Parents’ Ethnotheories of their Bicultural Children and of Parenting: Interpretive Case Studies with Three Intercultural Couples in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Janine May Tine
  • I conducted three case studies spanning three different Canadian provinces to explore parental perceptions of childhood and childrearing held by parent couples in intercultural marriages in which one spouse was Canadian born and raised and the other was foreign born and raised and immigrated to Canada as an adult. The three parent couples in my study were (1) a couple with one partner born in Canada and one in Uganda who have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old; (2) a couple with one partner born in Canada and one in The Netherlands who have a 2-year-old; and (3) a Plains Cree individual born in Canada and their Romanian-born spouse who have a 9-year- old and an 11-year-old. My intent was to explore how these parents experience raising their children as they navigate their different understandings of childhood and parenting.

    Children in intercultural families are referred to as bicultural, experiencing influences from both parents’ childrearing practices. My study is informed by the developmental niche framework, which acknowledges the role of parents’ cultural belief systems regarding the nature of the child and its influence on childcare practices (Super & Harkness, 2002). Of particular importance to parents’ cultural belief systems are parental ethnotheories, which include “taken- for-granted ideas about the ‘natural’ or ‘right’ way to think or act” (Super & Harkness, 2002, p. 270) when caring for children.

    The participants’ parental ethnotheories were explored using a qualitative research design that employed interpretive inquiry (Ellis, 1998) informed by philosophical hermeneutics (Ellis, 1998; D. G. Smith, 1991) and was attentive to cultural protocols (Merriam, 2009; Patton, 2002; L. T. Smith, 2012; Tine, 2020). Pre-interview activities as well as interviews using open-ended questions (Ellis, 2006; Ellis, Amjad, & Deng, 2011; Ellis, Hetherington, et al., 2013), were used to gather data on parents’ understandings of children and childrearing. For each case study, two two-hour individual interviews were carried out with each partner separately, followed by a two- hour joint interview with the couple. After transcription of the interviews, narrative portraits were crafted for each couple.

    The participants’ accounts were then examined for common elements and then categories were created, part-whole relationships were explored (Polkinghorne, 1995), and narrative accounts were crafted. Common to all three narrative accounts were the topics of interactions in the community, safety, understandings of children, sources of parenting influence, language (examined through the construct of family language policy), and identification and identity. The topic of interculturalists is found throughout the Ugandan/Canadian-born couple’s narrative account (and to a lesser extent in the Romanian/Canadian-born couple’s account). Unique to the Ugandan/Canadian-born couple is the topic of time. Each participant in my study holds understandings of parenting and childhood both in common and in difference with their spouse, sometimes acculturating to their spouse’s ways of parenting. Despite their differences, the couples are able to parent in collaborative and amicable ways amid both their unmet hopes of each other and their unrealized parental agendas (e.g., hopes for their children). My study offers insights into the transnational nature of intercultural childrearing in the context of immigration. My study also highlights the destructive intergenerational impact of Canada’s colonial imposition on my Plains Cree participant and her family, as well as offers stories of survival (Donald, 2012).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.