African Immigrant Professional Parents In Australia Education Essay

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Substantial extant literature demonstrates knowledge of the challenges immigrants encounter in their attempt to settle into a way of life different to their indigenous culture, with a growing body of evidence showing the impacts on acculturation, cultural identity, and child-parent relationship. However, there has been no documented research exploring the experiences of African immigrant professionals in their attempt to raise their children in Australia, hence the focus of this proposed research. This study, which will be phenomenological in nature, will provide these participants a platform to describe their parenting experience. Using a semi-structured interview, data will be collected from a purposive sample of 30 parents, each holding a professional-status employment, and analyzed using thematic analysis. The research will make a contribution to existing research and provide professionals in the area of psychology, parenting, and family life an in-depth view of the essence of the experience of immigrant professionals parenting their children in a different cultural milieu.

African Immigrant Professional Parents in Australia

The pivotal role of parenting in child development has been the focus of a number of studies seeking to understand variables that influence parenting practices (Fischer, Harvey & Driscoll, 2009). Researchers' attempt to comprehend issues relating to parenting, particularly within different sociocultural contexts, has proven complicated (Ochocka & Janzen, 2008). To this end, a number of studies have expressed the importance of cultural values, sociocultural and psychological outcomes that connect migrants to their new environment, especially in the area of personal and cultural identity, mental well-being, goal attainment, self-expertise, and child-parent relationship (Fischer, Harvey & Driscoll, 2009; Liebkind, Jasinskaja-Lahti & Solheim, 2004). This underscores the need for immigrant parents to consider the possible conflicting values and norms a receiving culture might present to them. Notably, a prime consideration for emigrating is usually the aspiration to provide a better education, safe environment and economic opportunities to enable their families and children to flourish (Liebkind, Jasinskaja-Lahti & Solheim, 2004). This sentiment is shared by all immigrants in spite of their social class, indigenous country, professional and/or financial standing (Md-Yunus, 2008).

Significance of the study

This proposed study would provide new information about immigrant professionals' parenting experience. It may also lead to a greater awareness and understanding of their specific challenges and the family's acculturation trajectory. Secondly, it will extend extant research by including the lived experience of African immigrant professionals raising their children in Australia. Thirdly, it will guide mental well-being and family-life professionals in providing information necessary for parental psychoeducation for immigrants. Lastly, this research will provide a basis for further research in the area of immigrant parenting experience.

Literature review

Various studies have underscored the fact that "variations within immigrant groups from the same country of origin can be based on the immigration experience, education, social class, profession, religion, and individual differences" (Md-Yunus, 2008, p. 315). Md-Yunus (2008) noted that although most immigrant parents are keen to support their children's success in school, their inadequate language skill might limit their effectiveness in partaking in school activities. Nevertheless, English language-speaking immigrant parents who may be able to communicate effectively may still encounter cultural impediments arising from dissimilar social practices and expectations in their native country (Md-Yunus, 2008). The implication of this might often weigh in on children's ability to adapt to their new social environment (Liebkind, Jasinskaja-Lahti & Solheim, 2004). Considering the growing number of Africans in Australia with different cultural values (Khan & Pedersen, 2010) and the implication of Nesteruk, Marks and Garrison's (2009) study that reported that parents' active involvement in the lives of their children through reading and providing encouragement contributed to children's ability to accommodate and settle into the dominant culture, a study to explore the lived experience of African immigrant parents who concurrently are also professionals in Australia is justified.

Poulsen (2009) remarked that some cultural values are more distinct to the issues of parenting and raising children within the immigration experience. The result of this study which investigated the experience of East Indian parents regarding their triumphs and trials in imparting their cultural and parenting values to their children, revealed that conflict may ensue as children attempt to uphold parental values, while simultaneously assimilating the values of the dominant culture (Poulsen, 2009). Yet in another vein, Obiakor and Afolayan (2007) remarked that the reason Black African immigrants in the United States (US) lag behind in transference of their native culture to their descendants may not be unrelated to their own intense drive to survive - resorting to remedial jobs to help pay for education and to support self and members of the family both in the native and receiving countries - hence leaving no time for the impartation of cultural value to take place.

Further, Nesteruk, Marks and Garrison (2009) noted that Punjabi immigrant students excelled academically than other mainstream and minority students due to their maintenance of a strong sense of cultural identity and cohesion as passed to them through their parents. Therefore, considering Obiakor and Afolayan's (2007) earlier claim about Black African parents' time impoverishment in their study, this planned study will investigate whether the professional-status employment of this African immigrant parents affords them time to pass on their cultural values to their children.

Investigating the parent-centered values Latino immigrant mothers in the US consider important to be a successful parent, Fischer, Harvey and Driscoll (2009) found out that there is a central focus on the extended family and relational awareness, as well as a personal identity generated by belonging to a family group. This result agree with Poulsen's (2009, p.171) remark that "a parental value that stems from the broad cultural value of interconnectedness and interdependence is that of strongly encouraging a sense of the collective rather than the individual." Considering the fact that Australia promotes an individualistic culture (Yagmurlu & Sanson, 2009), this planned study would be interested in the parenting experience of African immigrant parents coming from a collectivist into an individualistic culture.

