Published on February 24, 2008
Loss and Restoration of Community Ties Among First Generation Latina Mothers: Loss and Restoration of Community Ties Among First Generation Latina Mothers Project StaffCity College of the City University of New York, the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and the Columbia University Head Start and Early Head Start Program: Peter Fraenkel, Ph.D.: Co-Principal Investigator Alba Cabral, Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology: Project Coordinator Letisha Marrero, Ph.D. Project: Research Assistant and former Project Coordinator Leticia Perez, Masters student in Psychology: Research Assistant Laura Diaz, Masters student in Psychology: Research Assistant Project Staff City College of the City University of New York, the Ackerman Institute for the Family, and the Columbia University Head Start and Early Head Start Program Purpose of the Research: Identify challenges faced by first generation Hispanic immigrant mothers and their families in adjusting to life in the United States. Identify coping strategies and personal and relational resources used by these families to restore community ties in the U.S. To create a research-based psychosocial support program to assist immigrant Hispanic mothers and their families in their transition to the new communities in the U.S. Purpose of the Research Previous Research: Little research documenting specific challenges and coping approaches of poor first generation Latino mothers in urban settings. Immigration is a time of multiple stressors and emotional turmoil (Padilla et al, 1988) involving loss of: Country of origin Opportunities to use mother tongue Regular proximal contact with extended family (Zuniga, 2002). Characteristics of Latino immigrant experience that foster and sustain acculturative stress and impede adaptation include: discrimination on the basis of skin color illegal immigration status close proximity to the homeland (Smart & Smart, 1995). Previous Research Previous Research: Previous Research Strong attachment to the nuclear and extended family central to Hispanic-American culture (Gonzales, 1992; Massey, 1981; Sabogal, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, Marin, & Perez-Stable, 1987). Recreation promotes family cohesiveness (Sabogal, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, Marin, 1987). Leisure activity occurs in the context of family and friendship groups (Kelly, 1987; Carr & Williams, 1993). Provides secure and supportive space for the expression and transmission of subcultural identity. Strong relationship to natural world (Gramann, 1996). Methods: Semi-structured videotaped 4-hour interviews inquiring about immigration and adjustment to life in the U.S. Packet of questionnaires to assess participants on a individual, relational, and larger systems variables Interviews are coded directly from videotapes using Grounded Theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Average coded unit is one sentence in length Coding done in teams of three coders Codes are then clustered under super-ordinate codes that capture broader themes Methods Demographics: 31 Families 31 Mothers ranging in age from 21 to 45 with a mean age of 32, (S.D. = 6) 31 Children ranging in age from 1 to 5 with a mean age of 3 (S.D. = 0.9). Girls = 16, Boys = 15 Mothers’ countries of birth: Dominican Republic 58%, Mexico 23%, Peru 3%, Ecuador 13% and Cuba 3%. Mothers’ average time living in the US: Average number of children in household: 2 Relationship status: Married = 42%, cohabiting = 32%, Separated = 10%, Single = 16% Employed/ non-employed: 19% women employed at time of study Income level: families are at or below poverty line Demographics Losses: Limited public and private space Home in Country of Origin (COO) is remembered as free because you have more space Home in U.S. feels like being in a prison: “It depresses me to feel entrapped“ “You feel like you live in a matchbox”\ Wish home here had same sense of tranquility as in COO Upon first arriving to U.S.intimidated by city’s physical structure: “I felt intimidated by tall buildings in NYC in contrast to houses in Peru” Lack of communal physical space in U.S. preempts multiple family gatherings as in COO “Family time in my childhood in DR was better because had more space to share Loss of privacy due to many unrelated families sharing one apartment Losses Slide9: Home in COO is remembered as free because you have more access to nature Describe "picture" of home in nature terms (i.e. trees, grass, …) -Description of home in COO includes reference to the sun & light In COO used to do more outdoor activities and here more indoor: "There we went to the beach all the time and were outside and here we just go to the movies." She describes family get-togethers in detail, like being outside and spending Christmas with everyone.” Slide10: Weather (Cold Winters) Gets in the Way of More Community-Based Activities Belief in the need to sacrifice warm weather in COO for better opportunities in “cold U.S.” Frustration in U.S. because feeling imprisoned by winter partly due to not being able to let children go outside Cold weather in U.S. preempts multiple family gatherings like the ones in COO Cold weather here makes her long for warm weather in COO Slide11: Nuclear and Extended Family Thinking of home in COO provokes nostalgia because participant would like to be home in COO and because participant would like to be with family left behind: Participant begins to cry. "I never knew what it was like not to have family (extended family) support until I moved to U.S.