Effects of cultural brokering on individual wellbeing and
family dynamics among immigrant youth
Department of Child and Family Development, College of Education, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA
Received 8 August 2016
Received in revised form 22 December 2016
Accepted 23 December 2016
Available online 6 January 2017
Over 90% of immigrant youth help their parents navigate the mainstream US culture, a
process known as cultural brokering. Past research has indicated that brokering can often
have negative effects on development of immigrant youth and their families. The current
study builds on the past literature by examining how various aspects of brokering may
impact individual wellbeing and family dynamics among ﬁrst generation immigrant and
refugee youth from Eastern Europe (N ¼197, Mage ¼22.93 (SD ¼2.89), 63.5% female)
currently residing in the United States. The results show that family conﬂict mediates the
relationship between brokering and youth psychological wellbeing. The ﬁndings suggest
that there are distinct patterns of association between frequency of brokering and feelings
toward brokering, pointing to the need to further understand the ways in which we can
capitalize on positive aspects and minimize negative aspects of cultural brokering among
©2016 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier
Ltd. All rights reserved.
Youth from immigrant families often adaptto the US society at a much faster pace than their parents (Birman, 2006; Chao,
arez-Orozco, 2001). As a result, immigrant children serve a crucial role for their families by helping
their parents navigate the nuances of the mainstream US culture. The ability to assimilate quickly allows young immigrants to
serve as cultural brokers eindividuals with very little formal training who mediate the culture between two or more parties
(Kam &Lazarevic, 2013). Recent studies indicate that cultural brokering can have both positive and negative effects on the
well-being and psychological health of immigrant youth, as well as on the dynamics of immigrant families. Many recent
studies, however, focus on the effects of frequency of language brokering on youth-related outcomes. The current study
expands on the previous literature by examining the relationships between language and non-linguistic brokering (proce-
dural brokering) and psychological health of ﬁrst-generation immigrant young adults from Eastern Europe, as well as the
impact of brokering on the relationships between young adults and their immigrant parents. In addition to examining the
effects of frequency of brokering, the current study assesses the effects of both positive and negative feelings associated with
Examining the effects of brokering on immigrant youth is extremely important. Brokering is an omnipresent phenomenon
in immigrant families, with potential to have detrimental effects on the psychological health and development of immigrant
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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0140-1971/©2016 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e87
youth and the parent-child relationships in immigrant families. Therefore, understanding the ways in which brokering
operates to affect individual and family development is essential in helping us maximize the positive outcomes, and minimize
the negative outcomes of brokering.
1.1. Cultural brokering, psychological health, and family relations
Studies indicate that over 90% of immigrant children broker for their parents (Buriel, Perez, DeMent, Chavez, &Moran,
1998; Jones &Trickett, 2005; Orellana, 2003; Trickett &Jones, 2007), with many beginning to broker at a very early age,
when they are 8 or 9 years old (Morales &Hanson, 2005; Tse, 1995). Children in immigrant families are often asked to
translate various documents, answer the phone for their parents, and speak on behalf of their parents in a store or doctor's
ofﬁce (Orellana, Doner, &Pulido, 2003;Trickett &Jones, 2007; Valenzuela, 1999). Research has shown that brokering can
impact the well-being of immigrant youth who participate in this activity. In addition, studies have also found that brokering
can have an effect on the overall family dynamics, speciﬁcally impacting the relationship between immigrant children and
their parents. However, little is known about how immigrant youth feel about their work as cultural brokers. Even less is
known about how that perception of brokering relates to the psychological well-being and family dynamics. In addition,
while several studies have focused on different aspects of language brokering, other forms of brokering, such as procedural
brokering, have not been examined in detail.
1.1.1. Brokering and psychological health
Findings are inconsistent when it comes to the effects of frequency of brokering on the psychological health and well-
being of immigrant young individuals. While some studies indicate positive relations between brokering and psychologi-
cal health, other studies ﬁnd negative link between these two concepts. For example, some studies indicate that individuals
who broker for their parents or other adults report positive experiences, such as increased maturity and independence (Tse,
1995), positive self-esteem (Weisskirch, 2007), and sense of efﬁcacy (Wu &Kim, 2009). On the other hand, some studies have
found negative effects of language brokering, such as feeling uncomfortable (Weisskirch &Alatorre-Alva, 2002), frustrated
(DeMent, Buriel, &Villanueva, 2005), stressed (Jones &Trickett, 2005), embarrassed, and guilty (Weisskirch, 2007). A large
study with Mexican American adolescents found that some boys reported feeling depressed due to their role in brokering
(Love &Buriel, 2007), and a study with college students found that language brokering was related to lower self-efﬁcacy
(Oznobishin &Kurman, 2009).
