Children play a critical role in the resettlement process of immigrant families, particularly in the role of language broker, which has them translating between the heritage language and English for their immigrant parents, whose English is limited. Although close to 90% of children function in a language brokering role in immigrant families, the ways in which language brokering experiences affect developmental outcomes has received limited attention from immigration scholars. The proposed project will conduct qualitative interviews with forty Mexican American mother-daughter pairs. These families will be selected from a larger study of language brokers and divided into three theoretically meaning groups based on the children's high or low scores on school GPA and depressive symptoms: those showing positive adjustment, those showing negative adjustment, and those showing mixed adjustment. The proposed project uses case analyses to treat each mother-daughter pair as a single unit of analysis, and uses cross-case analysis to organize and merge common themes across cases. Using this methodology, the project will pursue three aims. First, we will examine how feelings about language brokering influence the quality of the mother-daughter relationship and adolescent adjustment. We expect that positive, negative, or mixed feelings about language brokering will parallel the positive, negative, or mixed quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. Second, we will explore how feelings about language brokering in public influence the themes derived in Aim 1. As language brokering in adult-centric public spaces is considered more stressful than translating for a parent at home, we will address separately the issue of how feelings about language brokering in public relate to the quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. Third, we will explore how convergence/divergence in feelings about language brokering in mother-daughter dyads influences the themes derived in Aim 1. We expect that convergence of positive feelings about language brokering will coincide with a positive parent-child relationship and a high level of adolescent adjustment. We also expect that convergence of negative feelings about language brokering will coincide with a negative quality to the parent-child relationship and poor adolescent adjustment. We will explore whether divergence between mothers and daughters in their feelings about language brokering relates to the quality of the parent-child relationship and adolescent adjustment. This project can inform future large-scale research efforts by illuminating how language brokering impacts parent-child relationships, and, more importantly, children's adjustment in terms of both academic and socio-emotional outcomes. This project has the potential to inform population science about the differential processes, practices, and experiences of language brokering and the potential impact on the adjustment of Mexican children, the largest and fastest growing minority group in the U.S.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed study is relevant to public health because it focuses on the developmental outcomes of children of Mexican immigrants, a high risk population with high rates of poverty and low levels of educational attainment. It also focuses on the developmental period of early adolescence, a period of transition in which children are susceptible to increases in socio-emotional problems that can compromise school performance. The results of this project should inform researchers and interventionists regarding ways in which to support adolescents who function as translators for their parents, by identifying ways to mitigate the most damaging effects and enhance the payoffs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Clark, Rebecca L
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University of Texas Austin
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Kim, Su Yeong; Hou, Yang; Gonzalez, Yolanda (2017) Language Brokering and Depressive Symptoms in Mexican-American Adolescents: Parent-Child Alienation and Resilience as Moderators. Child Dev 88:867-881
Kim, Su Yeong; Hou, Yang; Shen, Yishan et al. (2017) Longitudinal measurement equivalence of subjective language brokering experiences scale in Mexican American adolescents. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol 23:230-243
Kim, Su Yeong; Wang, Yijie; Chen, Qi et al. (2015) Parent-child acculturation profiles as predictors of Chinese American adolescents' academic trajectories. J Youth Adolesc 44:1263-74