Academic journal article Fathering

Fathering across the Border: Latino Fathers in Mexico and the U.S

Academic journal article Fathering

Fathering across the Border: Latino Fathers in Mexico and the U.S

Article excerpt

This qualitative study gives voice to Latino fathers' perceptions of their roles and values in family life by analyzing data collected from 32 Latino men residing in an Urban Mexican setting and both urban and rural settings in the U.S. The authors utilize a symbolic interactionist framework and ecological theory to illustrate the cultural nature of fatherhood constructions, the impact of immigration on patterns of change and continuity in paternal behaviors and values, and the importance of intergenerational influences in the formation of fatherhood perceptions. Fathers articulate the importance of education for their children, how they discipline, the impact of machismo, and other contrasting views of fathering in Mexico and the U.S. The findings support the idea of "generative fathering" to describe the resiliency of Latino fathers and the contributions they make to families, communities, and future generations. Implications for future research on fathers are suggested including the need to focus on the complex cultural nature of fatherhood constructions.

Keywords: fathers, father involvement, Latino (Hispanic), Mexican American, father roles, generative fathering

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Current demographics show that the Latino population is the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2002). By 2050, the Latino population is predicted to account for more than 30 percent of the U.S. population. Once regarded as an "invisible" minority, Latinos are becoming more and more visible. Until recently, fathers were also "invisible" in the family studies literature. However, recently a good deal of research has begun to show that effective father involvement promotes healthy child development and later life outcomes (e.g., Amato & Rivera, 1999; Flouri & Buchanan, 2004; Lamb, 2004). Nevertheless, Latino fathers have slipped under the radar screen (Cabrera & Garcia-Coll, 2004).

At the cusp of a new century, two divergent trends appear to be emerging regarding fatherhood in the U.S. (Coley, 2001; Coltrane, 1995; Furstenberg, 1988, 1995). The first trend is that fathering is becoming more optional and sometimes nonexistent (as is the case of some single parent homes; King, Harris, & Heard, 2004). Some researchers argue that many of the ills of society can be traced to "fatherlessness" or the lack of paternal involvement in some households (Blankenhorne, 1995; Popenoe, 1996). Countering this development of uninvolved fathers is a second trend of "progressive fathering." This trend is characterized by an increase in the active participation of fathers in their families (Abalos, 2002; LaRossa, 1997). These two trends, "new fathering" and "uninvolved fathers," remain relatively uncharted territory in the study of Latino men (Cabrera & Garcia-Coll, 2004; Mirande, 1997) and deserve our further attention. We have attempted to understand Latino fathers' parenting styles and values on both sides of the Mexican/U.S. border to shed light on the trend of "new fathering" in both countries.

Cabrera and Garcia-Coll (2004) have expressed that little is known about what Latino fathers do as fathers. These authors have shown that Latino fathers continue to be studied from Anglo-American perspectives, which omit language, beliefs, expectations, roles, culture, and aspirations. In this study we have explicitly tried to address the issues of fathers' roles, beliefs, and culture by giving voice to Latino fathers in three distinct geographic and cultural contexts: Ensenada (urban), Baja California, Mexico; San Diego (urban), California, U.S.; and Hyrum (rural), Utah, U.S.

LITERATURE REVIEW

THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS

Our study is informed by both the symbolic interactionist perspective (Mead, 1934) and ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). Symbolic interactionism refers to giving meaning to the apparent language-based (or symbolic) interactions that occur between individuals (Blumer, 1969). …

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