Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Portraits of success: Immigrant women's strategies for overcoming barriers in the urban United States
by Trachtenberg, Barbara, Ed.D., Boston University, 1995, 162; 9509207
Abstract (Summary)

This collaborative interview study uses biographic interviews to describe the process of succeeding of six immigrant mothers, arrived poor from Central America and living today in the Boston area. The women defined success, described by both tangible and intangible elements unique to each. This study does not claim the women have complete or ongoing control over their lives; rather, it speculates as to how they encounter, react to, and master their environments differently from each other, given the varied situations they face in the new culture.

The research questions asked (1) how poor immigrant women improved their lives in the face of obstacles; (2) what founded their coping strategies; and (3) whether their strategies suggest improved policy, services, and research regarding immigrant women.

To answer these questions, data were interpreted through Brislin's and Lewis and Jungman's (1980, 1986) stages of cross-cultural adjustment which helped identify the women's awareness that they could function in the host culture and ultimately separate from home. Berry's (1990a) framework for immigrant adaptation in multicultural societies helped identify the women's identity integration of homeland and host culture. Finally, Bandura's (1978) self-efficacy theory helped to understand how the women rewarded their own behaviors to persist in greater mastery, used familiar models for expanded achievement, and evaluated and motivated themselves through goal-setting.

First, the women improved their lives by creating personal definitions of success within the new culture and changing their perceptions and beliefs to master fearful situations. The question of success became an inquiry into its cultural and personal meaning. Second, their coping strategies were derived from their individual persistence, past cultural values and behavioral models, increasing participation in United States life, and psychological task-oriented strategies--goal-setting and coping through retreat, attack, and compromise. Third, their strategies suggest public articulation of the private constraints and solutions of women early in acculturation, psychological support groups to facilitate quicker and greater successes of functional immigrant women and to offer them as models for newer immigrants, and larger correlational studies to build on these findings to promote the social integration of immigrant families.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wurzel, Jaime
School: Boston University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 55/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Educational psychology, Families & family life, Personal relationships, Sociology, Womens studies
Keywords: immigrants, urban women, women
Publication Number: 9509207
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