Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Jane Gangi, PhD

Third Advisor

Courtney R. Kelly, PhD

Abstract

The Hispanic population has become the fastest growing minority population in the United States. Hispanics have the highest high school dropout rate of all demographic groups accounted for in the United States in the most recent census. Reflecting on the import of those two factors and the changing demographics of our school populations across the United States it is imperative to consider the expectations and aspirations held by Hispanic immigrant parents for their children.

This qualitative study explored through case studies the development of parent expectations and aspirations, and the influence of the parents’ own personal life experiences, particularly in their own education, on those expectations and aspirations. This study further explored the meaning of “success” through the lens of Hispanic immigrants and how that definition transferred to the children of the parents within this study. The purpose of this study was to give opportunity for the personal experiences of Hispanic immigrant parents to be heard as they shared their personal perspectives of the wishes and dreams that they hold for their US born or next generation children and the influence that their own personal experiences have had on their perspectives.

Data indicated that personal life experiences of participants had a significant effect on the way in which expectations and aspirations are developed and communicated to their children in schools in the United States as well as the ways in which success was identified. Cultural environment and conditions of chronic poverty played an important role in the development of participants’ identities. The development of personal identity and self-concept in turn influenced the ways in which participants identified expectations and aspirations for their children. Personal identity and self-concept additionally influenced the manner in which participants defined success.

The findings of this research show that participants identified academic attainment as an expectation and aspiration for their children. Participants viewed academic attainment as a path to a better quality of life but defined academic attainment in multiple ways such as, attend college, earn degrees, and have careers. In contrast, some participants described academic attainment as “study.” This may be explained by the significant differences in educational systems in Latin American and Caribbean countries and the United States. This may also be reflective of the conditions of chronic poverty participants reported living in.

Participants also expressed having limited opportunities in their countries of origin. Theories of identity discuss the importance of the availability of opportunities throughout the stage of adolescence and the ability to successfully negotiate crisis during this time as critical in the development of identity and ego development. Participants who have not had these experiences in their home countries may face challenges when supporting their children through exploration of opportunities particularly in adolescence. These challenges may be present because parents have not had the personal experience of navigating through adolescent exploration or because this may be in contrast to cultural beliefs.

This research indicates that it is imperative for community agencies, particularly schools, to understand the influence of personal life experiences of Hispanic immigrant parents. Environments of respect for and understanding of culture must be in place to encourage the involvement of Hispanic immigrant parents. Through this research it becomes evident that parents who have had lower levels of academic attainment and/or academic success and may or may not have successfully negotiated resolutions to crisis in developmental stages may need opportunities to gain success through school or community-based activities of their choosing. It is crucial that immigrant parents are given a voice in the type of opportunities offered to them to provide support in the highest degrees. Opportunities cannot be offered based on what the dominant culture or structures deem to be the need. Bringing immigrant adults together to learn, particularly skills related to the success of their children, supports the building of community, personal pride, and leadership, further fostering the development of self-esteem and self-efficacy.

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