Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Michael J. Curtis, Ph.D.

Keywords

Immigrants, Norms, Parent involvement, Education, Coleman, Bourdieu, Culture, Ethnic-specific capital

Abstract

This qualitative study utilized concepts drawn from the theories advanced by Coleman (1988) and Pierre Bourdieu (1987) to examine the extent to which Asian Indian mothers utilize embodied cultural capital and social capital (specifically social norms and social networks) in their engagement in their children's education. Using interviews with 12 Asian Indian mothers whose children were enrolled in a large urban school district in West Central Florida, the study examined their beliefs about the value of education, the origin of those beliefs, their roles in their children's education, family and community norms surrounding education, and how they utilized social networks to assist them in negotiating the American public school system. Several themes emerged from the interviews. Mothers' habitus included a view of education as critical to building a secure future for their children.

They attributed their strong emphasis on education to personal experiences within their own families and particular historical and local conditions present within Indian society, including a history with colonialism, overpopulation, and a very competitive schooling system. Mothers' habitus also included playing an extremely active role in their children's educations, including extensive academic supplementing of the American curriculum. Academic supplementing was based on both their perceptions of a lack of rigor in the American elementary school curriculum and their belief in the importance of continuous learning for children. How participants' habitus likely functioned as embodied capital in interaction with schools is discussed. Participants reported that norms about education in the larger Asian Indian community included an emphasis on educatio as central priority in the lives of children as well as competitiveness around academics.

They indicated that this competitiveness had both positive and negative effects on children. Partly due to their lack of knowledge about the American school system, mothers reported extensive use of co-ethnic social networks to access information that they used to help them support their children's educational success. They discussed how the composition of these networks limited their usefulness and how they sought knowledgeable outsiders to compensate for these weaknesses. Implications of the findings for researchers are discussed and suggestions for future research are offered.

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