Navigating Immigration Status en Familia: An Exploration of Caregiver Understanding, Child Awareness, and Caregiver-Child Attachment Quality in Latinx Mixed-Status Families
Sarah Garcia

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

How do Latinx mixed-status families approach and engage in conversations about undocumented status? This dissertation explores the role of familial strategies for developing shared understandings of being undocumented. I seek to better understand how undocumented immigration status shapes the developmental trajectory of Latinx children in middle childhood, a life stage during which children typically become more socially aware and have more-developed perspective-taking capacities. To explore this, I am conducting an in-depth mixed-methods study in which I interview Latinx mixed-status family units with at least one child between the ages of 6-14 years old, in three small cities in the northeastern United States. With each family, I conduct a series of 3 semi-structured phenomenological interviews with at least one caregiver. I also interview their children between 6 and 14 years old about their experiences being a part of their family through a book reading, a video clip viewing, and a series of questions following the reading of narratives. I examine, for the first time, attachment profiles across a sample of Latinx mixed-status caregiver-child dyads using the Parent Development Interview (Aber et al., 1993) and principal components analysis. Based on preliminary findings, I hypothesize that children's awareness of undocumented status before adolescence centers around the caregiver?child relationship rather than the direct impacts of immigration status on the child's own life outcomes. The findings from these studies will provide knowledge about the education that occurs within families around the topic of immigration, which will help support schools' efforts to work with this community.
About Sarah Garcia
Sarah Rendón García is a Ph.D. Candidate in Education (Human Development, Learning, and Teaching) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She employs a social-emotional learning framework and dual-generation approach to examine the psychological well-being of families originating from Latin America and impacted by immigration status. Her dissertation focuses on the relationships between child development, the caregiver-child relationship, and children's understanding of immigration status. In addition to drawing on developmental-contextual and attachment theories, her own experiences growing up Latina with undocumented status in the northeast United States informs her work. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Sarah worked for Child First; an evidence-based, early childhood, home visiting program aiming to buffer toxic stress through positive caregiver-child relationships. She was actively involved in youth community work through Connecticut Students for a Dream. Most recently, Sarah served as co-chair for the Harvard Educational Review and as a lead teaching fellow for How People Learn, an online, personalized course connecting the science of learning and human development to professional practice in education. Sarah holds an Ed.M. in Prevention Science and Practice from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Psychology and French from College of the Holy Cross.

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