Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Mary J. Levitt

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

William M. Kurtines

Third Advisor's Name

Wendy K. Silverman

Fourth Advisor's Name

Marilyn J. Montgomery

Keywords

developmental psychology, peer relationships, immigrant youth, adaptation, friend support, friend behavior

Date of Defense

11-9-2012

Abstract

Immigration disrupts an individual’s support network; however, the stresses of the immigration process increase the need for social support. The presence of social support becomes essential for immigrant children and adolescents to cope with these important transitional circumstances. Friends are both sources of social support and models for behavior. Furthermore, friendship networks are known to have a significant influence on youths’ functioning. Literature suggests that peer relations become more important in adolescence and friend support is related to child and adolescent well-being. Thus, friend relationships may be particularly important for immigrant youths who experience disruption in their friendship networks during the process of migration to another country. In addition to friendship networks and support, friend characteristics also need to be taken into consideration as important factors for immigrant youth adjustment. My study involved analyses of the effects of friend support and friend problem behaviors on emotional and behavioral functioning for elementary, middle, and high school age newly immigrant children and adolescents.

Immigrant children and adolescents (N = 503) were interviewed at schools by interviewers fluent in participants’ languages. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analyses revealed that friend support and friend problem behaviors were related to children’s self-esteem and externalizing behaviors. In addition, friend problem behavior alone predicted children’s psychological symptoms and depression scores. Furthermore, age/grade was found to be a moderator for the relation between friend problem behavior and immigrant youth behavioral adjustment such that compared to elementary and high school cohorts, middle school youths showed more externalizing behaviors when they had friends performing problem behaviors.

Results supported the idea that both friend support and friend behavior are related to newly immigrant youths’ emotional and behavioral adjustment. This study informs further research and interventions concerning the development of programs to facilitate immigrant youths’ adjustment by revealing friendship factors related to their adaptation.

Identifier

FI12112805

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