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Theory and research on immigration is strengthened by systematically considering gender as an explanatory construct. Cross-cultural evidence indicates that gender is invested with considerable social meaning across different societies (Stockard & Johnson, 1992). As a social construct, gender refers to "all the duties, rights, and behaviors a culture considers appropriate for males and females" (Wade & Tavris, 1999, p. 16). Identification of a person as female or male is a fundamental social categorization that may be regarded by perceivers as having greater information value than other social cues (e.g., Stangor, Lynch, Duan, & Glass, 1992).
Studying the contribution of gender to immigrants' experiences in the receiving society offers insights about the challenges confronting immigrant families. In this article, we focus on two domains: the negotiation (or renegotiation) of expectations and responsibilities pertaining to family roles and socializing the next generation. The manner in which these challenges are dealt with is related to personal and cultural adaptation.
Research in the social sciences on female migrants and more generally, on the contribution of gender to immigrants' experiences, has emerged in the past 2 decades. In earlier accounts, women were "essentially ... left out of theoretical thinking about migration" (Brettell & Simon, 1986, p. 3). Similarly, Boyd (1986) commented that early research on international migration, by focussing mostly on the experiences of male immigrants, resulted in female immigrants' becoming either "invisible or stereotyped."
In the 1980s, however, more attention was paid to immigrant women' s experiences. For example, an edited volume by Simon and Brettell (1986) examined issues such as female immigrants' entry status, their participation in the labor force of the receiving society, and the relation between employment and family work. In the 1990s, the focus broadened to study how immigration affects women's and men's adaptation by conceptualizing "gender as a social system," as illustrated by a collection of articles on gender-related issues in the context of immigrants' experiences in the United States (see Hondagneu-Sotelo, 1999).
Diverse social-structural (e.g., political events and economic conditions) and related individual-level factors contribute to immigration for both men and women. The desire for educational and/or employment opportunities for oneself and one's family reflects the hope for improved life circumstances, defined in terms of both personal and material well-being. However, in the receiving society, immigrant women may confront some circumstances that make realizing the anticipated benefits of immigration difficult.
To cite one example, the criteria under which an individual is admitted as an immigrant to a receiving society can play an important role in the process of adaptation. Boyd (1986) as well as Wittebrood and Robertson (1991) have noted that married female immigrants to Canada who entered as dependents, either under the visa of their spouse, or subsequently, in the context of family unification criteria, confronted some risks related to their entry status as dependents. Immigrant women with lower levels of education and fewer labor market skills were particularly vulnerable (Boyd, 1986).
Moreover, even under favorable circumstances (such as higher levels of education and greater income), immigrant women do not always experience the same or comparable benefits relative to immigrant men. Illustrating this point, Noh and his colleagues (Noh, Wu, Speechley, & Kaspar, 1992), in a large sample epidemiological survey, examined rates of depression and factors related to depression among Korean immigrants in Toronto, Canada, with the intent of identifying what factors made the greatest contribution to gender differences in reported depression.
Noh and his colleagues (1992) examined two alternatives: the "double burden hypothesis" and the "power hypothesis." The double burden hypothesis suggests that stress is attributable to role overload (household responsibilities, child-care, and employment), which eventually results in negative psychological outcomes, such as depression. The power hypothesis suggests that psychological distress is in part attributable to how power is allocated in the family (e.g., decision making). Factors such as employment should enhance women' s power in the family, resulting in less psychological distress. According to Noh and his colleagues, the double burden hypothesis would predict that gender differences in depression should be most apparent when comparing employed immigrant women and employed immigrant men functioning under "deprived" circumstances, such as lower levels of income and less education. By contrast, the power hypothesis would be supported if the findings revealed a marked gender difference in depression between married women who were not employed and employed married men among respondents from …