The Effect of Immigrant Parent's Ethnic Bonding On Their Child's Self-Esteem
Background and Purpose: An immigrant child’s self-esteem and eventual assimilation may be affected by the extent to which his or her parent bonds to their ethnic culture. Unlike native children, immigrant children may experience either positive or negative effects of parental social bonding. Social bonding could produce better outcomes for immigrant children through increased family cohesion, thereby protecting immigrant children from societal discrimination. Conversely, very strong social bonding may generate discrimination and exclusion from mainstream culture. This study examines the association between social (ethnic) bonding of immigrant parents and self-esteem of immigrant children, with a focus on the mediating role of family cohesion and children’s perceived discrimination.
Method: This study used a sample of 5,262 second-generation immigrant children in the 8th and 9th grade in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego, using the second wave of data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to estimate a model in which child’s self-esteem, as measured by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale was predicted by level of ethnic engagement of immigrant parents. Mediators were family cohesion and child’s perceived discrimination. A set of demographic variables were included as covariates.
Results: There was a significant positive prediction of child’s self-esteem by family cohesion, B=.096, z=9.449, p<.001, and of family cohesion by parent’s ethnic bonding, B=.235, z= 3.153, p<.001, after adjusting for covariates. This produced a significant positive indirect effect of parental ethnic bonding on child’s self-esteem via family cohesion, B=.023, z=2.979, p<.05. There was a significant negative prediction of child’s self-esteem by child’s perceived discrimination, B=-.030, z=-2.539, p<.05, and a significant positive prediction of child’s perceived discrimination by parent’s ethnic bonding, B=.084, z=1.977, p<.05, after adjusting for covariates. The indirect effect of parent’s ethnic bonding on child’s self-esteem via child’s discrimination was marginally significant, B=-.003, z=-1.649, p<.10. The direct effect of parent’s ethnic bonding on child’s self-esteem was insignificant after adjusting for two mediators, B=.037, z=1.606, p=.108, and covariates, which suggests full mediation. The total effect of parent’s ethnic bonding on child’s self-esteem significantly positive, B=.057, z=2.352, p<.05, due to the fact that the positive indirect effect via family cohesion was larger than the negative indirect effect via child’s perceived discrimination.
Conclusions and Implications: This study provides empirical support for both positive and negative effects of parent’s ethnic bonding on immigrant children’s self-esteem. Specifically, stronger ethnic bonding was found to lead to more family cohesion that in turn enhances child’s self-esteem. At the same time, stronger ethnic bonding was found to have a detrimental effect on child’s self-esteem because it adversely affected child’s perceived discrimination; although overall parent’s ethnic boning was found to enhance child’s self-esteem, as shown in the positive total effects. These complicated associations between parent’s ethnic boning and child’s self-esteem have implications for social work policy and practice. This study suggests that immigration policies or interventions designed to foster healthy development of immigrant children needs to attend to both parents and children, given the intergenerational effects of parental ethnic bonding.