“ Description of home in COO focuses on remembering gatherings and get-togethers with extended family because here in U.S. they feel isolated by not having family or friends nearby Feelings of frustration in response to thinking about home due to missing family left behind Recollection of things left behind: Sharing time with friends and neighbors, work experiences left behind and education interrupted Description of immigration experience as difficult: -because sent child first to U.S.: “My mother immigrated first and we were separated without seeing each other for 7 years. Years later my husband brought our 3 year old son to U.S. and she was separated from them for 3 years until I received my residence papers. This was a difficult time, us being separated.”. -because had to separate from husband for the first 5 years: ”I was raised in DR and then moved to U.S. as an adult with my children and had to leave my husband behind because he did not have legal papers. I had gotten my papers from my parents who were U.S. citizens." It was not until 3 years ago that my husband finally moved to here. Before that I was traveling back and forward" Slide12: Nuclear and Extended Family (cont.) Family life is disrupted by separation of nuclear family during immigration: Participant recalls the story of her relative: “He moved to NYC to work and send money to wife and kids left in DR. Every time he comes back from there he looks sad because misses family life there. Slide13: Sense of Community in job settings The limitations to work in U.S. due to language barrier or illegal immigrant status reminds them of the facility of obtaining work in COO as these barriers were not present Community-based child-rearing practices Child-rearing practices involving the use of community changes because you trust people/neighbors, thereby you let your children go outside less: "Everyone knows each other in COO and is raised around people you can trust in the neighborhood, everyone shares childrearing“ Cultural traditions that are centered on neighbors in community Holidays involve more community gatherings in COO vs. here (i.e. holidays celebrated mostly with family members and not neighbors) Slide14: Quality and Quantity Time with Family and Community Family routines (lunchtime, dinnertime…) and work schedules are different in both countries -In COO you have more time to have lunch and dinner together as a family Miss the quality and quantity of leisure time in COO: "Here you go from one apt. to the other and stay indoors most of the year, while in DR you can enjoy more time outside""there I could sit in the gallery of my house to drink my coffee and I could say hello to my neighbors and the my sister lived next door and would always bring me food, cake… and I could watch my daughter play outside…) -Life here is reduced to work only The system of life here is different because work schedules are longer -In COO work schedules are set that enable to have time in the evenings for family: “working hours in DR are shorter, public offices are closed by 4 pm” Here life is fast and organized around work “you see in the trains during rush hours they are packed and people run fast and faster." Family time during my childhood in COO was better because spend more time with family and extended family is a part of daily life “Every Sunday we would go to my mother's house and then go out after that together to eat or go to the beach" Slide15: Quality and Quantity Time with Family and Community In COO more family meals are spent together: "we used to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner all together, with brothers, parents, here is so difficult to get everyone to sit and eat a meal together" American dream for Dominicans is to come U.S. to work, family plays a secondary role: “the dream is to come to U.S. to work and then send money back to family in Sto. Dgo., you don't think of starting a family here because you plan to go back, but then it happens (you have a family)” Rhythm of life is very stressed and fast here: "Here time is accelerated. There is soft, calm. I remember my mom when she used to come from here to visit, she always came stressed and accelerated.” "Here you feel as if you are programmed“ "Here I come and I get all accelerated, everyone here is in such a rush, even the old people who can even walk, rush here" “I used to work in factory and I had strict schedule and by a specific hour I had to go and pick up my kids from the babysitter." Slide16: Quality and Quantity Time with Family and Community Working schedule there are more flexible -Schedules in COO allow for enough lunch time to be w/ family Here everyone gets home exhausted "schedules are set in such a way that you have a lunch time when you can go back home and eat lunch with your family and then return to work" In DR you always found time to connect with relatives even if at work: "I would call my parents during the day and after work" Time has a different value here “Time is like gold" “You can't play with time here" Slide17: Collectivistic sense life Feeling lack of support from relatives who live in U.S. “The aunt that I had in Santo Domingo is not the same aunt I have here, she used to be there for me at home always and here she treated me different" People's values change when they immigrate to U.S.: “They become plastic, superficial and materialistic” Being let down by people of your own culture "It’s hard to face when people who know your language make it difficult for you." Participant cries as she says this. Slide18: Trust in community (i.e. child care) In U.S. feels isolated -In U.S. difficult to communicate with others b/c of language -Feeling useless because not knowing language Feeling unsafe in U.S. because of violence in the neighborhood reminds of safety and freedom felt in COO: “In COO you can freely go out the streets and share with neighbors without fear of being killed” When arrived to U.S. felt like it was different world -Fearful of going outside upon first arrival to U.S b/c not knowing anyone in U.S. and afraid of INS Participant described that she stayed indoors for 6 months after arriving to U.S. because she was afraid of immigration police -Fearful of speaking Spanish and not being understood Slide19: Loss of Language Staggers Ability to Communicate Limitation of not being able to communicate in own mother language: "Not knowing English is like as if you were nothing" Stresses importance that parents teach kids Spanish to be bilingual Slide20: RESTORATION COMMUNITY TIES Effort to celebrate holidays and cultural national events Effort to celebrate Christmas, National Holidays, Mother’s day etc. as in COO Describes gatherings w/ extended family "I talk to my mother everyday, we go over her house often for dinner and cooking, everyone brings their kids…" Having children as substitute for isolation to fill in void Having children early on after immigration fills the loneliness left by immigration Participant describes how having her daughter filled a void/emptiness in her life after migrating: "If it wasn't for my daughter, I would be depressed" Slide21: Practicing community-based sports from COO Playing and watching popular COO sports (baseball, soccer etc.) Participant has a set recreation time every weekend with family: "every weekend we go to play baseball, play music, beer" "my child is on a baseball league and plays every weekend so we go with him every time, it is a big family gathering around him playing” Using media/technology to keep informed/connected with people of same culture here and in COO Calling home in COO as well as relatives here regularly to maintain contact Watching Hispanic TV shows which talk about history and culture of COO Looking at videos and photos of friends that they send to U.S. Engaging in cultural traditions Cooking food from COO on a daily basis "every time I make sancocho (soup, stew), I think of my father who lives in DR" Doing activities with family here (i.e. on Sundays) Listening to COO music Emphasis on outdoor activities close to nature (i.e. parks) Family time activities include going to the park with kids Go out in the car for trips On Sundays go outdoors Slide22: Emphasis on maintaining Spanish in children to stay connected to community (Language is used as a tool to maintain connection with community) Instilling cultural values in my kids: "children here grow up empty, not knowing anything about their culture" Participant's parents encouraged to learn about COO when growing up Due to economic disadvantage in COO, mothers have an optimistic view of U.S. which motivates them to want to set ties in U.S. Decided to stay in U.S. because better future in U.S. for children due to better economic situation in U.S. Learned to respect life in US, based on opportunities to succeed Motivated by wish for children to be born in U.S. to obtain benefits for them Motivated by wish to be reunited with kids Focus on positive aspects of life in U.S. (economic, educational, health…) as a way of rationalizing stay and establishing new roots here Sacrifice the quality and quantity of family time in COO for financial gains here: “Likes DR and being there, but financially it is better for the nuclear family here.” Slide23: INTERVIEW PROCESS CODES ON LOSS AND RESTORATION Confusion in responding to first question (“When you think of home what comes to mind?”): How this may impact sense of belonging in U.S. Participant begins by asking which home, here or there? -Prefers COO as a place to begin discussion It took a long time to settle in a place we could call "home" in U.S. Participant appears sad, tearful and pensive as talks family at COO **As suggested by codes above if a sense of home is not felt in U.S., there is a sense of ambivalence about connecting to the larger community Affect in responding to adjectives Subject feels like talking about home in COO vs. home in U.S. is a very sensitive area to talk about. Reflecting on what was left behind and the life in the host country continues to stir strong emotions (i.e. tearfulness, silence and/or changes in affect) . Slide24: Team Reflections Based on the Experience of Interviews Nostalgia for COO and for family left behind prevents setting ties to community here Not being there evokes sadness Thinking of home in COO provokes nostalgia -B/c subject would like to be home because would like to be with family left behind Focus on negative aspects of life in US (violence, weather, isolation etc) as a way to avoid setting ties with community. On some level there is a fear of reliving the trauma of separation during immigration which interferes with wanting to establish new connection with people here (i.e. living by the idea/with that one day one would move back to COO). Wish to go back to retire in COO to reunite with relatives and have a new house Emphasis on wish to have family united During family time often talking about the plans and things we want in the future: "when we move, buy a house" Idealization of community ties in COO impedes establishing new and strong community ties here Idealization of community ties in COO makes them lose pride of being here.