A Qualitative Study of Maternal Perceptions of Acculturation Processes at the Onset of Child Schooling

Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Audrey A. Thomas


Immigrant families may experienceparent-child differences in acculturation. A critical time in this differentialacculturation is the onset of the child’s schooling. Building on prior studiesof parent-child acculturation processes, this exploratory, qualitative studyexamined mothers’ perspectives on their preschoolers’ acculturation and therelationship to their own acculturation.  Based on qualitative data collected from sixLatino immigrant mothers of preschool-aged children, three acculturation processesemerged that illustrate how mothers perceive their own and their child’sacculturation: parallel, vertex, and inter-segmented. One pair was coded asexperiencing a parallel acculturation process, defined as mother and childexperiencing completely disconnected acculturation processes. Three pairs werecoded as experiencing a vertex-like process, which is defined as mother andchild starting at the same point and then deviating from each other as thechild’s acculturation accelerates and the mother’s decelerates. Two pairs wereidentified as inter-segmented, meaning that mother and child acculturationprocesses converge and separate at various points. Each type may haveimplications for mother-child interactions and relationship during preschooland subsequent school years when acculturation may impact families further. This study emphasizes the need tounderstand parents' approaches and expectations as they relate to culturaladaptations, especially at the onset of schooling. We end with recommendationsfor teachers and administrators in preschool settings to improve theirunderstanding of acculturation and their relationships with immigrant families.


acculturation, maternal perceptions, preschool, Latino, children

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