list of possible immigrant and first generation Hispanic students in need of assistance.
  • consultation with their teachers: it will encompasses (a) observation of the student in different academic and non-academic settings.
  • based on teachers’ responses to the McCarney’s Learning and Behavior Problem Checklist and using the Pre-Referral Intervention Manual of McCqarney, Wunderlich & Bauer, design in collaboration with teacher a plan of learning and behavioral strategies tailored to the specific situation of each student.

From the beginning of the Second to the end of the Third Academic Marking Periods:

  • Counseling sessions with 8 students in each group/ The emphasis of these sessions will be improving self esteem and self worth.). The emphasis of these individual sessions will be (a) to help them understand the possible sources of their children’s academic and/or behavioral difficulties, and (b) to provide them with culturally sensitive strategies to overcome the difficulties.

Fourth Academic Marking Period:

Collaborative evaluations of the results obtained and of the strategies used with each one of the students referred.

The effectiveness of the overall goal and its objectives as well as of its methodology will be measured by the noticeable improvement of the academic and the behavioral performance of each immigrant and first generation student referred between the end of the First and the end of the Third Marking Periods. The definition of noticeable improvement (which will be different for each student) will be done at the b eginning of the referral process through a collaborative consultation between parent, teacher, counselor, and student.


(*) This comprehensive project ahs been designed based on the research, rationale, and instruments developed by Gelasia Marquez, Ph.D. for the Helping Hands Project/Model (copyright Library of Congress TX 3 075 455).


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as context for human development. Developmental Psychology, 22, (PP.723-742).

Clark, R.M. (1983). Family life and school achievement: Why poor black children succeed or fail. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Edwards, P.A. (1990). Strategies and Techniques for Establishing Home-School Partnership with minority parents. In A. Barona & E.E. Garcia. Children at Risk: Poverty, Minority Status and other issues in Educational Equity. Washington DC: NASP.

Eisenstadt, S.N. (1955). The absorption of immigrants. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Ho, M.K. (1987). Family therapy with ethnic minorities. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Kim, Y.Y. (1988). Communication and Cross Cultural Adaptation. Philadelphia, PA: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Marquez, G (2000). Qualitative study of the acculturative process followed by immigrant Hispanic families. Fordham University. NY: Unpublished.

Marquez, G. (1989). Helping Hands: A counseling program for Hispanic families in cultural transition. Brooklyn, NY: Unpublished.

Marin, G. (1992). Issues in the measurement of acculturation among Hispanics. In K.F. Geisinger (Ed.). Psychological Testing of Hispanics. (pp. 235-251). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

McCarney, S.B., Wunderlich, K.C., & Bauer, A.M. (1993). Pre-Referral Intervention Manual. MO: Hawthourne.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and Family Therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvaard University Press.

Padilla, A.M. (1980). The role of cultural awareness and ethnic loyalty in acculturation. In A.M. Padilla (Ed), Acculturation theory, models and some new findings (pp. 47-84). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Provenzo, E.F. (1985). Preface. In H, Silva, The children of Mariel: Cuban refugee children in South Florida Schools. (p. iii). Washington DC: The Cuban American National Foundation.

Rodriguez, A.M. & Vila, M.E. (1982). The emerging Cuban Women of florida’s Dade County. In R,E, Zambrana (Ed.). Work, family and health; Latina women in transition. Monograph 7. New York: Hispanic Research Center. Fordham University. Monograph Series.

Rutter, M. (1980). Protective factors in children’s response to stress and disadvantage. In M.W. Keny & J.E. Rolf (Eds). Prymary Prevention and Psycho-Pathology. Chapter III: Promoting Social Competence and Coping with Children. Hannover, NH: University Press of New England.

Sluzki, C.E. (1979). Migration and family conflicts. Family Processes, 18. (pp. 955-961).

Tharp, R.G. (1989). Psychocultural variables and constants. Effects of teaching and learning in schools. American Psychologist, 44, (pp 349-359).

Importancia de la Escuela (1)

Cuentan los libros de Historia de la Educación en los Estados Unidos que en l861 John Stuart Mill hizo una propuesta a los gobernantes de este país. El quería que se extendiera el derecho a votar a todos los ciudadanos ya que sólo tenian ese derecho los que tenian propiedades. Para que todos los ciudadanos que habitaban un territorio determinado pudiera votar, era necesario que supieran leer y escribir.

