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The effects of trans-nationalism on infant development:

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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, 2007.

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

3 Context 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

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 “has changed people’s 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 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. This custom is particularly prevalent amongst Chinese immigrants to the United States and Canada “satellite children”¹ ¹Waters, 2002

8 Satellite babies The children return to their parents in time to begin schooling, having endured multiple separations 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 Few studies available are mostly retrospective 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 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 ¹Liu & Clay, 2002; Sue, Casas, & Fouad, 1998

12 Attachment across cultures
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 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; ²Main, 1990; ³Hinde, 1991

13 Attachment studies from the Chinese community
Concept of attachment very applicable to this cultural context¹ Attachment classifications has been ”remarkably similar to the global distribution”² “indifferent attachment”³ 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 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 describe parents’ decision-making process and propose a culturally sensitive decision-making model

16 Method Qualitative study
Recruitment through a children’s 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. 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 were university – educated. 1-1½ hour in home interview. Individual interviews; modified grounded theory approach.

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

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

19 Ambivalence “I have been thinking about sending my child to China to live with grandparents... I haven’t 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 haven’t made the decision…we are having the strong feeling of keeping the child here…” (Li Wen)

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

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)

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)

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

24 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)

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)

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)

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

28 Extended family systems needs “For the good of the family”
“For the child herself I don’t think there’s 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”

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

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)

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)

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

34 Acculturation and educational benefits “Losing 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).

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

36 Nuclear family bias “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)
“[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) “We will use the webcam” (Connie)

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

39 Conclusions 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.

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.

41 Conclusions These claims may be adaptive, productive and protective
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.

43 Parent-child Separation

44 Parent-child Separation

45 Thank you!


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