Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Immigrant Family Reunification among Central American Undocumented Minors in the U.S.: Implications for Counseling
by Sánchez, Ricardo O., Ph.D., George Mason University, 2019, 148; 13864554
Abstract (Summary)

Many undocumented minors journeyed from Central America alone or with at least one relative to reunite with their relatives in the U.S. Recent events in Central America such as gang violence, extreme poverty, and higher demand for female service workers have drawn mothers with small children and unaccompanied minors to use non-traditional and riskier means to migrate to the U.S. such as crossing deserts, being exposed to human trafficking, violence, rape, and death. The literature on undocumented minors during the initial stage (also known as the honeymoon stage) of family reunification is preliminary and inconclusive. Additionally, research methodologies, assessment instruments used in the study of Latino families, have not been tested on undocumented, unacculturated, Spanish speaking minors during reunification. Therefore, this study sought to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon by examining these two research questions: a) what is the psychological impact of family reunification in the U.S. on undocumented immigrant children? and b) what psychosocial adjustments occur in undocumented immigrant children during the initial stage of their family reunification?

The study interviewed 19 undocumented children who arrived in the U.S. within the past three years and were between the ages of 13 to18 years old. Data collected from the interviews were transcribed and analyzed using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR). The results from the CQR analysis found three areas that impacted the psychological and psychosocial well-being of undocumented children: (1) the psychological effects of shifting to new family arrangements (e.g., the transitions from living with caregivers to single-parent families, mixed-status families), (2) attachment dynamics and psychological impact (i.e., attachment/detachment behaviors due to reunification with parents and simultaneous separation from caregivers), and (3) a test of psychological strength (e.g., their sources of strength and resilience). Counseling implications suggest exploring the client’s positionality within the reunification phenomenon, attending to the quality of relationships, applying family systems and multifocal approaches, and providing culturally responsive and social justice counseling. Limitations and suggestions for future research are provided.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bemak, Fred
Commitee: Chung, Rita Chi-Ying, Talleyrand, Regine
School: George Mason University
Department: Counseling and Development
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-B 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social work, Public health, Counseling Psychology
Keywords: Counseling, Family, Family relations, Immigrant, Reunification, Undocumented minor
Publication Number: 13864554
ISBN: 978-1-392-22356-7
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