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Feelings About Language Brokering and Family Relations Among Mexican American Early Adolescents

NCJ Number
Journal of Early Adolescence Volume: 27 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 545-561
Robert S. Weisskirch
Date Published
November 2007
17 pages
Ninety-eight Mexican-American seventh-graders answered a questionnaire about their experiences and feelings as "language brokers" (performing as English translators for those not proficient in English) within their families.
The Mexican-American youth who had more problematic family relationships had higher ratings for negative emotions linked to language brokering, such as feeling angry, anxious, ashamed, calm, embarrassed, nervous, obligated, scared, uncomfortable, and worried. They experienced low self-esteem when acting as a translator for parents, for friends, and for other people who work at school or at a restaurant. Negative experiences with language brokering may by a symptom of poor family functioning or intrapsychic variables, rather than being linked directly to acting as a language broker. The Mexican-born youth reported feeling happier, more confident, pleased, and trusted when engaging in language brokering compared with those who were born in the United States; however, the Mexican-born youth felt more self-conscious, embarrassed, resistant, and scrutinized when engaged in language brokering compared with the U.S.-born participants. The variation in experiences with language brokering among Mexican-born youth may be related to language proficiency in either English or Spanish or both, as well as differences in family dynamics. Higher scores on positive emotions and fewer problematic family relationships were predictive of self-esteem. Participants were from a middle school in central California. Seventy-one were born in the United States, and 25 were born in Mexico (2 did not indicate country of birth). Data were obtained on demographics, the frequency of language brokering, emotions felt when engaged in language brokering, family relations (Index of Family Relations), and self-esteem (Hare Self-Esteem Scale). 4 tables and 32 references