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Morality and identity in Mexican immigrant parents' visions of the future

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The tendency for immigrants to evaluate their circumstances in the host country in terms of the life they knew in their native country has been described as a 'dual frame of reference'. Although the immigrant family may be living in crowded conditions and the parents working long hours for a minimum wage, family members can none the less compare their circumstances to those they left in their home country and feel that they are better off in their new land. However, for first-generation Mexican immigrant parents in the United States, for whom the traditional child-rearing values of respect, obedience and family unity form a significant ethnic marker, the dual frame of reference takes on an additional perspective. Although the home country is viewed as a land of economic hardship, it remains a treasured source of core moral values that continue to give coherence to everyday life. This study examines ways in which the twofold nature of the immigrants' frame of reference, in which the host country exemplifies both material good and moral decay, contributes to their differential adoption of US customs and values as well as heightened insecurity regarding their children's futures. The adaptive struggle confronting Mexican immigrants in the United States is played out in moral terms: how does one raise children who surpass their parents economically but do not fall prey to the moral dangers of contemporary American society?
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2001

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