Failure is not an Option: Parental Expectations of Nigerian Voluntary Immigrants to the United States


  • Dolapo Adeniji-Neill Adelphi University



The purpose of this study was to explore the socio-cultural and educational contexts of parental expectations of Nigerian voluntary immigrants to the United States. Immigrant or voluntary minorities are people who have migrated essentially of their own volition to the United States, or any other nation, because they seek more economic mobility, or a better life in general, and/or political freedom (Ogbu, 1995). This case study sought an explanation for the success in education attributed to these new African immigrants and their children. This study investigated the relationship among three factors: (a) parental expectations, (b) socio-cultural experiences, and (c) (adult) children’s internalization of their parent’s aspirations for them. The method of inquiry included phenomenological analysis on data collected through participants’ topical life-histories (Giorgio, 1985). The results of the study represent the Nigerian immigrants’ worldviews: a folk theory shared by their cultural and life experiences. The common threads running throughout their responses are ‘education is the number one priority,’ ‘hard work,’ ‘effort begets luck,’ and ‘failure is not an option.’ Nigerian culture had a strong influence on the upbringing and fulfillment of expectations for the children of the participants.