Redefining Family: Transnational Girls Narrate Experiences of Parental Migration, Detention, and Deportation


  • Rachel M. Hershberg Tufts University
  • M. Brinton Lykes Boston College



girls, family, migration, deportation, transnationalism, narrative inquiry


This exploratory narrative inquiry examines the lives of four Central American females with one or more U.S.-based undocumented migrant parents. Each participant is between 10 and 16 years old and is part of a transnational family living between the U.S. and Central America. Their narratives provide a window into transnational girls' experiences at the intersections of gender, ethnicity, family role, and legal status. Specifically, through thematic narrative analysis we learn about each girl's position in her transnational family, her encounters with U.S. immigration and deportation systems, and her experiences with domestic abuse or male desertion. Based on findings, this study urges social scientists and educators to attend to girls' transnational family experiences, including how they contest and make meaning of their own or their relatives' migrations and returns and the gendering of familial and migration processes.



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Author Biographies

Rachel M. Hershberg, Tufts University

Rachel HERSHBERG, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Her research explores positive youth development and the development of critical consciousness in diverse youth, including in migrant and transnational youth.

M. Brinton Lykes, Boston College

M. Brinton LYKES, Ph.D., is a Professor of community-cultural psychology, Associate Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice and Chair of the Department of Counseling and Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College. Her current interdisciplinary participatory and action research focuses on migration and post-deportation human rights violations, with a particular focus on transnational and mixed-status families; health disparities; cross-community women's leadership development; and women's struggles for justice, healing, and reparations in the face of gross violations of human rights.




How to Cite

Hershberg, R. M., & Lykes, M. B. (2012). Redefining Family: Transnational Girls Narrate Experiences of Parental Migration, Detention, and Deportation. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1).



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