Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Melanie M. Domenech Rodríguez

Abstract

With the growing percentage of immigrant families in the USA, language transition is a common immigrant experience and can occur rapidly from generation to generation within a family. Child language brokering appears to occur within minority language families as one way of negotiating language and cultural differences; however, the phenomenon of children translating or mediating language interactions for parents has previously been hypothesized to contribute to negative outcomes for children, such as role-reversals and parentification, emotional distancing and lack of communication, increased parent-child conflict, and increased internalizing/externalizing disorders. The current study used direct observations of 60 Spanish-speaking parent-child dyads (30 mother-child and 30 father-child) as they worked on a joint academic task in English to explore: (1) child language brokering patterns, (2) parent-child interactions, and (3) the quality of the parent-child relationship. Children included in the study were between the ages of 4 and 10 years. Instruments used included demographic questionnaires, the ARSMA-II, and coding of videotaped interactions for language brokering patterns (frequency and prevalence of both child translations and parental prompts), parent-child relationship quality, parental engagement strategies, and the situational power dynamic between parent and child. Observations, descriptive statistics, correlations, and a hierarchical regression were used to analyze data. Results demonstrated that language brokering occurred at a higher prevalence among the youngest age group than prior studies have suggested, parents actively contribute to child brokering behaviors through parental prompts, and mothers and fathers use different engagement strategies. Findings also demonstrated that child language brokering significantly contributed to the prediction of parent-child relationship quality, with more frequent brokering associated with more positive parent-child relationships. There was no significant correlation with child language brokering frequency and the parent-child power dynamic. Results may have limited generalizability due to the exploratory nature of statistics used, the emotional safety of the observed parent-child joint task situation, and the small sample size and specificity of the sample (primarily rural Mexican two-parent immigrant families with children born in the USA). Implications for practice include: normalization of language brokering as a part of bicultural development, facilitation of insight into changing family roles and maintenance of adaptive power dynamics within a context of change, and the enhancement of parent and child communication strategies.

Comments

This work made publicly available electronically on August 30, 2010.

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