Predicting relations between child language brokering and psychological health within immigrant Chinese families

People of Chinese ancestry make up the largest visible minority group in Canada and they comprise a major percentage of new immigrants to the country. Adaptation to life in a new Western country for Chinese immigrants often comes with stress and hardship, including language barriers and school or employment adjustments. In addition, family members may adapt to the new culture at different rates, creating additional stress that may result in new areas of conflict within the family and increased risk for poorer psychological health. Often, children are relied upon to provide interpretation and translation for their non English-speaking parents. Current research is divided on whether this role harms or supports the psychological health of children — reports cite outcomes that range from psychological distress and depression to pride and increased confidence. Tapping into data gathered through a larger Intercultural Family Study at the University of Victoria, Josephine Hua is studying 180 immigrant Chinese families living in Victoria or Vancouver. She’s examining the psychological implications of language brokering for both children and parents. She hypothesizes that children’s psychological health relating to this role depends on the underlying conditions and relationships within the family. For example, a child who feels pride in fulfilling family obligations is more likely to benefit from this role. Identifying the determinants of psychological health related to language brokering for both children and parents within immigrant families will suggest strategies for promoting healthy integration into Canadian society. Ultimately, this could help alleviate the economic and psychological costs associated with maladjustment among new immigrant families.