En ese tiempo aún no existía la enseñanza pública patrocinada por el Estado, por lo que Stuat Mill propuso que con los fondos del estado se ayudase a los padres que no tenian propiedades, o que eran pobres, para que pudieran pagar los estudios de sus hijos.

Al final del curso, los niños eran evaluados y si no obtenían las calificaciones esperadas, los padres eran multados por lo que los hijos no hicieron bien, bien porque no quisieron o bien porque no pudieron.

Actualmente, todos los residentes de los Estados Unidos pagamos impuestos sobre el dinero que ganamos y cuando compramos algun articulo en las tiendas tambien pagamos además un porcentaje del total invertido en la compra para el estado. Ese dinero que damos al estado es administrado y se revierte en bienes públicos, uno de ellos, tal vez el más importante, la educación de nuestros hijos. Por eso, nosotros tenemos derecho a “pedirles cuentas” a los administradores del estado y de los distritos escolares sobre la calidad de la educación que nuestros hijos reciben en las escuelas.

Con vistas a pedir cuentas necesitamos primero hacer un análisis del estado actual de la educación en nuestra comunidad. Una pregunta que podemos hacernos es: ¿ Tiene en cuenta el sistema educativo de la escuela de mi hijo o a mi hija las necesidades educativas reales que el o que ella tiene ? O, ¿ es este un sistema con planes educacionales que existen desde hace años y que no tiene en cuenta los cambios demograficos de la población que tiene que servir ?

Historicamente, los orígenes de la educación giraban alrededor de las necesidades del trabajo y de la producción de la comunidad. El maestro enseñaba al aprendiz a trabajar un oficio –zapatero, albañil, carpintero. Y cuando este aprendiz ya sabia lo que tenia que hacer, se establecía como maestro y comenzaba a tener aprendices tambien. La dinámica detrás de esta forma de organizar la educación no esta muy lejos de muchas iniciativas que vemos en nuestros días. Los gobernantes ponen juntos grupos de economistas, educadores, sociologos, científicos quienes analizan y pronostican cuáles seran las necesidades del área –sea esta una ciudad o un estado- en el futuro cercano y por tanto, cuales son los pasos formativos e informativos que debe el proceso educacional dar para poder satisfacer esas necesidades. Por ejemplo, erecuerdo que n el año 1987, se creó una comisión para estudiar y predecir cuál parecía ser la realidad de la ciudad de Nueva York en el año 2000. En ese enttonces se dijo “que la economía de esa ciudad en la década siguiente dependería de que el sistema escolar les proveyera graduados calificados capaces de llenar 300,000 nuevas posiciones en lugares tales como bancos, firmas de negocios, trabajando como contables, abogados, médicos…” La comisión entendia que el futuro dependía no de que se le garantizara a los estudiantes el poder terminar su educación a los niveles de High School y de College sino en que se le proveyera a estos graduandos oportunidades para continuar estudios superiores en las universidades”.

Seria bueno que todos y cada uno de los que estamos escuchando este programa nos preguntaramos, cómo funciona el sistema escolar de la escuela a donde van mi hijo o mi hija ? ¿ Cuáles son sus prioridades ? ¿Cuáles programas especiales tiene para satisfacer las necesidades de toda la población escolar –incluyendo los niños recien llegados, los niños que tienen capacidades disminuídas, los niños que tienen dificultades aprendiendo y que por tanto necesitan ser enseñados de una forma diferente ?

Las escuelas a las que asisten nuestros hijos no existen en el vacío sino que todas ellas estan concatenadas en un sistema escolar distrital. Este distrito se reune por ley a lo menos una vez cada dos o tres meses. Esas reunions son públicas, es decir, podemos ir todos los que queremos ir, aunque no tengamos hijos yendo a las escuelas. Es más, algunas de esas reuniones son “abiertas” con espacios” para que los padres opinen y lleven sus comentarios positivos o negativos y sus quejas tambien.

