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Bicultural Competence Development Among U.S. Mexican-Origin Adolescents

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Biculturalism embodies the degree to which individuals adapt to living within two cultural systems and develop the ability to live effectively across those two cultures. It represents, therefore, a normative

Biculturalism embodies the degree to which individuals adapt to living within two cultural systems and develop the ability to live effectively across those two cultures. It represents, therefore, a normative developmental task among members of immigrant and ethnic-racial minority groups, and has important implications for psychosocial adjustment. Despite a strong theoretical focus on contextual influences in biculturalism scholarship, the ways in which proximal contexts shape its development are understudied. In my dissertation, I examine the mechanisms via which the family context might influence the development of bicultural competence among a socio-economically diverse sample of 749 U.S. Mexican-origin youths (30% Mexico-born) followed for 7 years (Mage = 10.44 to 17.38 years; Wave 1 to 4).

In study 1, I investigated how parents’ endorsements of values associated with both mainstream and heritage cultures relate to adolescents’ bicultural competence. Longitudinal growth model analyses revealed that parents’ endorsements of mainstream and heritage values simultaneously work to influence adolescents’ bicultural competence. By examining the effect of multiple and often competing familial contextual influences on adolescent bicultural competence development, this work provides insights on intergenerational cultural transmission and advances scholarship on the culturally bounded nature of human development.

In study 2, I offer a substantial extension to decades of family stress model research focused on how family environmental stressors may compromise parenting behaviors and youth development by testing a culturally informed family stress model. My model (a) incorporates family cultural and ecological stressors, (b) focuses on culturally salient parenting practices aimed to teach youth about the heritage culture (i.e., ethnic socialization), and (c) examines bicultural competence as a developmental outcome. Findings suggest that parents’ high exposure to ecological stressors do not compromise parental ethnic socialization or adolescent bicultural competence development. On the other hand, mothers’ exposures to enculturative stressors can disrupt maternal ethnic socialization, and in turn, undermine adolescents’ bicultural competence. By examining the influence of multiple family environmental stressors on culturally salient parenting practices, and their implications for adolescent bicultural competence development, this work provides insights on ethnic-racial minority and immigrant families’ adapting cultures and advances scholarship on the family stress model.

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  • 2019