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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Latino Youth as Information Leaders: Implications for Family Interaction and Civic Engagement in Immigrant Communities

  • Author(s): McDevitt, Michael
  • Butler, Mary
  • et al.

This study contemplates implications of Latino adolescents acting as information leaders in helping immigrant families to cope in a new culture. We highlight the heuristic value of thinking about the family as a venue for exchanges of information that, in turn, promote educational aspiration and civic inclinations. This framework is refined by insights obtained from an immigrant community in northern Colorado. We recruited high school students for a survey that documented media use, deliberative dispositions, and orientations toward political participation. Results from the survey guided focus group sessions in which youth and parents conveyed how they experience information flow in family interaction. We find that assimilation is both embraced and resisted in family communication, as parents and children work out tensions between Latino and Anglo values. Information with life-enhancing implications must flow through the family for it to be meaningfully shared, evaluated, comprehended, and acted upon. The vetting process is thwarted when parents and youth live in separate information ecologies, or when parents perceive information as a challenge to their authority. We conclude with recommendations for initiatives that enhance adolescents’ capacity as information leaders while also enlisting parents in the sharing of information.

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