Gender Roles and Settlement Activities
• Abel Valenzuela, a UCLA professor, created an analysis of
about 68 interviews within Mexican immigrant
• Immigrant settlement is based on different theories that
help understand how immigrants coming to the United
States permanently settle.
• Initial years adjusting: struggles, discrimination, difficult
situations in integrating into American way of life.
• Gender and familism (needs of family outweigh needs of
one particular individual) help mediate settlement.
Immigrant Settlement, Children, and Gender
• Traditional Latino families are highly familistic and are confronted with
obstacles such as immigration, poverty, and socioeconomic status.
• Children and their gender provide an influence in immigrant households
and settling into a new surrounding.
• Children of immigrants in the United States became tutors, advocates,
and surrogate parents
• Girls took on tasks with greater responsibility than boys and the eldest
child played the role of taking care of younger siblings.
Mexican Immigrant Settlement
• It has been occurring since Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed
after Mexican-American war (1848).
• The Bracero Program (1942-1964) allowed the insight on the large
number of Mexican immigrants who wanted to enter the United States in
1965 when Congress terminated the Natural Origins Act.
• Los Angeles is second to Mexico City in number of Mexicans living within
• Immigration studies produced two significant forms of research: one
focusing on Mexican Immigrant settlement and generation studies
(processes that children of Mexican and other immigrants went through).
• Only recently did gender and children gain attention in the immigrant
Children and Settlement
• How do children assist within the household?
• Before 1965:
-Immigrants were more likely to rely on both community-based
and familial resources when settling.
-This meant that the family depended on one another and children
played a more active role as members.
• Post 1965:
- Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 passed
-Immigrant advocacy agencies, community-based organizations,
bilingual education programs, and other resources were created and
children became a minimal part in the settlement of immigrant families.
• Children did not need to take part in complex tasks as their parents tried
• What role did children take on in assisting household settlement?
• Since the times had changed post-1965, children were not as significant
in playing a major role regarding settlement of immigrant families.
• The meaning of being a child was different from that of Mexicans coming
from urban centers or even those who lived in Los Angeles.
• The role of children in postindustrial societies changed from
“contributors” to “sentimental” objects of affection. (Zelizer 1985)
• Valenzuela challenged this notion of children having lesser roles in
• Children served as translators, consultants, and mediators within the
family as part of settling into a new life.
• He used snowball sampling in order to gather enough data that was
useful for research along with an incentive of $25.
• There were eight snowball samples within the Los Angeles Area resulting
in the 68 interviews. They were all within the typical Latino or Mexican-
concentrated neighborhood such as Boyle Heights and East Los
• Valenzuela wanted to focus on institutions that were necessary to begin
permanent settlement of immigrant families.
• He also explored how children (boys and girls) contributed in assisting
with settlement of adults who had recently arrived into a household.
Findings for Research
• Young girls had a more predominant role in terms of responsibility that boys did.
• There were three main tasks that children took: a) tutors b) advocates c)
• The situations within the immigrant households were varied and complex but
children of immigrant families actively participated in the naturalization process
of their parents.
• There were clear gender patterns in the roles that young girls and boys took.
• These findings led to a better understanding of how children did facilitate
settlement and establishment of Mexican immigrant households.
• Gender also played a role in immigration as the patterns and activities of the
• Finally, it showed the complexity of immigrant settlement in the United States.
• Immigrants were quickly introduced to decentralized school system of the United
• Having year-round system led to confusion and on top of that, new immigrants
with children have to work several jobs and locate housing.
• Older siblings became responsible (surrogate parents) over their younger siblings.
• In addition, mothers or female members of the household took on a larger role in
being involved with school activities.
• Household responsibilities were distributed to children and other members while
parents worked for household stability.
• Biggest challenge for immigrants and essential to survival.
• Social networking and job searching used for employment.
• Immigrant children pressured to help towards household financial situation.
• Children of postindustrial era are not seen as financial resources, more of
emotional investments (Zelizer, 1985)
• Girls in immigrant households were dominant in dealing with financial matters
but boys also contributed to some extent.
