In the mind of the beholder: Evaluation of coping styles of immigrant parents

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The issue of coping with cultural transition, as in the case of immigration, has been the focus of extensive investigation in many domains. There is some diversity among scholars as to the relationship between change, stress, risk and well-being. Children, in particular, are regarded at risk since they experience parental stress and are exposed to two sometimes conflicting socializing systems. Consequently, parental modes of coping with "acculturation stress" are considered major factors in predicting immigrant children's well-being. This article challenges existing views of a linear relation between parental coping and child well-being, suggesting that there is a great complexity and many variables that affect both parental coping strategies related to immigration and the definition of risk. We suggest that child development is affected by parental values and ideologies which form the "Adaptive Adult" image of the culture in which the children are raised. Immigrant parents confronted with a foreign Adaptive Adult image held by the socializing agents of the host culture may adopt one of the several different coping styles. The article describes three most common coping styles labelled by metaphors from the animal world: the traditional "uni-cultural" style which promotes conservation is represented by the Kangaroo strategy; the "culturally-disoriented" style which calls for rapid assimilation of children is represented by the Cuckoo metaphor; and the "bi-culrural" style, based on a meditative approach, is illustrated by the Chameleon's ability to change its colour to blend in with the environment. Representatives of four professional sectors who are in daily contact with immigrant families, including educators, social workers, educational psychologist and paediatricians, were presented with three typical coping strategies and were asked to express their opinions regarding the adaptive and risk values of each coping style. By applying a qualitative research approach, results indicate that there are variations in the way the various stakeholders (parents and socializing agents) perceive basic concepts such as adaptation, risk and well-being. Consequently, their evaluations of the different parental coping styles vary, suggesting that it is all "in the mind of the beholder".

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)271-288
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


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