Sociocultural Definition, Scope, and Role of Parent (*)

As Knight, Bernal, Garza, and Cota (1993) have stated, the social ecology in which a family is immersed determines the socialization processes and content that emanate from both familial and nonfamilial socialization agents. Enculturation or ethnic socialization is the process by which developing individuals acquire the cultural and psychological qualities that are necessary to function as a member of one’s ethnic group (Berry, 1993). These enculturating experiences pattern a person’s thinking, feeling, and behavior in both obvious and subtle ways (McGoldrick, 1982).
Similarly, this enculturative or socializing process shapes children’s self-concept and self-esteem while they absorb the culture of their parents and locate themselves within the first and minute sample of society–their homes and its sociocultural expectations. The socialization process occurs either by generalized learning in a particular cultural milieu, or as a result of specific instruction and training like when parents teach their children through language, rituals, customs, habits, rules, ethnocultural modes of behavior to live together in their immediate environment, society’s implicit assumptions regarding discipline, sexual behavior, religious beliefs, and minor matters such as routines at home.
In conclusion, children’s enculturation and training in the basic skills preferred by a given society always begin in the family and home environment. Through the process of socialization parents conform their children with culturally specific ways or preferred modes of perceiving and relating to others, of understanding the verbal and nonverbal symbols essential for communicating, remembering, and thinking as well as for problem solving and for the use of meaning and logic. In sum, parents are the first contributors and designers of the psychological frame of mind imposed by the language, the educational system, and the historical, cultural, and political trends of their children’s country (A. M. Rodriguez & Vila, 1982).


(*) This article is part of the Chapter II of the Qualitative Study of the Acculturative Process followed for Immigrant Hispanic Parents. Marquez (2000). Doctoral Dissertation.

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.

Migration and Acculturation of Hispanic Families (*)

Migration occurs for diverse reasons, and the adjustment of the immigrant family depends on the extent to which its original expectations of the migration compare with its reality. Immigration could also be involuntary, such as the case of political refugees, who ran away of turmoil of their countries to save their lives, and of Hispanic children and women who must follow their fathers and/or husbands (Salgado-de-Snyder, 1987a, 1987b). The literature related to the settlement of refugees usually designated them as a population at risk for emotional distress (Lin, Tazuma, & Masuda, 1979). Similarly, those family members who “ought to” follow the family usually present themselves as “anchored” in the home country and thus experience loyalty conflict between the adopted country and the country of nativity (Baptiste, 1987). Rogler et al. (1987) proposed a framework for understanding the migration experience. It places the migration experience between two impinging sociocultural and economic contexts–the society of origin and the host society–and describes the migration process as composed of three fundamental traditions. They are (a) alterations in the bonding and reconstruction of interpersonal social networks, (b) extraction from one socioeconomic system and insertion into another, and (c) movement from one cultural system to a different one. In addition, Gurak and Rogler (1980) described the gradual process of settlement of immigrants in the United States as the result of increasing local commitments: “As time passes some immigrants find better jobs, make financial commitments, marry non-immigrants, or form families which enmesh them in locally based reciprocal obligations” (p. 4).
Although the very act of migration may constitute a brief transition, recent research suggested that the more pre-migration traumatic events experienced by immigrants, the greater the experience of acculturative stress later. Moreover, several authors working with the experience of Central American immigrants suggested that the post-migration stressors in combination with premigration stressors can result in a sense of loss of personal control and in a feeling of being overwhelmed (Cervantes, Salgado de Snyder, & Padilla, 1989; Padilla, Cervantes, Maldonado, & Garcia, 1988; Plante, Manuel, Menendez, & Marcotte, 1995).
Gurak and Kritz (1984) studied the relationship between migration processes and the family. Using a historical-structural perspective, the authors described the family as a key social group that intervenes between the macro-economic forces that set the stage for migration and the individuals who ultimately move. Thus, although migration decisions can be influenced by the economic needs of the household, they also are influenced by the household structure and functioning, as well as by the socialization standards of the household. Hence, as emotional ties to the family increase, the probability of migration decreases or contributes to the maintenance of closer ties following the migration process.
Similarly, since the family itself is a link between individual members and the larger society, the information about alternative opportunities in other places is transmitted by extended family members. These connections among family members play a significant role not only for deciding the place of settlement but for moving along the path of acculturation.
Finally, although it is said that immigration produces a radical transformation of the meaning one makes about the social world and that also involves modifications of one’s identity (Lorenzo-Hernandez, 1998), there is increasing evidence that (a) ethnic values and identification are retained for many generations after migration (Greeley, 1974); (b) ethnic values play a significant role in family life and personal development throughout the life cycle (Gilgaud & Kutzik, cited by McGoldrick, 1982; Lieberman, cited by McGoldrick, 1982; Teper, cited by McGoldrick, 1982); and (c) traditional attitudes toward family norms and practices are retained until or even beyond the occurrence of central changes within their ethnic community and society (Torres-Matrullo, 1980).