Las juntas escolares distritales estan formadas por miembros de la comunidad. Estos miembros son casi siempre elegidos por voto secreto en elecciones similares a las de los demás oficiales que gobiernan nuestra nación. ¿Conoces los miembros de la Junta de Educación a la que pertenecen las escuelas que tus hijos van ?

¿Qué conoces sobre las necesidades de tu comunidad ? ¿Cuál es el índice de deserción escolar de tu comunidad ? Es decir, cuantos estudiantes en tu comunidad no han terminado el high school o cuantos de ellos los terminan pero sabemos que no han aprendido correctamente a leer porque han estado en un programa de educación especial, o de educación bilingue, o en un programa emergente por las noches para ganar el titulo de High School. En algunas areas este número es un misterio, porque las organizaciones que trabajan con los immigrantes suelen decir que de cada dos estudiantes minoritarios uno solo termina el high school, mientras que las cifras nacionales, regionales y locales dicen que solo una tercera parte de la poblacion abandona los estudios antes de graduarse. Es importante saber el número pero para mi , lo que es mas importante es ¿ POR QUE ESTO SUCEDE ?. Solo cuando averiguemos el por qué podremos buscar el QUE hay que hacer para solucionar este problema , que es solo uno de los problemas que nos aquejan pero que es de vital importancia para los grupos minoritarios: el grupo de los afro-americanos y el grupo de los Hispanos o Latinos.

Tenemos que vincularnos on en el proceso de educación de nuestros hijos. Tenemos que comprometernos en el proceso de educación de nuestra comunidad, tengamos hijos en el sistema escolar o no, porque el futuro de nuestra comunidad y numéricamente el futuro de muchas áreas de los Estados Unidos depende de cómo nuestra descendencia alcance los niveles educacionales necesarios para ocupar responsablemente un sitio en la sociedad del futuro.

Y para eso tenemos que exigir calidad. Dejenme explicar qué quiero decir con la palabra calidad. Hace unos años, un prestigioso periodico de la Ciudad de Nueva York dedicó un editorial a la calidad de la educación que los jovenes estaban recibiendo. De acuerdo a ellos, de 250 recien graduados del grado 12avo de high school que fueron entrevistados por la asociación de bancos finacieros de la ciudad, solo pudieron emplear 100 porque los 250 estudiantes restantes no pasaron el examen de Matemáticas con conceptos y operaciones correspondientes al grado 8vo. La pregunta lógica que ellos se hacían era ¿cómo los promovieron al grado 9no, y al 10mo y al 11avo, y al 12avo…, más aun cómo los graduaron de High School.

Retomando la idea inicial de este artículo, si seguimos la propuesta de John Stuart Mill, ¿a quién tenemos que multar aqui: a los padres, a los maestros de 8vo, 9no, 10mo, 11avo o 12avo grados ? ¿A la dirección de las escuelas ? ¿A la Junta Escolar ? ¿o a los padres de estos estudiantes por no estar presentes en la educacion de sus hijos?

Desgraciadamente, los únicos que salieron y siguen saliendo multados por la vida y por la sociedad son los alumnos. Multados y burlados. Por eso, te invito a relfexionar sobre esto que hemos hablado hoy.

Con los pies en la tierra

A lo largo de todos estos años que he estado leyendo, investigando, estudiando y trabajando con las familias immigrantes Hispanas estos seis principios han ido deliniándose como esenciales para entender el derecho-deber de los padres en el proceso de la educación de sus hijos.

Los seis principios son:

1.- La familia es la primera institución responsible del desarrollo total de sus miembros, sobre todo, en sus primeros años de la vida, en los llamados “años claves en el proceso de educación”;

2.- Cuando los padres dan vida a sus hijos, ellos se convierten en los primeros y los únicos, responsables de la educación de sus hijos;

3.- El papel de los padres como educadores es tan decisivo que muy difícilmente pueden ser sustituídos por las otras instituciones sociales;

4.- Los padres son los responsables de la educación religiosa y moral de sus hijos, por tanto, el mantenimiento de los valores cristianos en la sociedad depende de ellos, y de lo que ellos enseñan a sus hijos;

5.- En el hogar, a través de los procesos de socialización y educación, los niños adquieren loa hábitos, valores y normas de la sociedad, de forma tal, que del hogar sale el ciudadano que debe ser, que se espera que sea;

6.- Los padres modelan la personalidad de sus hijos, primordialmente con su ejemplo, y despues con la enseñanza de las costumbres y valores y en tercer lugar con la disciplina que reforza sus cualidades y actitudes positivas y ayuda al propio tiempo a eliminar las negativas.

