Thesis

The influence of language brokering feelings and language use with peers on ethnic identity among Latino/a adolescents and emerging adults

The purpose of this study was to examine whether feelings about language brokering, moderated by frequency of heritage language use with co-ethnic peers, are a significant predictor of feelings of ethnic identity among immigrant-background Latino/a adolescents and emerging adults. The adolescent sample included 8th and 10th grade high school students and the emerging adult sample included college students. Language brokering feelings among adolescents and emerging adults were assessed using a cross sectional approach and analogous methodology which included a one-time questionnaire and daily surveys over the course of 14 consecutive days. It was hypothesized that participants who reported higher frequency of heritage language use with co-ethnic peers would experience a stronger association between language brokering feelings and feelings of ethnic identity compared to participants who reported lower frequency of heritage language use with co-ethnic peers. Second, it was hypothesized that emerging adults would rate their language brokering experiences more positively than adolescents and that emerging adults would have stronger ratings of ethnic identity compared to the adolescents. Data were collected from 76 eighth graders (49% male, 51% female), 84 tenth graders (39% male, 60% female, 1% did not state) and 77 emerging adults (38% male, 62% female). Findings indicated that heritage language use with co-ethnic peers did not moderate the relationship between language brokering feelings and there was not a significant mean difference between developmental periods on ratings of ethnic identity. However, there was a significant difference in mean ratings of language brokering feelings between emerging adults and 8th grade participants, indicating a developmental difference within the sample. These findings suggest that mental health professionals, practitioners, and educators can help younger language brokers re-frame the process as a valuable and important experience that requires specialized linguistic ability and cultural knowledge of both the heritage and mainstream culture.

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