Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Arthur E. Hernández


Tanja Stampfl


Mary Patricia Davis


Philip E. Lampe


Research Focus. It is estimated that approximately one-third of children in the United States will be raised in immigrant families (Feliciano & Lanuza, 2017). Due to generational gaps and language mismatches from acculturation, immigrant family members tend to have difficulty communicating and interacting with one another (Buckingham & Brodsky, 2015; Ng, He, & Loong, 2004; Simes & Pietka-Nykaza, 2015). The researcher experienced similar challenges growing up, which led to her interest in studying how cultural differences among family members impact their dynamics. This research is important because it pertains to a large and growing group in our community as well as the researcher’s own understanding of her family relationships. This research can help immigrant families or professionals who work with this population by providing insight about two families’ experiences and what they deem important.

The purpose of this dissertation was to explore education and cultural transmission, or the preservation of heritage cultures and passing it on to future generations, from the perspectives of two immigrant families and their trigenerational family stories (Mchitarjan & Reisenzein, 2014. This dissertation answered the following research questions:

  • What happens when two immigrant families participate in trigenerational family storytelling?
  • How does education and cultural transmission emerge in trigenerational family storytelling for two immigrant families?
  • How does the researcher reflect on these immigrant families’ stories of education and cultural transmission?

Research Methods. An autoethnographic comparative case study was implemented for this study. The two cases were “Family A”, a Vietnamese-Khmer-American family, and “Family B”, a Mexican-American family, during trigenerational family storytelling. The researcher conducted group observations and follow-up individual interviews to collect data. Then, thematic analysis was used to find themes within the two cases.

Research Results/Findings. The researcher used a combination of the participants’ stories, the participants’ interview responses, her stories of comparable experiences, and the theory of cultural transmission in minorities to gather conclusions (Mchitarjan & Reisenzein, 2014). Education was the most discussed subject for both families, implying its importance to these two immigrant families. For example, Family A immigrated from Vietnam to give the future generations in their family the opportunity to receive education. On the other hand, the opportunity for an education was taken away when Family B immigrated from Mexico.

Family A used the activity to catch up with the youngest participating family member about school, to remember loved ones, and to jokingly discuss their language barriers. Family B used the activity to gain understanding with one another as well as discuss the generational changes in their family and motherhood. Ultimately, Family A and Family B used the activity of trigenerational family storytelling as a method of cultural transmission by sharing information about their educational experiences, cultural-transmission motives, and threats to cultural transmission (Mchitarjan & Reisenzein, 2014).

Conclusions from Research. The researcher reflected on this study in her roles as a researcher, educator, and an immigrant family member to make meaning of the findings in different perspectives as well as to make research appealing to multiple audiences, which included creating a children’s book (Adams & Manning, 2015). The researcher learned to consider cultural norms of participants during the research process, utilizing family stories in the classroom to learn about students and their families, and the importance of spending trigenerational family time. The researcher encourages others to take the time to listen to family stories because the intergenerational learning outcomes may outweigh cultural differences. These considerations will be useful when working with immigrant families or creating resources to support this population.