Si nos fijamos en lo que acabamos de decir, es facil concluir que los padres somos fundamentalmente responsables del desarrollo armónico de cada uno de nuestros hijos, Y, que el cumplimiento de nuestros deberes como padres no solo es decisivo para nuestros hijos sino que contribuye al futuro de la Sociedad.

El Papa Juan Pablo II hablando del futuro de la humanidad dijo que éste puede y debe ser preparado en nuestros hogares, más específicamente dijo que el futuro “pasa por la familia”.

¿ Es esto posible ?. ¿ Tenemos los padres tiempo para cumplir con nuestro responsabilidad-deber de ser padres ?. ¿ Tenemos tiempo para ocuparnos de todos los detalles incluídos en la tarea de “hacer” a nuestros hijos ?. ¿ Tenemos los padres tiempo para transmitirles a ellos los valores cristianos y sociales ?.

Tenemos que poner los pies en la tierra y analizar brevemente la realidad de nuestras familias immigrantes y primer generación Hispanas. En casi todas ellas ambos padres trabajan. Y aun en las familias de tres o cuatro miembros, e incluso en familias donde más de dos generaciones viven en la misma vivienda, se oye la misma queja “ no tenemos tiempo para conversar los unos con los otros” y “mucho menos para hacer actividades juntos, como familia”.. En casos extremos, muchos hogares Hispanos han sido descritos por sus miembros como direcciones postales que se ha ido convirtiendo paulatinamente en algo asi como en casas de huespedes -lugar para ir a comer y dormir.

Claro que todos nosotros necesitamos trabajar para sobrevivir. Pero en muchos de los hogares Hispanos que he entrevistado para diferentes estudios o proyectos de intervenciones, ambos padres emplean casi todo el tiempo del dia lejos de sus familias, y en algunos casos hasta parte de la noche porque necesitan o se les presenta la oportunidad de hacer un trabajo “extra” para gastos que generalmente son “extras”. Consequentemente, la pareja no tiene tiempo para intercambiar experiencias diariamente, de una forma positiva, emotiva, capaz de fomentar la cohesión necesaria para conocerse, crecer juntos en todas las areas que conlleva la relación matrimonial. Las relaciones con los hijos suelen ser mediatizadas, saben de ellos cuando las maestras le llaman urgentemente, o cuando las personas adultas que les cuidan se quejan de sus conductas, o cuando tnenen que ir al médico con ellos porque no pueden enviarlos a la escuela enfermos. Si enn muchas familias hispanas sus relaciones emocionales de la parejas son pobres, ;la comunicación y el diálogo padres-hijos es más pobre aún.

En adición, los problemas relacionados con el trabajo (largas jornadas, pobres condiciones, dificultades con el transporte, mala comunicación para relacionarse con quienes toman las decisiones producto de la falta de conocimientos del idioma oficial) interfieren en el buen funcionamiento de nuesrras familias. Llegamos a la casa tensos, irritados por el cansancio, el ruido ambiental. Y estas presiones nos dificultan e incapacitan para funcionar de acuerdo a las dinámicas, a las circunstancias, a los problemas cotidianos propios del hogar y a las normales diferencias entre los unos y los otros. No llegamos con el estado de ánimo necesario para resolver conflictos, para apaciguar y dulcificar relaciones, para crecer emocionalmente todos juntos con nuestros hijos y con los demas miembros de la familia.

¿ Será entonces que los padres Hispanos no pueden cumplir con su inalienable derecho-deber de ser padres ? ¿ Será que les estamos pidiendo algo imposible ?

