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The effects of trans-nationalism on infant development: are we meeting the mental health needs of our youngest victims of globalization? Yvonne Bohr La.

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Presentation on theme: "The effects of trans-nationalism on infant development: are we meeting the mental health needs of our youngest victims of globalization? Yvonne Bohr La."— Presentation transcript:

1 The effects of trans-nationalism on infant development: are we meeting the mental health needs of our youngest victims of globalization? Yvonne Bohr La Marsh Research Centre, York University, Toronto, Canada Presented at Transcultural mental health in a changing world: Building a global response Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 29 – 31, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 29 – 31, 2007.

2 Acknowledgments The parents who shared their stories The parents who shared their stories York University lab: York University lab: Natasha Mullen Natasha Mullen Jessica Chan Jessica Chan At Aisling Discoveries Child & Family Centre: At Aisling Discoveries Child & Family Centre: Connie Tse Connie Tse Sadie Kwong Sadie Kwong The La Marsh Research Centre The La Marsh Research Centre

3 Context Primary relationships can be disrupted by population mobility Primary relationships can be disrupted by population mobility In an era of intensifying globalization, even very young children are facing increasingly complex challenges due to this mobility In an era of intensifying globalization, even very young children are facing increasingly complex challenges due to this mobility

4 The stories On the second Thursday in July, the woman, Xiu, finally did it. Wrapping a tiny gold bracelet around his wrist, she placed her son in the arms of a friend of a friend, who, for $1,000, agreed to take him to China. Xiu's parent is raising him there now, along with the 10-year-old daughter left behind last year when Xiu joined her husband in New York. She plans to bring Henry back when he reaches school age. But until then, she remains here, waiting to be a parent to her child. Sengupta, 1999, p.1

5 Context Trans-nationalism: the development by expatriates or immigrants of multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement Trans-nationalism: the development by expatriates or immigrants of multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement Trans-nationalism has changed peoples relations to space particularly by creating social fields that connect and position some actors in more than one country. Trans-nationalism has changed peoples relations to space particularly by creating social fields that connect and position some actors in more than one country. Basch, Glick Schiller, & Blanc-Szanton, 1994

6 Context Geographical and cultural duality are adding a layer of complexity to understanding immigrant families who live a trans-national life Geographical and cultural duality are adding a layer of complexity to understanding immigrant families who live a trans-national life Practices and cultural meanings derived from specific geographical and historical points of origin have been transferred and re-grounded in new cultural settings¹ Practices and cultural meanings derived from specific geographical and historical points of origin have been transferred and re-grounded in new cultural settings¹ ¹Vertovec, 1999

7 Satellite babies Some new immigrant parents engage in the practice of sending infants back to their country of origin, to be raised by members of their extended family. Some new immigrant parents engage in the practice of sending infants back to their country of origin, to be raised by members of their extended family. This custom is particularly prevalent amongst Chinese immigrants to the United States and Canada This custom is particularly prevalent amongst Chinese immigrants to the United States and Canada satellite children¹ satellite children¹ ¹Waters, 2002

8 Satellite babies The children return to their parents in time to begin schooling, having endured multiple separations The children return to their parents in time to begin schooling, having endured multiple separations Does this have serious repercussions for social- emotional development? Does this have serious repercussions for social- emotional development?

9 When infants are separated from their families Studies deal primarily with adolescents' or young adults' perceptions and feelings about earlier separations from their parents Studies deal primarily with adolescents' or young adults' perceptions and feelings about earlier separations from their parents Few studies available are mostly retrospective Few studies available are mostly retrospective We know little about outcomes for younger, children exposed to serial separations We know little about outcomes for younger, children exposed to serial separations Glasgow & Ghouse-Sheese,1995; Smith, Lalonde & Johnson, 2004

10 When infants are separated from their families Many potential problems are associated with major disruptions and losses in the caregiver- baby relationship Many potential problems are associated with major disruptions and losses in the caregiver- baby relationship Greatest concern is threat to the bilateral attachment relationship Greatest concern is threat to the bilateral attachment relationship Bowlby, 1951/1969; Cassidy, 1999; Karen, 1994; Kobak, 1999; Miranda, Siddique, Der- Martirosian & Belin, 2005; Smith et al., 2004; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001

11 When infants are separated from their families The problem: Models of child mental health are based on First World, Western research¹ Models of child mental health are based on First World, Western research¹ ¹Liu & Clay, 2002; Sue, Casas, & Fouad, 1998

12 Attachment across cultures Infants are certainly able to engage in multiple, functional attachment relationships¹ Infants are certainly able to engage in multiple, functional attachment relationships¹ Alternative attachment styles, e.g., avoidance, may in fact maximize survival in less supportive contexts² Alternative attachment styles, e.g., avoidance, may in fact maximize survival in less supportive contexts² Numerous examples of infants having to fit into the culture at the expense of comfort and happiness of both child and mother³ Numerous examples of infants having to fit into the culture at the expense of comfort and happiness of both child and mother³ ¹ van Ijzendoorn, Sagi & Lambermon, 1992; Main, 1990; ³Hinde, 1991 ¹ van Ijzendoorn, Sagi & Lambermon, 1992; ² Main, 1990; ³Hinde, 1991

