California State University, Stanislaus
The growing number of Latino immigrant families in the United States is expected to double by the year 2050, making them a dominant population whose cultural barriers need to be addressed (Vallejo, 2012). First generation students are under the social concept of “equal opportunity,” which is manifested through one’s opportunities to acquire education at any level, independent of ones background (Gofen, 2009). However, minorities encounter specific cultural challenges that hinder the deconstruction of the intergenerational cycle. Although identifiable tools can be used as resources towards social mobility, Portes and MacLeod (1996) argue that parental status and the distinct characteristics of immigrant communities hinder educational attainment. The conditions of immigrant communities submerged with poverty, outside discrimination, and the legal status of inhabitants puts immigrant students at a disadvantage (Portes & MacLeod, 1996). Although parents have high aspirations for their offspring, the fear of “Americanization” leaves parents insecure about the potential gains and losses a higher education can lead to. London (1989) examines family role assignments and separation dynamics among first generations students. He states that immigrant parents form contradicting messages as they encourage their children to be successful, but constrain them to local communities (London, 1989). The fear of losing their children to Western culture contributes to the slow process of cultural and structural assimilation of Mexican immigrants (Su, Richardson, & Wang, 2010). Su et al. (2010) concluded that until the third generation the process of assimilation begins to shape Mexican American’s gender role values consistent with American ideologies. The process of assimilation is fully evident in the third generation because parents are born in the U.S. and are able to adapt to Western values shaping their offspring’s cultural beliefs. Although adapting to Western society increases the opportunities for intergenerational mobility, Vallejo’s (2012) findings demonstrate that there are multiple paths of incorporation into the middle class; that one need not to become white to achieve mobility, and that incorporating as a minority is not synonymous with downward mobility. Assessing these five articles led me to identify an area of research that deconstructs intergenerational cycles by analyzing the distinct cultural characteristics that hinder assimilation and upward social mobility. By increasing our understanding of specific minority challenges and the process of assimilation, resources congruent with cultural beliefs can be created to aid marginalized populations into the middle class.
Gofen, A. (2009). Family capital: How first-generation higher education students break
the intergenerational cycle. Family Relations, 58(1), 104-120. doi:
This article examines families whose offspring succeeded in breaking the intergenerational cycle by attaining higher education even though both parents did not. The purpose of the study is to explore how first generation students explain their higher education attainment, identify strategies that support education, and understand how first generation students are able to deconstruct the intergenerational cycle. A qualitative design was used to conduct fifty semi-structured interviews with first generation Israeli students in order to understand the “breakthrough phenomenon” through which children attain higher education and break the intergenerational cycle. Thirty-one participants were recruited at an intervention program targeting students from minority groups at Hebrew University and nineteen students were the product of snowball