Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Somalis-Cultural assimilation-United States, Immigrants-Cultural assimilation-United States, Cultural competence, Parenting, Social work with immigrants, Families, Acculturation, Somali, Refugee, Immigrant, Muslim, Collectivist culture, Individualist culture


This qualitative study explores the changing experience of family life, acculturation, and preservation of traditional collectivist culture among Somali refugee and immigrant parents raising children in the United States. Resettlement in the U.S. forced many Somali refugees to transition to a new individualistic culture of family values markedly different from their own. Nine Somali refugee and immigrant mothers and fathers residing in Connecticut and western Massachusetts participated in the research. They answered open-ended interview questions focusing on the following topics: 1) Somali parenting styles and values, 2) the preservation of Somali language, identity, and Islam, 3) changes in family systems, regarding gender roles and extended family and 4) familial conflict resolution. The findings demonstrated that the greatest challenges to parenting centered on loneliness, social isolation, and lack of support from extended family and neighbors. All participants focused on children's lack of respect for elders and diminishing parental authority as fundamental differences between American and Somali values. Most regretted their limitations in passing along Somali language and Islamic study. The findings also showed that many participants transitioned to a new acceptance of their children's autonomy and identity as American, thereby meaningfully integrating American and Somali values. Many affirmed that a traditional Somali council of elders functioned in their current community as a model for familial conflict mediation more familiar than therapy. These findings help build cultural competency and trust by informing social workers, educators, and other service providers of the strengths and challenges that Somali refugee and immigrant families may face in the process of acculturation.




v, 116 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 105-110)