13 Attachment studies from the Chinese community Concept of attachment very applicable to this cultural context¹ Concept of attachment very applicable to this cultural context¹ Attachment classifications has been remarkably similar to the global distribution² Attachment classifications has been remarkably similar to the global distribution² indifferent attachment³ indifferent attachment³ Chinese youngsters are more apprehensive or inhibited towards strangers than European American children Chinese youngsters are more apprehensive or inhibited towards strangers than European American children ¹Posada, 1995; ²van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg, 1988; ³Hu & Meng,1996; Hsu, 1985

14 Objectives of this study To study infants and their parents who are entangled in the complexities of a transnational lifestyle, and are subjected to multiple separations To study infants and their parents who are entangled in the complexities of a transnational lifestyle, and are subjected to multiple separations To generate useful information for mental health clinicians To generate useful information for mental health clinicians

15 Objectives of the study To explore the cultural, socio-economic, and individual factors that contribute to new immigrant parents decision to send their child overseas to be cared for by relatives, in the face of strong bio- evolutionary drives that would dictate proximity To explore the cultural, socio-economic, and individual factors that contribute to new immigrant parents decision to send their child overseas to be cared for by relatives, in the face of strong bio- evolutionary drives that would dictate proximity To describe parents decision-making process and propose a culturally sensitive decision-making model To describe parents decision-making process and propose a culturally sensitive decision-making model

16 Method Qualitative study Qualitative study Recruitment through a childrens mental health center in Toronto Recruitment through a childrens mental health center in Toronto Semi-structured interviews with 12 mothers (5 of whom were joined by their husbands), who had expressed an interest in, or were attending, a parenting group for Chinese Canadian families. Semi-structured interviews with 12 mothers (5 of whom were joined by their husbands), who had expressed an interest in, or were attending, a parenting group for Chinese Canadian families. All were struggling with the decision of whether or not to send their infants back to their home country, to be raised by relatives. All were struggling with the decision of whether or not to send their infants back to their home country, to be raised by relatives. All participants were recent (6 months- 3 years) immigrants from mainland China, and ranged in age from 24 to 36 (mean=26). All participants were recent (6 months- 3 years) immigrants from mainland China, and ranged in age from 24 to 36 (mean=26). All were university – educated. All were university – educated. 1-1½ hour in home interview. 1-1½ hour in home interview. Individual interviews; modified grounded theory approach. Individual interviews; modified grounded theory approach.

17 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

18 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

19 Ambivalence I have been thinking about sending my child to China to live with grandparents... I havent made up my mind yet, so my child is still here. I have to spend quite a lot of time on the child…. I still havent made the decision…we are having the strong feeling of keeping the child here… (Li Wen) I have been thinking about sending my child to China to live with grandparents... I havent made up my mind yet, so my child is still here. I have to spend quite a lot of time on the child…. I still havent made the decision…we are having the strong feeling of keeping the child here… (Li Wen)

20 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

21 Cultural and Economic value of career Because of the family financial [situation}, we need to send her back to China for parents to take care of her… I have to send my child back to China. At least for a couple of years. (Lee) Because of the family financial [situation}, we need to send her back to China for parents to take care of her… I have to send my child back to China. At least for a couple of years. (Lee)

22 Cultural and Economic value of career I've been here for three years, I want to have my own career; I had a good job in China but I am starting over, here…I feel like I have to start all over; because of the baby I can't go back to work…I want to work harder to get a house…is hard to afford; the most important factor is financial; It's bad to rent an apartment with the baby, so we can have a house when the baby comes back home, so the baby will have her own room for studying that she doesn't have to share with anyone else. (Monica) I've been here for three years, I want to have my own career; I had a good job in China but I am starting over, here…I feel like I have to start all over; because of the baby I can't go back to work…I want to work harder to get a house…is hard to afford; the most important factor is financial; It's bad to rent an apartment with the baby, so we can have a house when the baby comes back home, so the baby will have her own room for studying that she doesn't have to share with anyone else. (Monica)

23 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

24 My grandparents took care of me Preservation of Cultural traditions My grandparents took care of me My parents they also want us to send the baby back, they also want to play with the grandchild; in China grandparents are taking care of the baby (Lee) My parents they also want us to send the baby back, they also want to play with the grandchild; in China grandparents are taking care of the baby (Lee)