• Children of immigrants assisted in financial contribution, lowering household
frustration leading to easier permanent settlement.
• Mexican immigrants come to America to find job opportunities.
• Job openings often comes from word of mouth from family or friends in Mexico.
• Children again play an important role in securing jobs.
• Workers rights
• Children also translated for their parents.
• Mexican immigrant workers have the worse paying and abusive jobs within Los
• Children assisted parents with healthcare system.
• Doctor visits
• Translating diagnosis – English to Spanish
• Caring for sick parents
• Both boys and girls involved in translating, sometimes it was embarrassing,
difficult, and dehumanizing.
• Children truly took responsibility in helping their parents.
Conclusion of Research
Role Gender Pattern
School Tutors/Surrogate parents -Mothers and older siblings took on the role
-No gender pattern
Finance Resource Financial
Girls undertook these roles more frequently
Employment Tutors/Advocates Girls took on more responsibility than boys
Legal Institution Advocates Girls major contributors than boys
Political Involvement Tutors/Advocates Girls took on more roles than boys
Health Services Tutors/Advocates/Care-
No clear gender pattern
“The Normal American Family”
• Karen Pyke based the analysis on 73 in-depth interviews
and it revolves around the children of Korean and
• Respondents who were part of the study focused on a
solid image of what a “normal American family” was like.
• “The Normal American Family” or the Family, served as a
contrasting picture for Asian immigrants and their own
• The notion of the Family towards children of immigrant
minorities could actually shape their desires,
disappointments, and realities.
Family Ideology as Interpretive Structure
• Images of “Normal” American families are dominant in society.
Images of “Normal families” are dominant in the society
Found in: everyday interactions
• Images in media portray “ideological code that subtly inserts an implicit
evaluation…of living together.”
• Scholarly concern with present ideology of a breadwinning husband with a
wife who works for pay but is also primarily devoted to the care of home
• Structure of ideal family contains notions of appropriate values, norms, and
beliefs that guide the way families relate to one another
Family Values Spread Widely in Pop Culture
• Over time, family values have grown in terms of importance and are spread widely
in popular culture such as TV shows.
Korean American Culture
• In Korea, children associated parental strictness with warmth and see
its absence as a sign of neglect.
• In the U.S., it was the opposite. Parental strictness = Child abuse
Korean and Vietnamese Immigrant Families
• Korean and Vietnamese families were a new ethnic group in the United
States prior to 1965.
• The study of only one Asian ethnic group contributes to a tendency to
over-generalize all Asian ethnic groups:
-came voluntarily in search of
-reconnect with families
Chinese Confucianism Influence
• Chinese Confucianism influenced traditional family systems of Korean
and Vietnamese families.
• Held values such as:
Solidarity (agreement among individuals)
• Korean and Vietnamese cultures derived respect from Confucianism for
those who were well-educated, education was the primary means for
Viewing Parental Relations through
• Less strict; more freedom
• More liberal; open-minded and less traditional
• Emotionally closer, more communicative, expressive, and affectionate to
• Dat: 22 years old, male, Vietnamese
• Hoa: 23 years old, male, Vietnamese
• Paul: 21 years old, male, Korean
• Mike: 22 years old, male, Vietnamese
• Thuy: 20 years old, female, Vietnamese
• Cora: 20 years old, female, Korean
• Similarity: “American = non-Asian”
Maintaining Ethnic Values of Filial Obligation
• “Family over everything”
• Respondents attributed their parents’ future care-giving to reciprocation
for parental care in the past and cultural emphasis on filial respect and
• Contrasting ideas when it came to filial obligation – respondents turned
towards Asian family values rather than Western family values.
• They believed that American families often abandon their elders and cut
off all filial commitment.
• Children of Korean and Vietnamese immigrants are bombarded with
images of the “normal” American family
• These family values often contrast with their own beliefs (Korean/
• The ideology of the picture perfect American family has a negative bias
towards children of immigrants
• This research only provides a tiny glimpse of how immigrant families and
their children assimilate into American society.