Another dimension to our proposed study is related to Buki, Ma, Strom, and Strom's (2003) study that investigated the relationship between Chinese mothers' perceived acculturation levels for themselves and their children, and self-perceptions of parenting behavior. The study demonstrated that mothers perceived their children acculturated at a faster rate than themselves, and acculturation gap was associated with more parenting difficulties. Hence, this intended study would also examine if the highly educated participants need to keep up with the acculturation pace of their children and if they have enough information about parenting in this new culture to mitigate difficulties.

The research problem will be to explore the lived experience of African immigrant professionals in parenting their child(ren) in Australia. Indeed previous research in other parts of the world has focused on the experience of immigrant parents in general, mostly with those with language communication barrier. The aims of this research will be to increase understanding of African immigrant professional parenting values, to understand the challenges faced by this cohort, to develop a body of knowledge to guide mental health and family professional in designing a relevant support framework for these immigrant parents, and lastly to provide a platform for future research in child-parent relationship in acculturation in the Australia context.


Phenomenology basically studies phenomenon, as regard their nature and meanings, with the hope of the lived world of the participants being revealed. Phenomenology deals with persons in their entirety complete with their experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and values; these are usually satiated with both cultural and social influences (Caelli, 2000). Phenomenology emphasizes the world as experienced by participants - pre-reflectively rather than as the researcher theorize, compartmentalize or ponder over it (van Mann, 1990). Furthermore, within phenomenological research, the research brackets previous conventions or perceptions in a sustained effort to see the world differently or in a new way, and to attend actively and in real time to the participants' views. Hence, this openness minimizes the effect of contamination of participants' experience, as the phenomenon under study unfolds before the researcher and the participant (Dahlberg, 2006).

The awareness of reflexivity, which will be underscored by the researcher moving back and forth between experience and sensitivity and between studying how the componential parts fit into the aggregate, is carefully considered. This demands a diligent reading and rereading of transcripts and writing and rewriting of the report to capture the involvedness of the lived world under description (Vedder, 2002). Phenomenology links the phenomenon of parenting in a different sociocultural environment with the responsibility of parenting for African immigrant parents with professional jobs. Consequently, phenomenology is the preferred methodology in this research study as it is an effective means to discover challenges, meanings and values held by African immigrant professionals parenting in Australia.


Participants will consist of a convenience purposive sample of 30 immigrant parents from Africa, who have a professional-status employment, have been living in Australia between 5 and 15 years, and aged between 30 and 52 years. Employment may include: university, industry/business, medical/mental health field, non-profit organizations and self-employed, with average family income of over $100,000. Participants must have at least one child who is of school age and born either in Africa or Australia. Participation will be solicited by placing advertisement in the newsletters of various African community associations, through a professional organization that caters for immigrants with professional status, and the use of the snowballing technique.


Materials for the proposed study include a study recruitment flyer (an advertisement), informed consent form, a participant letter, MacBook Pro Laptop, a NVivo program, a digital tape recorder, pen, and a note book to take notes of conversations and journal personal opinions and thoughts.


The interviews will be conducted in a pre-arranged place at a mutually convenient time between participants and the researcher, and it is estimated that they will be approximately one to one and a half-hour's duration. However, if participants want to continue to discuss their lived experience after that time, the interview will continue. Guidance will be given to participants on a needs basis, to keep them focused on the topic. Written informant consent will be obtained prior to commencement of the research. Participants will be assured of confidentiality and anonymity, and will be informed that they may withdraw from the research at any stage, without repercussion. These interviews will be audiotaped to ensure accuracy of data collection and transcription. During the interview the researcher will use open-ended questions. The purpose of this to "enable the researcher to understand and capture the points of view…without predetermining those points of view through prior selection of questionnaire categories" (Patton, 1990, p.28).

The researcher will keep a journal to provide written documentation of observations made during interviewing. This journal will be used to bracket the researcher's feelings, biases, opinions about immigrant parenting as well as what is known of their challenges, which may impact on data interpretation. Bracketing denotes the disinclination or putting aside of pre-conceived and pre-learnt feelings, traditions, beliefs and ideas; and by suspending these, the core of the experience is revealed.

The data will be analyzed using the Colaizzi's seven-step method of thematic analysis (Anderson & Spencer, 2002). This method allows for the data itself to suggest concepts, categories, pattern and themes that in some way help to explain relationships. Information from interview will be compared to elicit shared or unique themes, prior to a final analysis.

Data will be stored in the computer using the NVivo program, to facilitate easy retrieval and organization of codes. The NVivo is a system for computer-aided indexing, searching and analysis of unstructured data. Collected and analyzed data will be securely stored away on password protected computer disk in the researcher's home for a period of five years after the completion of the study. Eventually, the data will be destroyed.


Contrary to focus on general immigrant experience, this study will examine the lifeworld of immigrant parents from Africa who hold professional-status employment and are currently raising their children in within the Australian sociocultural context. One of the implications of this proposed research is that counselors and psychologists will be culturally aware in their attempt to proactively design parenting and school support for African immigrant professionals who are also parents, specifically, and immigrant parents in general. Literature search for studies examining this phenomenon demonstrated limited evidence and hence this study will endeavor to fill this recognized gap in the literature.