25 Preservation of Cultural traditions There are different cultures for China & Canada. If my baby grows up here and he just picks up the Canadian culture maybe he will have so many different ideas than us. I don't want my child just to grow up in Canada and just talk Canadian (Connie) There are different cultures for China & Canada. If my baby grows up here and he just picks up the Canadian culture maybe he will have so many different ideas than us. I don't want my child just to grow up in Canada and just talk Canadian (Connie)

26 Preservation of Cultural traditions He [will not be able to] understand Chinese. That is a big problem. He [will not be able to] speak Chinese [or] read or write any Chinese. He [will not be able to] understand his Chinese name (Lynn) He [will not be able to] understand Chinese. That is a big problem. He [will not be able to] speak Chinese [or] read or write any Chinese. He [will not be able to] understand his Chinese name (Lynn)

27 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

28 For the good of the family Extended family systems needsFor the good of the family For the child herself I dont think theres any advantage for her, but just for the consideration of the family, for the whole family, (we) have to think of it as an advantage (Lee) For the child herself I dont think theres any advantage for her, but just for the consideration of the family, for the whole family, (we) have to think of it as an advantage (Lee)

29 Extended family systems needs But the relationship with relatives and friends, they are in Bejing, so child will feel more the family ties, that is what's most important But the relationship with relatives and friends, they are in Bejing, so child will feel more the family ties, that is what's most important

30 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

31 Affectively charged attachment schemas My baby is now 9 months, I'm afraid that baby will forget about us. Seeing her grow up, every day, I feel I can't be separated from the baby. I'm feeling that the baby and I are attached together. I would feel really bad (if the baby had to go to China), if it has to be, then it has to be, but I would feel very bad (Sue) My baby is now 9 months, I'm afraid that baby will forget about us. Seeing her grow up, every day, I feel I can't be separated from the baby. I'm feeling that the baby and I are attached together. I would feel really bad (if the baby had to go to China), if it has to be, then it has to be, but I would feel very bad (Sue)

32 Affectively charged attachment schemas The relationship would be blocked; I would feel guilty and self-blame, it's the responsibility of the parents to be with their baby (Lee)The relationship would be blocked; I would feel guilty and self-blame, it's the responsibility of the parents to be with their baby (Lee)

33 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

34 Acculturation and educational benefitsLosing out in the new culture The language barrier when they come back to here. It is sometimes hard for them to speak English so the child can communicate with the others…. they [also] have to learn to study (Hui). The language barrier when they come back to here. It is sometimes hard for them to speak English so the child can communicate with the others…. they [also] have to learn to study (Hui).

35 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

36 Nuclear family bias I'm strongly opposed to sending the baby back, have to be separated. No one can replace the parent. (Zhi) I'm strongly opposed to sending the baby back, have to be separated. No one can replace the parent. (Zhi)

37 Mitigating and compensatory factors (Developmental knowledge) Mitigating and compensatory factors (Developmental knowledge) [I would send her] for three years. But she will come back here before [she is] 4 years old. (Jen) [I would send her] for three years. But she will come back here before [she is] 4 years old. (Jen) When we are separated we will continue to have contact on telephone and the internet. (Lynn) When we are separated we will continue to have contact on telephone and the internet. (Lynn) We will use the webcam (Connie) We will use the webcam (Connie)

38 Lack of community resources Current economic needs Decision-Making Process Opposition to SEPARATION Ambivalence

39 Conclusions The custom of trans-national parenting of satellite babies exists at the interface of globalization and parent-child relationships The custom of trans-national parenting of satellite babies exists at the interface of globalization and parent-child relationships An examination of parents decision-making about separating from their infants reveals complex layers of rational considerations that are suffused with ambivalence and often resignation. An examination of parents decision-making about separating from their infants reveals complex layers of rational considerations that are suffused with ambivalence and often resignation.

40 Conclusions Parents who have one foot in the old and one foot in their new culture appear to use familiar models of roles and traditions flexibly in the service of economic need. Meanwhile, cultural, collectivist claims clearly keep pace with attachment and other psycho-biological needs of child and parent, and often override them. Parents who have one foot in the old and one foot in their new culture appear to use familiar models of roles and traditions flexibly in the service of economic need. Meanwhile, cultural, collectivist claims clearly keep pace with attachment and other psycho-biological needs of child and parent, and often override them.

41 Conclusions These claims may be adaptive, productive and protective These claims may be adaptive, productive and protective As clinicians, we have very little, and incomplete information on which to base our interventions As clinicians, we have very little, and incomplete information on which to base our interventions

42 Conclusions It is clear that a multi-systemic cost/ benefit ratios should be considered when clinically addressing practices that are considered harmful by Western standards, and that research needs to identify and define both these benefits and costs in a socio-cultural context. It is clear that a multi-systemic cost/ benefit ratios should be considered when clinically addressing practices that are considered harmful by Western standards, and that research needs to identify and define both these benefits and costs in a socio-cultural context.

43 Parent-child Separation

44 Parent-child Separation

45 Thank you!


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