The social science literature provides many complex answers with many divergent viewpoints to the phenomenon of acculturation. Although there is little consensus among researchers, most definitions include the notion that (a) acculturation is an open-ended process, (b) which involves complex processes of attitudinal and behavioral modifications (Padilla, 1980) and/or changes for accommodating to a total cultural context (Szapocznik & Kurtines, 1993), and that (c) acculturation results from cultural learning through mutual interactions when two autonomous cultural groups are in constant contact with each other, leading to change in one or both cultures depending on the power relationship between them (Felix-Ortiz et al., 1994).
For the majority of immigrants the key component in this process of creating a relationship with the new world is learning the language that make possible the direct contact with this new reality. The growth that results from exchanging information and the self-meaning given by direct communication cannot occur without this basic ingredient. On the contrary, individuals will become dependent on intermediates for communication and for getting meanings from their surrounding circumstances. The lack of knowledge of the language of the new place also limits the cognitive maturational effects that come with learning a second language, as well as the expansion of the cultural horizons.
Given the intimate interdependence of culture and language, it may be presupposed that acculturation is impossible without mastery of the new language. As Kim (1988) has stated, the dynamic transformation to increase an immigrant’s fitness and compatibility with the host environment is the result of a communication process. According to her, communication facilitates the immigrant’s learning experience and leads to increased self-awareness and personal growth, and to the disappearance of the confusion and disorientation associated with cultural shock. Consequently, communication patterns reflect the degree to which an individual identifies with a culture as well as the threat presented to the individual’s social identity by the new culture.
Thus, acculturation emerges as an ongoing (Felix-Ortiz et al., 1994) and dynamic psycho-social process which not only involves becoming knowledgeable in the language, norms, and values of the new culture, but also involves changes in a person’s cognitive and emotional structures. These changes occur when the newcomer has to re-learn new meanings for [social] symbols, has to readjust–and sometimes thoroughly change–his/her own system of values and, especially, when the immigrant person has to relinquish some old customs, beliefs, and behaviors. (Burman, Telles, Karno, Hugh, & Escobar, 1987, p. 107)
Casas and Pytluk (1995) did a review of literature and found that the psychological and social changes that may occur in the process of acculturation are dependent on (a) the characteristics of the individual, (b) the intensity of and importance given to the contact between the various cultural groups, and (c) the actual numerical balance between individuals representing the original culture and those who represent the new and more than likely larger majority culture.
Similarly, Clark, Kaufman, and Pierce (1976) found that immigrants and their descendants may demonstrate selective acculturation: They may acculturate more in some aspects than in others. In addition, Cronin (1970) stated that immigrants showed differential acculturation in public versus private behaviors.


(*) This article is based on the Chapter II of the Quaalitative Study of the Acculturative Process followed by Immigrant Hispanic Parents. Marquez (2000). Doctoral Dissertation.

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).


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