Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

"As a family we are going to be here" : Mexican immigrant mothers' experiences with parenting in distinct community contexts

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  • Recent demographic studies have revealed a greater diversity in settlement patterns among Mexican immigrant families resulting in rapidly climbing populations of immigrants in new areas of the country, particularly in rural areas, while growth in established destinations has slowed. Host communities play an important role in families' acculturation processes and the contexts in which families reside impacts their development. Parenting confidence is one example of family well-being that has been identified as subject to contextual influences such as community, acculturative stress, and poverty. Taking into account the potential impact of changing settlement patterns on families, this mixed-method study aimed to gain a better understanding of the factors that shape parenting experiences among rural low-income Mexican immigrant mothers living in both newly settled and established destinations. In the first phase of the study, quantitative data from a sample (n = 64) of low-income Mexican immigrant mothers living in rural California, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon were analyzed in order to determine whether parenting support moderates the effect of community type on parent confidence. Next, concurrently collected qualitative data from interviews with a purposefully selected sub-set (n = 18) of these individuals were explored. The goal of the qualitative analysis was to illustrate the quantitative data, discover ways to improve the quantitative model, and better understand how community context shapes the acculturation process. Quantitative analyses resulted in a statistically significant interaction between parenting support and place. This suggested that parenting support served as a buffer against the negative effects of place on parent confidence in newly settled areas, whereas in established areas parent confidence remained high regardless of levels of parenting support. Qualitative analyses supported quantitative findings, but also revealed that factors such as work-family conflict, childhood risk, and assimilation also played a role in shaping parent confidence. Furthermore, the data suggested that although residence in newly settled areas was often associated with acculturative stress resulting from marginalization, residence in established destinations also produced acculturative stress related to assimilation. An important contribution of this study is that it emphasizes the importance of using mixed methods with a population such as low-income Mexican immigrants, both by revealing limitations of survey-based research and demonstrating that qualitative methods can improve the richness of the results. This study also provides suggestions of additional factors that may help future studies gain a more complete understanding of the parenting experience of low-income Mexican immigrant mothers. Furthermore, this study also emphasizes the importance of recognizing that acculturative stress occurs in both newly settled and established destinations, but may take different forms.
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