Parents who care: narratives of sacrifice and effort among Mexican immigrants who want their children to succeed academically, emotionally, and socially

Parental involvement in education has been identified as a key contributing factor to positive student achievement and success. Despite this fact, lack of parental involvement in relation to school sponsored events continues to be one of the leading concerns schools in the United States (U.S.) face, especially among Spanish-speaking immigrant parents. Through the voices of six Spanish-speaking immigrant families residing in the San Joaquin Valley of California, this study sought to understand how Spanish-speaking immigrant families make sense of their parenting practices and their involvement in the academic life of their children. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: sacrifice as a parent’s act to benefit future generations, living and parenting in two cultural worlds, parenting styles, and the role of parents as learners of a second language. We found that parents deeply care about their children’s wellbeing and academic performance; however, contextual factors (e.g., job demands, financial constraints, lack of English language expertise) play against parents’ desire to have a stronger presence on their children’s academic experiences. The disadvantaged conditions under which Spanish-speaking immigrant parents construct their everyday lives creates conditions of vulnerability that can affect the opportunities for sustained and active parental engagement in their children’s school experiences. Implications for practice and opportunities for further research are discussed based on the findings.