The negotiation of parenting beliefs by Mexican-American mothers and fathers
Rojas, Jennifer R
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Given the rapidly increasing Mexican-American population and the minimal scholarship addressing parental beliefs of Mexican-American mothers and fathers, the purpose of the study was to explore the ways Mexican-American parents negotiate their parental beliefs. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven heterosexual couples who had young children. Theoretical assumptions of this study were based in macro-level ecological systems theory and Chicana feminist perspectives, and micro-level dialogical perspectives. Results were organized around seven parental goals: speaking Spanish, respect, gratitude, education, involvement, discipline, and affection. Participants spoke of their parenting goals in terms of either differentiating from or connecting with their own parents’ practices and cultural traditions. Of the seven parental goals and associated themes identified in the analysis, three were classified as connecting with their parents and traditional values (speaking Spanish, respect, gratitude) and the remaining four involved differentiating from traditional values and practices. In dialoguing about the goals, parents also emphasized values of providing equal educational and other opportunities for daughters and sons, and practicing shared parenting with respect to both discipline and affection. Findings from this investigation enhance scholarship on parenting beliefs in general by shifting the focus from a static study of beliefs to a more dynamic focus on the emergence of beliefs arising from dialoguing. In formulating beliefs, the parents in this study dialogued with their own past experiences (i.e., how they themselves were parented), cultural values, and specific people—parents, spouses, friends. Dialoguing as expressed in interviews was often intrapersonal—the person’s thoughts—but at times took the form of reporting actual conversations with others. The shift in focus to the process of parental dialoguing can result in findings that would not have been apparent from studies mainly concerned with describing parental beliefs or goals. For example, in contrast to expectations that parents situated “between” two cultures will necessarily experience values conflicts, parents in this study adopted a pragmatic approach of selecting and blending values and practices from both cultures. Also, this study points to differences in dialogical complexity depending on the particular parenting goal, with implications for the design of future research on parenting.