Grounded in the family strengths perspective, this study focuses on the experience of first-generation immigrant parents in an effort to highlight the role of human agency in relation to family adjustment. Using a qualitative approach, this study examined the experience of 20 first-generation immigrant Latino parents of young children (ages 0-7), before and after migration, and their perceived adjustment. This approach created a holistic story of the migration process, relevant to promote civic and social participation. Several themes emerged within three cultural domains in relation to the concept of human agency: (1) pre-migration: intentionality and forethought, (2) settlement process: planning and kinship network, and (3) post-immigration: overcoming challenges and reactive adjustment. The results illustrate that recent immigrant parents are planners, thinkers, and self-regulators. The information provided here is useful to inform evidence-based practices and to inspire researchers as well as service providers.

Key Take Away Points

  • Considering there is variation within immigrant groups, perceived adjustment needs to be understood within contextual factors as they relate to parents’ perceived overall family well-being.
  • Findings indicate that immigrant parents are active producers of constructive actions and changes, giving meaning and direction to their personal circumstances and family functioning.
  • When evaluating the immigration experience through the lens of human agency and family strengths, culturally salient asset and protective factors can be identified.

Author Biography

Angel L. Gullon-Rivera is a Certified Family Life Educator and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Family Science Program, at Western Michigan University. His research agenda focuses on vulnerable families, including recent immigrants, foster and adoptive parents. His research initiative emphasizes young and elementary school age children, particularly Latino children, and children displaying behavioral challenges. Particularly his research interests included: the role of storytelling, relational self-worth, and children’s socioemotional adjustment. His outreach approach consists of educating the community, including parents, and professionals working with families on effective approaches to promote children’s well-being.