Claro que no. El trabajo y sus condiciones no son excusas ni paliativos para no hacer lo que tenemos que hacer. Entonces, ¿ cómo podemos hacerlo ? Ante todo tenemos que, como familia reunirnos, discutir y establecer nuestras prioridades. Y ¿ esto cómo puede hacerse ? Una sugerencia sería que cada uno de los miembros de la familia -incluyendo los hijos en edad escolar- se preparen para esa reunión. Una forma de hacerlo sería escribir en una hoja de papel los diferentes papeles que tienes en la vida: esposa, madre, hija, trabajadora a tiempo completo, estudiando por las noches, etc.- Al lado escribe solo una frase con la meta que te gustaría alcanzar en el ejercicio de cada uno de esos papeles -esas metas son tus sueños pero tambienson las propias definiciones que de tí mismoa tienes en la vida. Eas metas pueden ser definidas como a largo alcance, a corto alcance, e incluso inevitables o inalienables. El tercer paso sería escribir las dificultades que confrontas a diario en el ejercicio de esos papeles. Ahora ya puedes escribir junto a las dificultades cuna nueva frase, esta vez escribe cómo ellas estan dificultando el cumplimiento de tus tareas como esposa, madre, hija, trabajo, estudios, etc

Todo este trabajo de preparación no puede hacerse corriendo, entre lavar y planchar, o entre una cerveza y cambiar el aceite al carro. Tienes que darsele tiempo a la reflexión, al  silencio, tiene que darlese espacio y perspectiva a cada pregunta. o a cada respuesta, o a cada duda. Tal vez  ayudaría si pensamos al cabo de x años de vida, mirando atrás, qué decisiones tomadas hoy van a ser las más importantes para tí y para tu familia.

Si todos los miembros adultos de la familia llevan a la reunión un análisis concienzudo de sus situaciones familiares estoy seguro que el dialogo será abierto, sincero, capaz de entre todos los reunidos escribir las prioridades familiares y los cambios o acomodaciones necesarios para poder vivirm crecer y disfrutar lo más importante que tenemos, nuestra familia.

Estoy segura que todosnosotros escogeremos  la tarea de ser padre-madre como la prioritaria, conscientes de que lo que tu y yo como padres no hagamos se quedara sin hacer. Convencidos de que los años formatives de nuestros hijos, es decir los años que”hacen la diferencia”, pasan muy pronto y cuando vengamos a ver… ya nada se puede hacer.

Despues de priorizar que es lo más importante viene un cambio muy importante en nuestra forma de concebir la tarea de educar. Los niños aprenden imitando. Los niños aprenden viéndonos ser lo que ellos deben ser. Si queremos hijos respetuosos, seamos nosostros personas respetuosas con todo el mundo, incluyendolos a ellos. Si queremos que nuestros hijos amen la paz… sembremos la paz en nuestros hogares con nuestra actitud, con nuestros comentarios, con nuestra acciones. Si queremos que nuestros hijos sean responsables en la casa, empecemosles a dar tareas y responsabilidades en el hogar de acuerdo a sus edades, y lo mas importante supervisemos lo que deben hacer y mostrémosles qué orgullosos estamos con sus buenas actitudes. Nuestra actitud ejemplar en todas las areas es la mejor arma que tenemos para educar.

Recordemos que lo más importante no es la cantidad de tiempo que pasamos juntos en el hogar sino la calidad que nuestras relaciones interpersonales en el hogar. Una hora dialogando con nuestros hijos es mas productive que tres  horas sentados mirando television juntos, o peor aun,  tres horas con todos los miembros en la casa pero cada uno esta haciendo lo suyo, sin interactuar.

En conclusión, poniendo los pies en la tierra, aceptemos que es  dificil hacer lo que tenemos que hacer cuando tenemos trabajos que nos dejan exhaustos, cuando estamos criando a nuestros hijos en una cultura diferente a la nuestra, con una lengua que no entendemos… pero, aceptemos tambien que esto puede hacerse usando cada minutos que estamos juntos creando una atmósfera educativa en el hogar al tiempo que disfrutamos el privilegio de ser familia a pesar de todo.

Como dijera la psicologa Virgina Satir: ser padre/madre no es tener dias festivos, ni vacaciones, ni promociones, ni aumentos de salaries. Ser padre/madre es estar en el deber o a lo menos estar dispuestos a ser llamados las 24 horas del dia, los 365 dias del año. Porque ser padre/madre es hacer personas.Y este es el trabajo mas complicado pero el mas gratificante que existe en la humanidad.

