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					            The effects of trans-nationalism on infant development:
are we meeting the mental health needs of our youngest victims of globalization?

                                                Yvonne Bohr
                  La Marsh Research Centre, York University , Toronto, Canada

               Presented at “Transcultural mental health in a changing world: Building a global response”
                                   Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 29 – 31, 2007.
               Acknowledgments
   The parents who shared their stories
   York University lab:
      Natasha Mullen

      Jessica Chan

   At Aisling Discoveries Child & Family Centre:
      Connie Tse

      Sadie Kwong

   The La Marsh Research Centre
                      Context
   Primary relationships can be disrupted by
    population mobility
   In an era of intensifying globalization, even very
    young children are facing increasingly complex
    challenges due to this mobility
                        The stories

On the second Thursday in July, the woman, Xiu, finally did it.
Wrapping a tiny gold bracelet around his wrist, she placed her
son in the arms of a friend of a friend, who, for $1,000, agreed to
take him to China. Xiu's parent is raising him there now, along
with the 10-year-old daughter left behind last year when Xiu
joined her husband in New York. She plans to bring Henry
back when he reaches school age. But until then, she remains here,
waiting to be a parent to her child.

  Sengupta, 1999, p.1
                                Context

   Trans-nationalism: the development by
    expatriates or immigrants of “multi-stranded
    social relations that link together their societies
    of origin and settlement”
   Trans-nationalism “has changed people’s
    relations to space particularly by creating social
    fields that connect and position some actors in
    more than one country”.
    Basch, Glick Schiller, & Blanc-Szanton , 1994
                      Context
   Geographical and cultural duality are adding a
    layer of complexity to understanding immigrant
    families who live a trans-national life

   Practices and cultural meanings “derived from
    specific geographical and historical points of
    origin have been transferred and re-grounded”
    in new cultural settings¹

    ¹Vertovec, 1999
                     Satellite babies
   Some new immigrant parents engage in the
    practice of sending infants back to their country
    of origin, to be raised by members of their
    extended family.
   This custom is particularly prevalent amongst
    Chinese immigrants to the United States and
    Canada
   “satellite children”¹
     ¹Waters, 2002
                 Satellite babies

   The children return to their parents in time to
    begin schooling, having endured multiple
    separations

   Does this have serious repercussions for social-
    emotional development?
    When infants are separated from
             their families

   Studies deal primarily with adolescents' or young
    adults' perceptions and feelings about earlier
    separations from their parents
   Few studies available are mostly retrospective
   We know little about outcomes for younger,
    children exposed to serial separations

    Glasgow & Ghouse-Sheese,1995; Smith, Lalonde & Johnson, 2004
     When infants are separated from
              their families

   Many potential problems are associated with
    major disruptions and losses in the caregiver-
    baby relationship
   Greatest concern is threat to the bilateral
    attachment relationship

    Bowlby, 1951/1969; Cassidy, 1999; Karen, 1994; Kobak, 1999; Miranda, Siddique, Der-
    Martirosian & Belin, 2005; Smith et al., 2004; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001
  When infants are separated from
           their families

The problem:
 Models of child mental health are based on First
  World, Western research¹




  ¹Liu & Clay, 2002; Sue, Casas, & Fouad, 1998
          Attachment across cultures
   Infants are certainly able to engage in multiple,
    functional attachment relationships¹
   Alternative attachment styles, e.g., avoidance,
    may in fact maximize “survival” in less
    supportive contexts²
   Numerous examples of infants having to “fit
    into the culture” at the expense of comfort and
    happiness of both child and mother³

    ¹ van Ijzendoorn, Sagi & Lambermon, 1992; ²Main, 1990; ³Hinde, 1991
         Attachment studies from the
             Chinese community
   Concept of attachment very applicable to this
    cultural context¹
   Attachment classifications has been ”remarkably
    similar to the global distribution”²
   “indifferent attachment”³
   Chinese youngsters are more apprehensive or
    inhibited towards strangers than European
    American children
    ¹Posada, 1995; ²van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg, 1988; ³Hu & Meng,1996;   Hsu,
    1985
            Objectives of this study


    To study infants and their parents who are
    entangled in the complexities of a transnational
    lifestyle, and are subjected to multiple separations
   To generate useful information for mental health
    clinicians
            Objectives of the study

   To explore the cultural, socio-economic, and
    individual factors that contribute to new immigrant
    parents’ decision to send their child overseas to be
    cared for by relatives, in the face of strong bio-
    evolutionary drives that would dictate proximity
   To describe parents’ decision-making process and
    propose a culturally sensitive decision-making model
                             Method
   Qualitative study
   Recruitment through a children’s mental health center in Toronto
   Semi-structured interviews with 12 mothers (5 of whom were
    joined by their husbands), who had expressed an interest in, or
    were attending, a parenting group for Chinese Canadian families.
   All were struggling with the decision of whether or not to send
    their infants back to their home country, to be raised by relatives.
   All participants were recent (6 months- 3 years) immigrants from
    mainland China, and ranged in age from 24 to 36 (mean=26).
   All were university – educated.
   1-1½ hour in home interview.
   Individual interviews; modified grounded theory approach.
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
                   Ambivalence

