Great Expectations: Exploring Educational Expectations and Emotional Distress with African Immigrant Families
Iheanacho, Ebony Chinonyere (author)
Grzywacz, Joseph G. (professor directing dissertation)
Taylor, John (university representative)
Ralston, Penny A. (committee member)
McWey, Lenore M. (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Human Sciences (degree granting college)
Department of Family and Child Sciences (degree granting department)
The African immigrant population in the U.S. has roughly doubled every year since 1970 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014). The increase in African immigrant families in the U.S. coincides with a rise of African immigrant families interacting with U.S. institutions such as the educational and healthcare systems. African immigrant cultures may hold different values, attitudes, norms and beliefs about educational success and what makes a person emotionally well. Comparatively little is known about the cultural meaning of education, parent’s educational expectations and emotional distress among African immigrant families. One way to better understand the cultural meanings of these concepts among African immigrant families is to compare other immigrant groups present in the U.S and to look at within cultural group differences inside this population. Research is needed to explore the culture of African immigrant families in hopes of informing practice for service providers and intervention development. Thus, my overall study goal is to improve understanding of the role of culture in shaping the daily lives and experiences of educational expectations and emotional distress among African immigrant families. This goal was accomplished by conducting a two study, dissertation where both study methods complement each other. My first study was a quantitative, secondary data analysis of the CILS dataset (Portes & Rumbaut, 2006). The purpose of the first study was to determine if culture influences parent educational expectations and child emotional distress across Latin American, Asian and African immigrant families in the U.S. Family systems theory (Broderick, 1993) and self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987) theoretically supported this study by explaining the regulatory nature of family systems and explaining what happens when those regulations are not met. Study participants included N = 1,308, Cuban (58.3%) and Philippine (41.7%) children of immigrants from Southern states in the U.S. Participants were on average age 13.94 years, mostly male (62.8%) and had an average GPA of 2.64. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and Ordinary Least Squares Regression. I found Philippine children experienced .587 units of emotional distress more than Cuban children. I also found significant group mean differences in the interaction of parent help with homework, and child perception of parents’ educational expectations across immigrant cultural groups. Lastly, the interaction between parent help with homework and child cultural group predicted emotional distress for Cuban and Philippine children. My second study was a qualitative, primary data analysis using a narrative design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). The purpose of my study was to explore the cultural meaning West African immigrant families’ have about education, parent’s educational expectations and emotional distress in the U.S. This study was grounded by an explanatory models approach (Kleinman, Eisenberg, & Good, 1987). Study participants included N = 22 individuals (n = 11 parent-adult child dyads). Parent participants were West African immigrants that have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. Adult child participants were children of immigrants with (2) West African immigrant parents that have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years. Participants were recruited using purposive sampling (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). There were two components to this study: (1) Semi-structured, individual interviews conducted in-person, over-the-phone, or video conference; and (2) a survey packet with informed consent and demographic questions. Data analyses included using a phenomenological coding process (Creswell, 2013). Demographically, most immigrant parents were female (72.7%) and on average 53.27 years. Most adult children were female (81.8%) and on average 21 years. Rich themes emerged from the data. For education, I found two themes: Education is the primary route to success, and Education is power. Two themes concerning parent’s educational expectations emerged from the data: Child’s education is parents’ security, and Child shares parent’s educational expectations. Emotional distress themes were reported following the explanatory models approach (Kleinman, Eisenberg, & Good, 1978): Description of emotional distress, What causes emotional distress and Ways to handle emotional distress. Lastly, I found one theme that answered the research question: Does culture influence how adult children emotionally respond to parent’s expectations for their education? The theme was: Yes and no. Overall, these studies underscored the importance of using appropriate parent educational expectations for different children of immigrants, and there is consensus that culture influences the relationship between parent’s educational expectations and emotional distress in immigrant families. Implications of this study are to inform immigrant parents, scholars, and service providers about the differences in parent’s educational expectations and child emotional distress across immigrant cultural groups. Also, the way we think of the expectation-distress relationship is fundamentally reframed for West African immigrant families.
African Immigrants, Child Emotional Distress, Culture, Education, Immigrant cultural groups, Parent Educational Expectations
October 15, 2020.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Family and Child Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Joseph G. Grzywacz, Professor Directing Dissertation; John R. Taylor, University Representative; Penny A. Ralston, Committee Member; Lenore M. McWey, Committee Member.
Florida State University