Posibles Respuestas a las Familias Immigrantes Hispanas en Transición Cultural.

Las posibles respuestas a las familias immigrantes en transición cultural pueden ir desde una combinación de información, educacion, oportunidades para expresar y ventilar las emociones, apoyo, y contacto con otras familias que estan en circumstancias similares,hasta la intervención y el apoyo professional durante períodos de crisis.

Obviamente, todas estas intervenciones necesitan ser llevadas a cabo en el idioma de la persona migrante y dentro del contexto de su cultura. Como la familia es la sistema externo más confiable e importante para el desarrollo psicosocial de la persona asi como tambien es la primera celula social que tiene un lugar intermedio entre la sociedad y cada miembro de la familia, “la familia debe ser la matrix de todo proceso de sanación”(Minuchin, 1974).

Características de las familias immigrantes Hispanas:
1.Son familias cuyos miembros han migrado estando en diferentes momentos del desarrollo psico-social de sus vidas y que por tanto tienen diferentes definiciones de si mismos;

2. Son familias cuyos miembros pueden tener sus ciclos de desarrollo psicosocial aun sin haberse completado adecuadamente, o que son interruptidos productgo de la migración, o que pueden traer importantes problemas relacionadas con su madurez aun pendientes por resolver. Y esto sucede al tiempo en que ellos pueden estar tratando de entender las demandas que el proceso de adaptación a una nueva cultura le presentan cada día a cada uno de ellos;

3.- Son familias cuyas etapas normales de desarrollo como parejas o como padres se han visto detenidas o interrumpidas para lidiar con situaciones urgentes y específicas tales como aprender un segundo idioma, buscar una vivienda, o encontrar trabajo.

La planificación de las posibles respuestas debe incluir los siguientes elementos:

1. Analisis de la realidad donde el profesional debe llevar a cabo su misión;

2. Reflexión acerca de esta realidad a la luz de las investigaciones y de los escritos relacionados con las familias immigrantes Hispanas;

3. Basada en esta realidad, hacer un inventario de las necesidades más apremiantes y prioridad que éstas tienen;

4. Desarrollo de un plan de respuestas siguiendo un orden sequencial y, tanto como sea posible, envolviendo a todos los miembros de la familia y llevando a cabo las actividades en familia;

5. Implementación cuidadosa de los diferentes aspectos de las respuestas, llevando una agenda donde se registren las intervenciones, la asistencia, y los incidentes que permitan mas tarde analizar la intervención llevada a cabo;

6. Continuo proceso de evaluación de lo que se va haciendo para medir su efectividad y modificar aquellos aspectos que sea urgente hacerlo para mejorar las respuestas implementadas.

Análisis de la realidad:

1.Formas de migración: La migración ocurre por diversa rezones y el ajuste de la familia depende en gran medida de la comparación de las expectativas que movieron la migración cuántas de ellas se han cumplido en la realidad;

2.País de origen –su situación politica, económica y educacional;

3.Edad y etapa del desarrollo psicosocial en que se encuentran los miembros de la familia al momento de la migración;

4. Nivel socio-económico y nivel educacional de los miembros de la familia antes de migrar;

5. Presencia de sistemas de apoyo –familia, amigos, iglesia, grupos étnicos;

6. Grado de armonia entre las dos culturas –la relativa tension asociada con la migración es en parte determinada tanto por la cultura y el pais de origen tanto como por la cultura y el pais de adopción;

7. El nivel de adaptación y de aculturación logrado por la persona que migra es un indicador clave de la abilidad de la familia a cambiar.



Cuando favorecemos un ambiente de aprendizaje en la familia las ambiguedades y confusiones de los miembros se aceptan y se discuten en lugar de esconderlas o evitarlas tanto en los padres como en los hijos; y ambos, los padres y los hijos no solo mantienen una sana definición de sí mismos y dan un valor asociado a esa identidad sino que tambien aprenden a adaptarse paso a paso con los retos que le presenta el nuevo y diferente medio ambiente.

Conexiones entre diferentes grupos:

Estas estructuras intermedias entre el migrante y la nueva sociedad pueden facilitar o interferir con la aculturación dependiendo de las metas y las perspectives de los que las diseñan y las dirijen.


