Using the lenses of social constructionism and critical feminist theory, this dissertation examines how transnational Mexican couples in the agricultural town of Mecca, Southern California, respond to the crisis created by their adolescent children using illegal substances.

As part of the Contemporary Couples’ Study of Loma Linda University, sixteen

families were interviewed about how this problem affected their lives. The rich stories

collected were analyzed using the Strauss and Corbin (1998) guidelines for qualitative

research, in order to identify grounded theory that would inform services to this population.

Results suggest that these couples’ relationships are organized around the world of male work. Hard working husbands bring respect to themselves and to the wives who care for them. Female work is appreciated but deemed secondary. Contrary to the literature, female earnings in this study did not appear to promote more egalitarian relationships. During the crisis the couples continued to deal with each other under the same cultural values that guided their lives before: the men in charge of providing for the home and making the important decisions, and the women accepting responsibility for supporting their husbands and raising the children.

However, though hard work, outside and inside the home, is essential for these parents’ idea of respect, it is not a value shared by their more acculturated children. In trying to find the cause of disrespectful children who do not obey their parents, men accuse mothers of lacking discipline and overindulging children; women point to uninvolved fathers whose work take them away from home too long. Parents also blame their children’s “risky” friends, and several social contextual factors. Nonetheless, the desire to maintain a united family prompts the couples to revise their understanding of the construct of “respect” and find for it a new meaning, not based on obedience.

Findings of this study will help therapists to become more efficient in working with Latino couples, better equipped to identify their strengths, and able to help clients redefine their cultural values --instead of abandoning them-- when their unique migration experience challenges them.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Knudson-Martin, Carmen

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Mecca; California; Acculturation; Hispanic Americans

Subject - Local

Contemporary Couples' Study; Loma Linda University; Male work; Teen substance abuse; Latino cultural values



Page Count

201 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives