Between Peasant and Urban Villager: Italian-Americans of New Jersey and New York, 1880-1980: the Structures of Counter-Discourse

By Michael J. Eula | Go to book overview

5
THE COMPLEX PATTERN OF MODIFIED PARENTAL CONTROLS THROUGH THE POSTWAR PERIOD

Long ago. . . in a "reversal of the generations," immigrant children. came to interpret the new society to their parents.

Andrew Rolle, The Italian Americans: Troubled Roots


The More Sophisticated System of Parental Control

Marie Concistre observed the pattern noted in the epigraph above while conducting anthropological field research for her 1943 Ph.D. dissertation at New York University. 1 While it appeared to Concistre that first and second generation Italian-American parents in East Harlem were loosening their control over teenage girls by allowing them the unprecedented freedom to go on dates unaccompanied by a family member serving as chaperone, a closer examination reveals that parents were in the process of constructing new and far more subtle mechanisms for youth control. Dating, the selection of a spouse, and the desirability of formal education were all areas of adolescent life in which changes appeared to be underway. 2 But underneath the tactics, moral rationales and clearly conceptualized objectives

-159-

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