The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Winter 2017

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Stevenson, Joan C.

Second Advisor

Loucky, James

Third Advisor

Bruna, Sean


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play an important role in providing social services to people worldwide, but where NGOs serve immigrants, there can be misunderstandings based on contrasts in the cultural backgrounds between the providers and the clients. This is a concern for the management of Rebound of Whatcom County, an NGO focused on providing support for families facing challenges. Discussions about child discipline and communication indicate that differences go beyond basic English-Spanish language translation, and seem to represent dissimilarities in the conceptualizations of family. The goal here is to identify the conceptual differences in the concept of family and the perceived impacts of these beliefs on use of services.

Interviews, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes in length, were arranged with 5 English-speaking representatives of the NGO and 8 Spanish-speaking clients. They were transcribed and coded using NVivo software in order reveal patterns in the conceptualizations about family between these two groups. Naomi Quinn suggested that humans have the tendency to categorize experiences in schemas, patterns of thinking that are repeated and shared among individuals who share lives. Pierre Bourdieu argued also that economic needs greatly influenced the formation of these schemas; i.e., the social value or cultural capital of these schemas also determined their formation and use.

Discourse analysis revealed that the concept of family for staff meant love, support, safety, and healthy community towards individual success. Clients emphasized home or casa as a sacred place, respect, and time with family toward the goal of family unity; the quickest route to success was hard work. These contrasts likely interfere with the exchange of ideas about issues such as good parenting and intergenerational communication. The translation of ideas into Spanish is not enough. Suggestions to improve service delivery included: schemas should be used to tailor the message to the clients especially when the economic benefits are also emphasized, Spanish-speaking leadership also improves the link between Rebound’s message and client needs.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Intercultural communication--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Communication in human services--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Non-governmental organizations--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Family social work--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Mexican American families--Social aspects--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Multiculturalism--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Discourse analysis, Narrative--Research--Methodology

Geographic Coverage

Whatcom County (Wash.)




masters theses




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.

Included in

Anthropology Commons