Family functioning and adolescent adaptation outcomes: A comparative study of race/ethnicity and immigrant status
MetadataShow full item record
A review of literature has revealed that there is great inconsistency in findings on immigrant adolescents' psychological well-being and academic performance. For example, one group of studies argues that, despite the commonly held belief that the immigration and acculturation process are stressful, immigrant children fare as well as, if not better than, U.S.-born children; but with generational progression from first to second to third generation, they tend to lose their relative advantage. Another group of studies contends that immigrant children in general suffer lower self-esteem, worse psychological health, and other associated adaptive problems in contrast to their native counterparts. I propose that the discrepancy is mainly due to the lack of an ethnic contextuality perspective in researching immigrant families and immigrant children. Each ethnic immigrant group has its specific historical, cultural, and social backgrounds in both their pre- and post-immigration settings. These ethnic-specific contextual factors will then operate on individual ethnic members to form ethnic-specific behavioral and psychological outcomes. Based on this theorization, I predict that children of each ethnic group have their own unique passage of integration into U.S. society. Particularly, due to such ethnic specific mechanisms, the ways in which family functioning impacts on immigrant adolescents' adaptation outcomes should also vary according to national origin. In order to have a reasonable sample of the leading immigrant ethnic groups, I have used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data (Add Health) for analysis. I have selected Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican families and adolescents for comparison. The hierarchical regression analyses indicate that there are significant ethnic variations in the degrees to which immigrant status, family socioeconomic background, family structure, and family relations impact on adolescent's psychological well-being and academic performance. In addition to this, the data analysis also reveals the disadvantage that all the minority adolescents encounter in comparison with the non-Hispanic white adolescents in terms of psychological well-being. Specifically, when immigrant status, family SES, family structure, and family relations remain constant, adolescents from black, all Asian subgroup, and all Hispanic subgroup backgrounds have higher depression level and lower scores on positive psychological state than non-Hispanic white adolescents. Moreover, the extent to which closeness with parents mediates or moderates the stresses of assimilation varies by ethnic group. This study suggests that, to fully understand ethnic variations, future research needs to examine the larger systems that the ethnic groups are embedded in.