Las diferentes formas de intervención pueden ir desde grupos de apoyo no profesionales, hasta consejería individual, consejería de parejas, consejería de parejas y grupos terapéuticos de consejería.

Estas intervenciones terapéuticas deben ser concretas, directas, inmediatas, enfocadas en los problemas y orientadas a la acción. Estas intervenciones deben servir como catalizadores para el cambio, ayudando a las familias a tolerar la anxiedad, reconocer la inefectividad de las formas de conducta que se traen, mobilizar los recursos internos, explorar alternatives, y crear nuevos formas de pensar, sentir, y actuar.

Estas diferentes formas de intervención deben ir dirigidas hacia:

1.Fortalecer la estructura familiar;

2. Mejorar la flexibilidad interna de la familia asi como mejorar el funcionamiento de cada miembro de la familia de acuerdo con sus papeles sociales;

3. Reforzar la abilidad de los amigos, de la comunidad y de la sociedad para ofrecer el apropriado y efecrtivo apoyo;

4. Pomover una identidad bicultural definida al ayudar a los miembros de la familia a definir sus valores y creencias lo que le ayudara tambien a mejorar “su tolerancia ante lo diferente” (Bowen, 1978).

Possible responses to Immigrant Hispanic Families in Cultural Transition.

The possible responses to immigrant families in cultural transition may range from a combination of information, education, opportunities for emotional ventilation/expression and support, contact with other families who have similar difficulties, to professional support during times of crisis.

Obviously, all these interventions need to be addressed in the migrant’s native language and culture; and since the family is the person’s most important, reliable, and external resource for psychosocial development as well as the key social group that intervenes between the macro-system and the family member, “family has to be also the matrix of the process of healing” (Minuchin, 1974).


Characteristics of the immigrant Hispanic families

1. Families whose members have migrated at different points in their lives and who have different psico-cultural definitions of who they are;

2. Families whose members’ previous life cycle issues may not be adequately resolved or are still pending; and

3. Families whose developmental cycles have been stopped or interrupted to deal with specific, urgent, issues such as procuring housing, work, learning a language, etc.

Planning for interventions must include the following elements:

1. Analysis of the reality wherein the professional must carry out the possible response;

2. Reflection on this reality in light of the research and studies done regarding immigrant families;

3. List of priorities resulting from the assessment of the needs found through the previous processes:

4. Design of different possible forms of interventions including the objectives to reach, the means to get them,  as well as the processes involved;

5. Development of the plan including intergenerational family members opportunities for sharing and enrichment;

6. Implementation and on-going evaluation of what is being done.

Assessment of the Reality

1. Migration Patterns: Migration occurs for diverse reasons and the adjustment of the family depends on the extent to which is original expectations compare with its reality;

2. Country of origin –its political, economic and educational situation;

3. Age and developmental stage of family members at the time of migration;

4. Socio-economic status and educational background of family members prior to migration;

5. Availability of support systems –friends, church, ethnic group;

6. Degree of harmony between both cultures –the relative stress of migration is in part determined both by the country and culture of origin, and by the country and culture of adoption; and

7. Rate of adaptation and acculturation is a key indicator of a family’s ability to change.



By encouraging a family’s learning environment the confusing ambiguities of its members are probed rather than avoided and both parents and children not only maintain a sense of self meaning and worth but also learn to cope step by step with the challenges of the new and different environment


These mediating structures can facilitate or interfere with acculturation depending con the scope and foresight of the person who devises them.


The different forms of intervention could range from non professional support groups, individual counseling, family counseling, and group therapy counseling.

These therapeutic interventions must be concrete, directive, immediate, problem focused and action oriented. They must serve as catalyst for change, helping families tolerate anxiety, acknowledge the inadequacy of established patterns, mobilize resources, explore alternatives, and create new behavior patterns.

They must be directed toward:

1. Strengthening family structure;

2. Enhancing flexibility and improving role functioning;

3. Reinforcing the ability of friends, community and the larger social system to offer effective and appropriate support;

4. Promoting a clearer bicultural identity by helping family members to define values and beliefs which also enable them “to increase their tolerance for difference” (Bowen, 1978).