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Children require positive experiences as they grow in order to enhance their self esteem, health and transition into adulthood. Child rearing practices differ substantially across families in North America especially because a vast number of parents are immigrants.
It is crucial to analyze child rearing values and approaches in these minority groups because it would provide a basis for carrying out social work interventions especially in line with health needs. If cultural influences will have been considered prior to program interventions then greater success can be realized.
Parenting values in immigrant communities
There is no doubt that culture has a great effect on child rearing but one must ensure that proper and accurate conclusions are made about parenting in immigrant families. Previous researches have mostly focused on deficit models that tend to emphasize risk factors associated with child rearing in immigrant families. Medora et al (2001) carried out such a research and affirmed that immigrant children tend to be more susceptible to abuse than non immigrant children.
However, other researchers have shown that the converse is true. Parents across all racial divides believe that no form of child abuse should be permitted (Maiter et. al. 2004). It is therefore critical to understand what immigrant parents understand as unacceptable and acceptable behavior in child rearing.
This knowledge can be critical in preparation of parenting messages that would accommodate values and beliefs of the concerned parents. Understanding these differences can be such an informative and constructive endeavor in human service program preparation.
Many immigrant families tend to define acceptable behavior in more or less the same ways that local families do. For instance, many immigrant parents will state that obedience is an important quality in their children. They also value respect and the ability to do well in school.
Most do not like it when children talked back to them or three tantrums. Many immigrant families also felt that engaging fights were unacceptable for their children. They also believed that it is crucial to express affection to one’s children.
These sentiments reflect values that spread across cultural lines as they are accepted by almost all people in the country. All immigrant groups tend to use verbal reprimands and many of them do yell at their children.
Although this is a negative practice, it was not particularly a big threat to children because parents appeared to understand the thin line between talking loudly and humiliating and bullying them. They know the importance of developing a child’s self esteem and were not ready to compromise on it in any way.
They also realize that using punitive options was often the last resort to dealing with a child’s indiscipline (Singer et. al., 2008).
Nonetheless, some differences do exist in terms of desirable traits as well. It has been shown that religion is an important factor in child rearing among immigrant communities such as Hispanics, African Americans and Indians.
On the other hand, self discipline is an extremely important factor in child rearing among African American families. In fact, when children engage in negative behavior aimed at seeking attention, African American parents tend to prefer direct confrontation of the problem while Asian American parents tended to prefer just ignoring the behavior until the child stopped doing it.
Also, interactions with extended families tend to be of considerable importance to Indian families because they believe that engaging with these family members tends to build trust in their children. On the other hand, immigrant families differ on administration of punishment.
African American and Latin parents tend to prefer the use of spanking more than time out. This contrasts with Euro American families as they think of time out as a less effective method of disciplining their children. It does not in any way illustrate that white parents sometimes do no spank their children but approaches and prevalence were greater in some immigrant communities.
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African American families tend to be comfortable with public spanking while Indian American parents prefer waiting to do this in the comfort of their home (Singer et. al., 2008).
External challenges that affect child rearing
Many immigrant families from the Asian continent think that American society is more liberal. Consequently, children in America have greater freedom and greater say than the native immigrant countries that these parents came from. As a result, many immigrant parents tend to believe that this will create future problems for them.
Some even worry about the rate of sexual involvement among teenage children. In the Asian context, children are told to listen to their parents and most would have been subjected to parental control had they been in their native countries.
Since this is not common in the US then most immigrant parents have a very difficult time adjusting to these changes. Many immigrant parents worry about their children when they go to school because of peer influence.
They are afraid that their schoolmates will teach them different and culturally contradicting things. These conflicts between parents and children’s value systems create continuous difficulties during child rearing among minorities (Este et. al., 2001).
Child protection rights are quite effective in the US. Immigrant parents come from conservative backgrounds which give parents the discretion to determine the kind of punishment that can be administered to children. Essentially, this illustrates that most fear loss of control to their children.
They see some of these laws as excessive because children may become ill behaved and take comfort in the fact that the law protects them from any punitive measures. Immigrant parents therefore struggle with these imbalances in child protection laws in their native countries and the US.
Nonetheless, some of them still appreciate the fact that those laws because they are effective at protecting their children from predators or deviant members of society. They simply feel that some of these laws have become extreme (Este et. al., 2001).
Immigrant parents also have considerable language challenges as most of them come from non English speaking countries. This creates a lot of problems to them when communicating with their children’s teachers. They may not articulate certain ideas to teachers and this causes educators to misunderstand children of immigrants.
Furthermore, cooperation between schools and parents in rearing children can also be tremendously compromised because of these communication difficulties. Schools have to go through great lengths to let parents know about new policies or issues. Children themselves have to exercise personal initiative in order to communicate well in the English language if they were not born in the country (Este et. al., 2001).
It has been shown that income disparities exist between majority and minority groups in the US. Most minimum wage jobs are carried out by these individuals and thus create financial pressures in their homes. Immigrant parents stated that many of them have difficulties affording something as basic as day care.
They cannot give their children material things because they just do not have the finances needed to do so. Even children who express certain interests in some aspect of their lives will not necessarily be able to grow their child’s talent because their parents cannot afford to put them in special classes or programs.
While some immigrant parents may be lucky enough to have jobs, others maybe unemployed and tend to struggle to secure that illusive job. It is particularly hard for them because they are immigrants and certain connotations have been placed on this group of people by employers. If immigrants have no secure jobs then it becomes much harder for them to provide for their children (Este et. al., 2001).
In the US, a lot of racism exists in the housing industry. Alternatively, certain houses have rules that simply do not allow children to reside in them. Consequently, children of immigrants may end up growing in undesirable homes simply because society makes it difficult for them to acquire a place of their own.
Religion is an important part of some immigrant’s livelihoods yet their kinds of religion may not be particularly common in the US. Alternatively, some may come from a dominant religion in the US but because of separation of church and state, their children may not get a chance to practice their faith fully. This causes them to have different opinions and values from their parents and causes a lot of tension amongst them.
In order to provide human service assistance or programs to minority groups in the area of child rearing, it is essential to understand cultural expectations in these communities and their challenges as well. In terms of beliefs, most immigrant families tend to hold common beliefs about child rearing such as having a need for honesty and respect from their children.
However, approach to discipline differs as greater spanking occurs amongst immigrant families than majority groups. Child rearing is also affected by the challenges undergone by immigrants such as language barriers, religious differences and excessive child freedom.
Este, D., Sethi, S. & Charlebois, M. (2001). Factors influencing the child rearing practices of Chinese and East Indian women with children. Web.
Maiter, S., Alaggia, R. & Trocme, N. (2004). Perception of child maltreatment by parents from the Indian subcontinent: challenging myths about culturally based abusive parenting practices. Child Maltreat, 9(3), 309-324.
Medora, N., Larson, J. & Wilson, S. (2001). Attitudes towards parenting strategies, potential for child abuse and parental satisfaction of ethnically diverse, low income US mothers. Soc psychology journal, 141(3), 338-348.
Singer, H., Lubell, K. & Lofton, T. (2008). Promoting healthy parenting practices across cultural groups, a CDC research brief. US health and human services (CDC) report, 1-20.