   “I have been thinking about sending my child to
    China to live with grandparents... I haven’t made
    up my mind yet, so my child is still here. I have to
    spend quite a lot of time on the child…. I still
    haven’t made the decision…we are having the strong
    feeling of keeping the child here…” (Li Wen)
                           OLD CULTURE

                             Cultural and
 Preservation of                                   Extended family
                            Economic value
Cultural traditions            of career            Systems needs


                               Support
                           FOR SEPARATION




                                                                      Ambivalence
              Lack of                            Current
            community                           economic
            resources                             needs


                      Decision-Making Process


                            Opposition to
                            SEPARATION

                          Affectively charged
                              attachment
                               schemas

  Acculturation and
                                                Rational objections
    educational           Nuclear family bias
                                                   to separation
      benefits



                           NEW CULTURE
       Cultural and Economic value
                 of career


   “Because of the family financial [situation}, we need
    to send her back to China for parents to take care of
    her… I have to send my child back to China. At
    least for a couple of years.” (Lee)
        Cultural and Economic value
                  of career

   “I've been here for three years, I want to have my own
    career; I had a good job in China but I am starting over,
    here…I feel like I have to start all over; because of the baby
    I can't go back to work…I want to work harder to get a
    house…is hard to afford; the most important factor is
    financial; It's bad to rent an apartment with the baby, so
    we can have a house when the baby comes back home, so
    the baby will have her own room for studying that she
    doesn't have to share with anyone else.” (Monica)
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
    Preservation of Cultural traditions
        “My grandparents took care of me”


    “My parents they also want us to send the baby
    back, they also want to play with the grandchild; in
    China grandparents are taking care of the baby ”
    (Lee)
    Preservation of Cultural traditions

   “There are different cultures for China &
    Canada. If my baby grows up here and he just
    picks up the Canadian culture maybe he will have
    so many different ideas than us. I don't want my
    child just to grow up in Canada and just talk
    Canadian “ (Connie)
    Preservation of Cultural traditions


   “He [will not be able to] understand Chinese.
    That is a big problem. He [will not be able to]
    speak Chinese [or] read or write any Chinese.
    He [will not be able to] understand his Chinese
    name” (Lynn)
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
      Extended family systems needs
         “For the good of the family”


    “For the child herself I don’t think there’s any
    advantage for her, but just for the consideration of
    the family, for the whole family, (we) have to think
    of it as an advantage” (Lee)
      Extended family systems needs



   “But the relationship with relatives and friends,
    they are in Bejing, so child will feel more the family
    ties, that is what's most important”
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
      Affectively charged attachment
                  schemas
      “My baby is now 9 months, I'm afraid that
    baby will forget about us. Seeing her grow up, every
    day, I feel I can't be separated from the baby. I'm
    feeling that the baby and I are attached together. I
    would feel really bad (if the baby had to go to
    China), if it has to be, then it has to be, but I
    would feel very bad” (Sue)
      Affectively charged attachment
                  schemas


   “The relationship would be blocked; I would feel
    guilty and self-blame, it's the responsibility of the
    parents to be with their baby” (Lee)
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
Acculturation and educational benefits
     “Losing out in the new culture”


   “The language barrier when they come back to
    here. It is sometimes hard for them to speak
    English so the child can communicate with the
    others…. they [also] have to learn to study”
    (Hui).
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
              Nuclear family bias



   “I'm strongly opposed to sending the baby back,
    have to be separated. No one can replace the
    parent.” (Zhi)
 Mitigating and compensatory factors
     (Developmental knowledge)

 “[I would send her] for three years. But she will
  come back here before [she is] 4 years old.” (Jen)
 “When we are separated we will continue to have
  contact on telephone and the internet.” (Lynn)
 “We will use the webcam” (Connie)
                        OLD CULTURE

                          Cultural and
 Preservation of                                Extended family
                         Economic value
Cultural traditions         of career            Systems needs


                            Support
                        FOR SEPARATION




                                                                    Ambivalence
             Lack of                           Current
            community                         economic
            resources                           needs


                   Decision-Making Process


                          Opposition to
                          SEPARATION

                        Affectively charged
                            attachment
                             schemas

   Acculturation and
                                              Rational objections
     educational        Nuclear family bias
                                                 to separation
       benefits



                        NEW CULTURE
                   Conclusions

    The custom of trans-national parenting of
    satellite babies exists at the interface of
    globalization and parent-child relationships
   An examination of parents’ decision-making
    about separating from their infants reveals
    complex layers of rational considerations that
    are suffused with ambivalence and often
    resignation.
                  Conclusions
   Parents who have one foot in the old and one
    foot in their new culture appear to use familiar
    models of roles and traditions flexibly in the
    service of economic need. Meanwhile, cultural,
    collectivist claims clearly keep pace with
    attachment and other psycho-biological needs
    of child and parent, and often override them.
                   Conclusions


   These claims may be adaptive, productive and
    protective

   As clinicians, we have very little, and incomplete
    information on which to base our interventions
                  Conclusions


   It is clear that a multi-systemic cost/ benefit
    ratios should be considered when clinically
    addressing practices that are considered harmful
    by Western standards, and that research needs to
    identify and define both these benefits and costs
    in a socio-cultural context.
Parent-child
 Separation
Parent-child
 Separation
Thank you!

				
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