Pakistani immigrants living in the United States face the challenge of teaching their children, in particular daughters, traditional values while helping them to adapt to the norms of their host country. As women in an Islamic society, mothers hold primary responsibility for this process. The purpose of this study was to explore how Pakistani mothers adapt their parenting practices post-immigration to the United States. A qualitative study was developed to explore the ways in which mothers parenting adapted to the cultural mores in the United States.
Twenty-six South Asian immigrant women of Pakistani origin were recruited from three New Jersey cities using a snowball sampling approach. All had parented daughters after immigrating to the United States from Pakistan and were well suited to contribute to the study. The sample included both women with family members in the United States and women without Pakistani friends or family in the United States. Participants’ median age was 38 years. Participants had been married for periods ranging from 4 to 26 years and one was widowed. All had lived with extended families before marriage, after marriage, or both; but at the time of the study, the average household size was 4 persons. All participants had given birth to one or more children, including at least one daughter, after migrating to the United States. In total, study participants were mother to sixty-nine children, of whom twenty-nine were girls and forty were boys. Children’s ages ranged from 21 years to one month.
Data collection began after approval was obtained from the Rutgers University Institutional Review Board. The interviewer was a bilingual Pakistani female immigrant. After obtaining informed consent and collecting demographic information, each study participant was interviewed in her preferred language using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were conducted in participants’ homes and lasted up to 2 hours each, and multiple interviews were conducted with each participant. Participants were asked to describe their experiences with very little prompting. Initially, they were asked to narrate details of their childhood experiences and reflect on Pakistani cultural practices and gender norms. They were also asked about their perceptions of Pakistani gender preference, the intersection of gender roles and religion in Pakistani culture, and how they have adapted their childrearing beliefs and practices in the United States since immigration. Throughout each interview, participants were encouraged to explore those issues which were most important to them.
To address bias and validity issues in data analyses, a bilingual Pakistani collaborator assisted in the transcription phase and a second independent collaborator reviewed sections of coding and analyses. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed by the interviewer, a trained bilingual qualitative researcher, and back translated to ensure validity (Brislin, 1970; Chen & Boore, 2010). As the interviewer is a mother and immigrant of Pakistani origin, reflexivity was an important component of this project. The coding team read and reread all transcripts independently before coding each one by hand. Codes were assigned to meaningful units of data, or concepts and ideas expressed as phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2011). After coding was completed, the team met to compare coding assignments, review coding categories and recode as needed. Disagreements were discussed until agreement was reached. Coders worked together to identify emergent themes and group related codes into larger categories (Borkan, 1999). Three major themes were ultimately identified, and member checking (Creswell & Miller, 2000) was utilized to provide validation for them.
Three major themes emerged: the importance of mothers’ gender role socialization in Pakistan, mothers’ fears that their daughters would resist traditional Pakistani gender norms, and the need to adapt the family’s religious practices to the new environment. Mothers’ post-immigration parenting was shaped by the challenge of raising daughters in the United States; this led to a redefinition of the role of the mosque, greater cross-gender and family participation in religious education, and for some families, a more religious lifestyle.
See more of: Oral Paper & Poster: Science Sessions