Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Fathering and Acculturation: Immigrant Indian Families with Young Children

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Fathering and Acculturation: Immigrant Indian Families with Young Children

Article excerpt

This study investigated the patterns of father involvement and the influence of acculturation in a sample of Indian immigrant families in Pennsylvania. The participants were 40 two-parent Indian families who were rearing their IS- to 44month-old children. Two 1-hour, naturalistic home observations per family were conducted near dinner time to record father-child interactions. Cluster analysis revealed three types of fathers: engaged, caretaker, and disengaged. Information on acculturation was gathered via parental self-reports and observational measures. Examination of the relation between fathering and acculturation revealed that men belonging to the least acculturated families were the least involved (were disengaged), and the most acculturated fathers were more involved in almost all dimensions of fathering (were engaged).

Key Words: acculturation, fathering, immigrants, Indians, parenting, Southeast Asian families.

Compared with previous generations, fathers today have an expanded role in the family in the United States. In addition to protecting and providing for the child, they also share the responsibility of basic child care. Investigations of White, middle-class families have documented the nature of father-child interactions in naturalistic and laboratory settings. (For a review, see Lamb, in press.) Such research indicates that men engage their children in diverse ways and that they not only are competent and skillful, but also are sensitive in their interactions with the infant and young child (Belsky, 1979; Parke, 1981; Parke & O'Leary, 1976; Parke & Sawin, 1980). Nevertheless, many men are still involved with their children on a limited basis only (Daly, 1993; Hochschild, 1989; LaRossa, 1988).

Contemporary research focuses on the determinants of individual differences in fathering. Parent and child attributes have figured prominently in studies, as has the marital relationship (Belsky, 1990; Jain, Belsky, & Crnic, 1996; Levy-Shiff & Israelashvili, 1988; Volling & Belsky, 1991). Diversity in parenting and in fathering roles also has been associated with culture-related variables, such as social structure (Seymour, 1980), women's status (Coltrane, 1988), power and privileges (Hondagneu-Sotelo & Messner, 1994), and parental beliefs and ethnotheories (Harkness & Super,1992).

At the same time that interest and research on the father's role has changed, so has the composition of U.S. society. For political, social, and economic reasons, large numbers of immigrants are moving to the U.S., continuing a tradition that dates back to the nation's founding. Data from Immigration and Naturalization Services show that the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. in 1991 was 1.8 million (Martin, 1996).

One of the obvious issues that immigration raises pertains to the lifestyles that immigrants adopt. Do they retain their native culture? Do they adopt the host culture? Or do they demonstrate characteristics of both cultures? Taft (1985) conceptualizes the process of adaptation or acculturation in terms of a resocialization model that involves changes in the physical environment and the biological (changes in eating habits and nutritional status), cultural, and social contexts. (See also Berry, 1990.) In order to effectively adapt to the host society, immigrants either resist or readily adopt the new language, values, beliefs, roles, and norms of social interactions (Mendoza & Martinez, 1981).

Historically, immigration was considered a unidirectional process, based on the premise of the acquisition of values and characteristics of the host culture with a simultaneous loss of native culture (Fong, 1973; Olmedo, Martinez, & Martinez, 1978). Acculturation was seen as the immersion of the immigrant culture in the new culture. Current models, however, stress the selective and multidimensional nature of the immigrant process (Mendoza, 1989; Mendoza & Martinez, 1981; Rueschenberg & Buriel, 1989). …

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