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Understanding Parent-Child Relational Quality Associated with Language Brokers' Strategic Identity Goals


In the United States, children of immigrant families often linguistically and culturally mediate for their parents and members of U.S. mainstream culture, a process known as language brokering. Previous research has found that Latino/a young brokers report adhering to two identity goals: (a) “act Latino/a” and (b) “act U.S. American”. Using survey data from 274 Latino/a 6th-8th grade students, this study examined how the pursuit of these two identity goals during language brokering is associated with parent-child relational quality (i.e., adolescent perceptions of parent-child conflict and parent-child relational closeness). Furthermore, this study seeks to understand how young brokers’ cultural-heritage orientation (e.g., language proficiency, ethnic identification, and cultural values) moderates the relationships between these identity goals and the parent-child relational correlates. Findings show that ethnic identification is a moderating facet of cultural-heritage orientation. However, language proficiency and familism were not. In terms of the parent-child relationship, acting “U.S American” while language brokering is associated with increased and negatively managed parent-child conflict. However, “acting Latino/a” while exhibiting low levels of either ethnic identifications was associated with higher parent-child relational closeness for both mother and father. Results regarding bicultural individuals were inconclusive, and further research is needed. Results of this study can help inform both the parents and English speakers of the identity management experiences of the young language broker during the interaction. This can help improve the parent-child relationship for Latino/a, immigrant junior high school students. This is because a quality parent-child relationship with low levels of conflict, and high levels of closeness is a strong predictor of educational attainment.

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