Wendy Rodriguez: Examining Parentification among Migrant Families

My name is Wendy Rodriguez, I am a senior majoring in Psychology with minors in Child Development and Computational Science Entrepreneurship. As a first-generation college student, I knew that my education was a privilege. That is why throughout my educational career, I have upheld my parents’ sacrifice and understood that school was the catalyst for my future. I have had the privilege of participating in internships, teaching first and second-year FSU students about research through UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program), and as a research assistant in the Anxiety and Behavioral Clinic at FSU. Being able to participate in these opportunities would have been a distant dream if it were not for my parents. Hence, my research interests began shifting from general anxiety disorders to understanding the long-term effects of trauma in an underrepresented sample population: children.

Wendy Rodriguez, Psychology, Senior

  For children of immigrants, it is often expected that they contribute to the family unit to prosper. However, the impact of parental trauma and its intergenerational effects on development are often mislabeled as part of the “immigrant experience” within migrant communities. With my proposed project, I aim to expand on the current literature by investigating the possible interactive effects between the following broad defining characteristics of parentification: (a) past perceptions of caregiving role and experience, (b) manifestations of parentification outcomes in present internalizing pathology, and (c) characteristics of the child and family dynamics with applied consideration to the cultural and financial factors of migrant families.

My project will focus on the impact of parentification, a phenomenon in which children are tasked with adult responsibilities, often acting as a parent, to satisfy the emotional or instrumental needs of the family. Researchers have operationalized this phenomenon to occur on a continuum potentially having long-term impacts on psychosocial functioning and adjustment into adulthood. Given the clinical and empirical literature on the nature of parentification, identifying defining characteristics and possible long-term effects of parentification in children of migrant families could inform the development of culturally tailored preventions, assessments, and intervention efforts for minority groups. As part of my overall goal, I also hope to aid in the development of translating well-known inventories to Spanish with the aim of breaking down language barriers within the scientific community.

Figure 1. EEG caps arranged by size

In order to assess if the parentified individual perceives their parentification experience as culturally expected or detrimental, identified inventories (e.g PQ-A, FRS-A, CSS, AAS) measuring the variables of interest have already been added to a Qualtrics survey. IRB approval of these modifications has been received so data collection for the project may begin shortly. The survey will be administered to eligible participants as part of an IRB approved study currently being conducted in the Schmidt lab evaluating threat response in a lab-based paradigm. In the current study, participants’ physiological and neurophysiological data are recorded utilizing an EEG cap and EKG electrodes (see Figure 1 and 2).

Figure 2. EEG Bundles and Electrodes

Having grown up in a predominately hispanic community, I have been able to observe first-hand how a lack of inclusive clinical research further augments the existing mental health disparities, specifically immigrant-based disparities in healthcare. My experience allows me to view research through the lens of an immigrant, allowing me to understand the mental health issues and needs that are most prevalent within the community in order to address those needs. It is of utmost importance to conduct research that assesses the unique role cultural and demographic factors play in the manifestations of behaviors, symptoms, and developmental outcomes within minority groups.  Hence, I am excited to fortify my research skills by continuing to work on the project and begin data collection as well as learn more about the research process first-hand.

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