Sibling Care and Kinship in Immigrant Families

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Human, a kind of primates, can be defined as a social animals. It means that human live in groups with several members, so called “family”. With the evolution in thousands of years, human formed a relatively perfect system in kinship. However, this system will be changed by the time and the living environment. Sibling care plays an important role in most families. Older sisters and brothers have responsibilities to take care of their younger siblings. Sometimes, they can be the guardians of their younger sisters and brothers when their parents are absent. In this review essay, I will focus on the sibling care and kinship in immigrant families.

To start the essay, I will talk about the sibling care and kinship in England in the UK by analyzing the article written by Julie Selwyn and Shailen Nandy. And then, I will turn to kinship in a immigrant family in the United States by discussing the article done by Andrea Flores. Also in Carol Hafford’s article, he talk about the sibling care in immigrant families and its impacts on older siblings. In Julie Selwyn’s and Shailen Nandy’s atricle, it presents the results of the 2001 UK census analysis.

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The number of children cared for by relatives in England is considered to be substantial, but until recently, research began to clarify the situation and needs of caregivers and children. For the first time in history, the number of children in caring for relatives and the proportion of children living in the care of formal and informal relatives were estimated. Concurring with expectations, many children were raised by grandparents, but surprisingly, a large number of children lived with an older brother and sister. Researchers or policy makers have not previously identified this group of relative caregivers, and their situation and needs may differ from those of their grandparents’ relatives.

Selwyn and Nandy find that in England, many children live with family or friends for the same reasons as children. Due to parental abuse and neglect, material/alcohol abuse, disability, refusal and abandonment, imprisonment, illness or death, domestic violence and families forced to migrate as a result of war or persecution, children eventually live with relative caregivers. By analyzing the samples of relative caregivers, a fact that the ratio varies between 3% and 8% of the entire family care sample. While, in the United States, the proportion of siblings and relatives reported in the study is even smaller, about 2-3%. However, the care of brothers and sisters is not a new phenomenon and there is a large amount of ethnographic literature commented on the subject that older brothers and sisters, especially sisters often take care of their responsibilities.

Historically in the early to mid-20th century, sisters of working-class and middle-class families in the UK should take care of younger siblings, which is normal in many societies. Recently, older children often take care of their younger siblings and serve as translators and interpreters for family members in terms of cultural adaptation of immigrant and immigrant families. In discussion part, Slewyn and Nandy claims that the kinship in England may differ from that in other countries in the world. Additionally, the proportion of different types of relative caregivers is different. They also give an example in Northern Ireland to proof their study. In Northern Ireland, most relative caregivers are fellow caregivers, most of whom are sisters; while siblings and relatives of other Western countries may also be ignored by analyzing census data from other countries will confirm their founds. At the end of this part, two authors give out many questions that needed to be studied about sibling care in the world.

In United States In the second article written by Andrea Flores, the author discusses the role of sibling care in an immigrant family in the United States by telling readers a story happened on Latino sisters. The sisters live in an immigrant families in the United States. They play a significant role in taking care of their brothers and sisters, especially their sisters’ and brothers’ education. Young women in Nashville, Tennessee, have developed the same generation of care commitments and educational expectations for their brothers and sisters in an inter-generational way. And this generational framework reveals how sisters position their siblings, and their educational concerns, essential to establish socioeconomic mobility and kinship obligations, and the workforce is often understood as the domain of parents. The education concerns of young siblings is a key kinship practice that demonstrates the central role of youth in establishing kinship and rebuilding genealogy in immigrant families.

In the last article, Carol Hafford mainly focuses on the field of immigration research adequately documents the role of children and youth as “cultural brokers”, through which they mediate the relationship, information and services between immigrant families and host country social institutions. There is growing interest in understanding the contribution of children and youth to reproductive activities of social value in American immigrant families,. Rthnographic research shows that children and adolescents in immigrant families have a major responsibility for daily life and family function. In this article, it focuses on the practice of brother care, based on culturally informed family roles, responsibilities and obligations, and older children supervising and socializing young children. The purpose of this review is twofold: to familiarize practitioners and evaluators with such cross-cultural perceives and to discuss the impact of sibling care on identifying family risks and protective factors associated with migration and cultural adaptation, and culturally sensitive assessments, interventions and assessment factors related to family function and social support.

The article is divided into several main parts to talk about sibling care in immigrant families: The contribution of children and youth to immigrant households; Sibling care taking in the ethnographic and historical record; Sibling care taking and child socialization; Sibling care taking in the context of migration and acculturation: balancing protective and risk factors; Implications for child welfare practice and evaluation.

In the Introduction part, Hafford points out the main topic of this article, the practice of providing older children with direct care for their younger siblings in immigrant families and their impact on child welfare practices and assessments. In the second part, Hafford put more efforts on the role of child and adolescence in immigrant families to connect family members; and the society pays more attention to those children in immigrants families in their daily life, education, etc. The following three substantive parts discuss the significance of sibling care in a family.

Hafford finds that, historically, sibling care in the United States was the norm for workers and middle- and lower- class families in the agricultural and industrial communities of the early to mid-20th century. In modern days, it is still a normal phenomenon in the United States. This was discovered in Mexican homes in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, etc.. Among the Mexican immigrant families, the older children have the responsibility to take care of their younger siblings. Older siblings are expected to assist with tasks such as babysitting, deeding younger siblings, preparing brothers and sisters for school in the morning, and escorting them to school. In Smith’s ethnographic study of the second generation of Mexican-American youth in New York, he found that older girls in the family often care of siblings and perform traditional gender roles after school.

In the 4th and 5th part, Hafford analyzes some positive impacts of sibling care for older children in families. Older siblings can improve different abilities in some aspects by taking care of their younger sisters and brothers. When their parents are absent, the older sisters and brothers would play the most important role in their younger siblings’ daily life. They need to take the responsibility to take care of and protect their family members. In addition, for those children living in difficult families and stressful situations, siblings can adopt the roles and behaviors of prospective parents to nurture and protect themselves from abuse. The interdependence of brothers and sisters can provide stability in everyday life and relationships in unstable or abusive families, and these relationships could be endurable. In the conclusion part, Hafford appeals people to pay more attention to the sibling care in immigrant families.

A prominent theme across these articles is that sibling care, in fact, does plays a role in kinship in immigrant families. In the first two articles, historically, sibling care both in the UK and the United States is a normal phenomenon. Additionally, the society begins paying more attention to those children in immigrant families. In the second example, it shows the importance of sibling care provided by older sisters. They have duties to take care of their younger sisters and brothers, especially in education. This can help to increase the education level of their siblings. In the last two articles, both Flores and Hafford mention the significance of sibling care in most immigrant families. And Hafford also points out the positive impacts on older sisters and brothers. Combining these three articles, kinship provides lots of positive influences to social development.

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Sibling Care and Kinship in Immigrant Families. (2022, May 16). Retrieved from

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