"I Hardly Understand English, But.": Mexican Origin Fathers Describe Their Commitment as Fathers despite the Challenges of Immigration

By Behnke, Andrew O.; Taylor, Brent A. et al. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

"I Hardly Understand English, But.": Mexican Origin Fathers Describe Their Commitment as Fathers despite the Challenges of Immigration


Behnke, Andrew O., Taylor, Brent A., Parra-Cardona, José Rubén, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

Latinos are the largest and most rapidly growing immigrant minority group in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2005). Of this group, every year over half a million individuals migrate from Mexico to the U.S. (OISDHS, 2003). The majority of these immigrants are men and face considerable cultural, familial, and economic challenges as a result of their immigration experience (Padilla, Cervantes, Maldonado, & Garcia, 1988; Pessar, 2003). Though recent attempts have been made to understand the influence of immigration on the lives of immigrant Latinos (Suarez-Orozco, Todorova, & Louie, 2002), few studies have attempted to understand how immigration affects Latinos' familial adjustment, structure, and parenting practices (Cabrera & Garcia Coll, 2004; Perreira, Chapman, & Stein, 2006).

A number of studies have shown that immigrant Latino parents who are involved, knowledgeable, and encouraging of their youth have children who have lower rates of drug use and sexual risk-taking, have less likelihood of dropping out of school, and get higher grades in school (Delgado-Gaitan, 1992; Fishbein & Ferez, 2000; Okagaki & Frensch, 1995; Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992). From these studies we learn that parents play a substantial role in the success of immigrant Latino children and youth. Yet, even these studies have often neglected the opinions and reports of fathers, especially immigrant Latino fathers (Cabrera & Garcia Coll, 2004). In particular, qualitative research related to father involvement and childrearing practices among Latino immigrants is lacking (Taylor & Behnke, 2005; Cabrera & Garcia Coll, 2004). This exploratory study uses qualitative methods to delineate key themes of fatherhood from the perspective of Mexican immigrant fathers in the U.S. Specifically, this study explored Mexican immigrant fathers' views on fathering and their perceptions of how migrating to the U.S. influenced their childrearing practices.

We recognize that the Latino culture is comprised of multiple cultures (e.g., Umana-Taylor & Fine, 2001). Unfortunately, it is challenging to integrate a theoretical framework focused exclusively on Mexican origin fathers because research with this population is scarce (Parke et al., 2004). Thus, we will use the term Latino whenever we refer to research conducted with the Latino immigrant population in general and the term Mexican origin whenever we make reference to studies involving individuals with Mexican ancestry.

SENSETIZING CONCEPTS AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Latino Father Involvement in the United States

Research has provided robust evidence indicating the positive effects of father involvement on the physical, social, and emotional development of children and youth (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2002). Unfortunately, most of this research has been conducted with European American, middle-class populations (Tamis-LeMonda & Cabrera, 2002).

Existing research on Latino fathers has provided evidence against negative stereotypes depicting Latino males as authoritarian and uninvolved (Coltrane, Parke, & Adams, 2004). For instance, researchers have found that Latino fathers are more physically involved, monitor their children more, and provide more consistent discipline than similar groups of European American fathers (Hofferth, 2003; Mirandé, 1997; Toth & Xu, 1999). Similar evidence has been provided by Hofferth (2003), who conducted interviews and time diaries with a large representative sample of fathers and children from various ethnic groups to explore the level of involvement with their children. Her research demonstrated that Latino fathers were warmer, more engaged, and less controlling than Asian American, European American, and African American fathers. Her results also indicated that Latino fathers were second only to African American fathers in terms of time spent involved with their children and responsibility for their care. …

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