Immigrant Youth Adapting to Transnational Family Life: Ethical and Methodological Issues for Nurse Researchers

Wednesday, 15 July 2009: 3:45 PM

Naomi A. Schapiro, RN, MS, CPNP
Family Health Care Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Learning Objective 1: Describe the causes and health effects of transnational families: parents living and working in one country while their children are raised in another.

Learning Objective 2: Evaluate methodological and ethical concerns for nurse researchers studying immigrant and transnational youth.

Purpose: As many as 80% of children who immigrate to the United States in late childhood have been separated from one or both parents, often living with relatives in their home country for several years while their parents work in the United States. Researchers in the field have described the dynamics in separated transnational families, primarily from the parents' point of view. Research on immigrant adolescents and risk behaviors are contradictory. Educational research shows these youth struggle in US schools, and the dropout rate of immigrant youth in 2004 was 25.9 per 100 youths, compared to 17 per 100 for native-born children of immigrant parents. The goal of this pilot study was to understand the adaptation process of youth who migrated after age 9 and who were reunifying with a parent. Methods: Study design: Grounded theory pre-doctoral pilot study of Latino immigrant adolescents who have been separated from a parent during immigration. In-depth interviews with 5 adolescents from Mexico and Central America, separated for 4 years or more from at least one parent, and participant observation at youth-attended Latino community events and 6 HS support group meetings. Results: rich narrative descriptions of subjective experiences of immigrant adaptations, however youth often reluctant to discuss family conflicts in depth. Conclusion: Youth describe early adolescence as an at risk time for gang involvement and a critical time for presence of a parent, especially same-gender. English learner classes are seen as building a sense of community, but also a barrier to educational advancement. Immigration enforcement adversely affects reunification, educational and career goals. Review of setting and methodology show that youth view nurse researchers differently than nurse clinicians and these differences affect their willingness to disclose family problems.