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01-01-2015 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 1/2015

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 1/2015

Adolescent Language Brokering in Diverse Contexts: Associations with Parenting and Parent–Youth Relationships in a New Immigrant Destination Area

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 1/2015
Kathleen M. Roche, Sharon F. Lambert, Sharon R. Ghazarian, Todd D. Little


In the US, children in immigrant families have a longstanding history of language brokering for their parents. Scholars have surmised that youth’s role in language brokering may influence the nature of parenting practices and parent–child relationships that are important to the positive adjustment of adolescent youth. Research findings in this regard, however, have been mixed. Drawing from the family stress model and the concept of adolescent helpfulness, the present study examined how language brokering across different contexts—school, community, and home—was associated with indicators of parental support and parental behavioral control. The sample included 118 (53 % female) primarily Mexican- and Central American-origin 7th, 9th, and 11th grade children in Latino immigrant families living in suburban Atlanta, an important new immigrant destination. The results from structural equation models indicated that language brokering at home—translations for items such as bills, credit card statements, and insurance forms—was associated with less parental decision-making authority, lower levels of parental knowledge, and less parent–child closeness. Language brokering pertinent to school and community contexts, on the other hand, was not associated with variations in parenting. The adverse consequences for parenting conferred by youth translating insurance forms and family financial bills may stem from the excessive cognitive demands placed on youth in these situations, as well as the elevated power that youth gain in relationship to their immigrant parents. For the country’s rapidly growing population of youth being raised by immigrant Latino parents, it is important to consider that youth’s role as language broker at home may affect closeness in the parent–child relationship as well as the degree to which parents are able to maintain authority over youth’s behaviors.

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