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Growing Up in the Transnational Family: Latino Adolescents Adapting to Late Immigration and Family Reunification

  • Author(s): Schapiro, Naomi A.
  • Advisor(s): Kools, Susan M
  • et al.

The purpose of this grounded theory study was to explore the process of family separation and reunification for Latino immigrant adolescents who have been separated from their parents for at least four years during immigration, in the context of transnational economic and family ties and changing gender roles. Focus groups, individual interviews and participant observation were used to gather data from 20 Mexican and Central American immigrant adolescents. In their varied descriptions of life in their home country, they experienced pervasive interpersonal and community trauma, including gang threats in their home country that impelled migration. Using dimensional analysis, an approach to the generation of grounded theory, a conceptual model was developed, Believing in a Better Life, to explain the conditions that facilitated and hindered family re-engagement and overall adaptation. Adolescents used four strategies to reconnect: 1) letting time take its course, 2) reconnecting through crises, 3) isolating and holding a grudge, and 4) telling their story and actively renegotiating parent-child relationships. Most youth were reuniting with single mothers, and young men were disadvantaged in two ways: they had experienced more trauma before migration and used less active strategies to reconnect with their parents than young women.

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