The Return of Satellite Babies: Two Studies Exploring and Responding to the Needs of Reunited Immigrant Families
Whitfield, Natasha Theresa Madelaine
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In this era of globalization, transnational families have been found to engage in cultural practices of parent-child separation and reunification, wherein children and parents live continents apart for years, before being reunited as a family. In Canada, these practices are adopted by immigrant families in a number of cultural communities. As the existing literature has found parent-child separation and reunification practices of this nature to be linked to poor socioemotional functioning in children, parenting difficulties, and parent-child relationship challenges, this research aimed to examine and respond to the unique needs and challenges of reunited transnational families in Chinese, African/Caribbean, and South Asian Canadian immigrant communities. Toward that end, this research was comprised of two studies. Study 1 examined the child-focused concerns, parent-focused concerns, and parent-child relational concerns in the context of parent-child separation and reunification by means of focus groups and interviews with parents in three immigrant communities. Study 2 proposed, implemented, and evaluated a brief culturally sensitive intervention tailored to the needs of reunited immigrant parent-child dyads. Results from Study 1 revealed a host of parent concerns about child behaviour, parenting struggles, and parent-child relationship challenges across all three immigrant communities which began during periods of parent-child separation, and generally persisted and/or worsened post-reunification. These findings informed Study 2, the process and evaluation of which revealed similar patterns of difficulties in child and parent socioemotional functioning and parent-child relationships. The quantitative and qualitative results of Study 2 provided evidence supporting the efficacy of an adaptation of the PCIA-II/MAP intervention for reunited transnational families, with participant program satisfaction, and significant improvements in parental report of problems, stress, and negativity in their parent-child relationship, as well as parental stress-related distress. Positive shifts in child behaviour, parental attributions, and parent-child interactions and relationship quality were also noted from pre- to post-intervention. Together, these studies contribute important data to the literature on the needs of transnational families, and advocate for continued work in this area, in the interest of providing Canadian immigrant families with much-needed supports fostering positive child development, optimal parenting, and healthy parent-child relationships.