Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2021 Issue »

    “I Became a Mom Overnight”

    How Parental Detentions and Deportations Impact Young Adults’ Roles and Educational Experiences

    This article examines how the detention or deportation of a parent shapes the roles and responsibilities of young adults within the household and the consequences that these changes have on their educational experiences. Drawing from thirty-two indepth interviews with young adults living in the United States whose parent was detained, author Carolina Valdivia finds that children’s responsibilities within the family abruptly change as soon as a parent is apprehended, with conditions worsening as the parent undergoes deportation proceedings. More specifically, young adults take on additional and a wider range of responsibilities to help their families cope emotionally and financially, including working additional jobs and spending more time taking care of younger siblings. The article also demonstrates how young adults’ gender, birth order, and level of education at the time of a parent’s immigration arrest shape their participation at home and notes how increased responsibilities affect their educational trajectories.

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    Carolina Valdivia is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include immigration, law and society, the sociology of education, race and ethnicity, youth and families, and the US-Mexico borderlands. Her work explores the ways various forms of legal and social exclusion impact the lives of immigrant youth and their families, including their educational trajectories, mental health, and political participation. Her current book project explores the consequences of heightened immigration enforcement on undocumented immigrants and their families. Valdivia is the founder of My Undocumented Life, an online platform that provides up-to-date information and resources for undocumented students and their families.