Recognizing that brokering is a complex experience, more recent studies have started examining other aspects of
brokering, such as how young individuals feel about their brokering experiences. For example, researchers have found that
positive emotions while brokering (e.g., feeling proud, useful) were positively related to self-esteem, while negative emotions
(e.g., feeling nervous, uncomfortable) were negatively related to self-esteem (Weisskirch, 2007). A study with Mexican
American young adults found that lack of burden when brokering was positively associated with self-esteem and self-efﬁcacy
In general, brokering is a very complex activity with many factors coming into play (Jones, Trickett, &Birman, 2012), and
research about relations of culture brokering to psychological health has yielded mixed results. While some studies have
found that brokering is just a normal activity that young immigrants do (Orellana et al., 2003), affecting the youth in a positive
way, other studies have found negative associations between brokering and well-being. The majority of the studies explored
the relationship between the amount of language brokering and well-being (Jones &Trickett, 2005; Martinez, McClure, &
Eddy, 2009; Trickett &Jones, 2007; Weisskirch &Alatorre-Alva, 2002). Overall, however, there is not enough evidence to
show that brokering can impact well-being one way or another, and more studies need to be conducted to further identify the
factors that account for the association between the two concepts. Further, while studies have examined impact of culture
brokering on family relations, they have not examined family system as a context for brokering activities. Furthermore, given
that immigrant youth may begin to broker at a very early age, and given the potential negative effects of this work, immigrant
youth may be at risk for negative psychological development. Therefore, this study seeks to understand the relationship
between culture brokering and family relations in order to yield potential explanation for different effects of brokering on
well-being, and to help in devising family-oriented practices that would aid immigrant families as they navigate their new
1.1.2. Brokering and family relations
As with ﬁndings related to individual well-being, ﬁndings regarding language brokering and relationship with parents
have been mixed (Morales &Hanson, 2005). Some studies found that language brokering is related to conﬂict in immigrant
families (Trickett &Jones, 2007), and that culture brokering negatively contributes to family relations (Martinez et al., 2009;
Titzmann, Gniewosz, &Michel, 2013; Uma~
na-Taylor, 2003). A study with Cuban refugee families found that parents felt their
children were in control and that their brokering led to lack of trust and cooperation within the family (Puig, 2002). Similar
ﬁndings emerged in a study of immigrant college students from the Former Soviet Union who immigrated with their families
to Israel (Oznobishin &Kurman, 2009). The ﬁndings showed that immigrant youth frequently brokered for their parents, and
had a higher tendency of role reversal than their native-born counterparts. Findings among Mexican American young adults
indicate that participants who have unsupportive parents reported greater burden when brokering (Weisskirch, 2013). Youth
from immigrant families from the Former Soviet Union who brokered reported conﬂict with their parents, while the youth's
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e8778
parents did not report the same (Jones &Trickett, 2005). Some researchers found that parent-child relations depended on the
context in which the child performed brokering activities, and that this relationship may be affected by the complexity of the
brokering task (Roche, Lambert, Ghazarian, &Little, 2014). In other words, having to broker can have a negative effect on
immigrant youth, but the brokering experience may be especially stressful for both the child and the parent if the brokering
task or the brokering content is complex (Kam &Lazarevic, 2013; Roche et al., 2014).
In contrast, some studies have indicated that brokering contributes to positive family dynamics. For example, Chinese
American adolescents perceived that they mattered to their parents when they brokered for them (Wu &Kim, 2009). Cultural
brokering may help young individuals feel as though they are an essential part of their families, assisting their parents in the
unfamiliar environment, and helping their family advance in the new country (Orellana et al., 2003). Similarly, some studies
found no differences in power between parents and children when cultural brokering was present (Kam, 2011; Orellana et al.,
2003). Even though children participated in family decisions they did not make any decisions on their owndthat re-
sponsibility was still left to the parents (Orellana et al., 2003).
Overall, studies that found positive association between language brokering and family relations indicated that young
individual in those families feel a strong sense of responsibility and obligation to help their families (Dorner, Orellana, &
enez, 2008; Orellana et al., 2003). Others (Jones &Trickett, 2005; Oznobishin &Kurman, 2009; Weisskirch, 2013), have
found negative association between the two constructs, all of which indicates that ﬁndings between culture brokering and
family relations are inconclusive.
1.1.3. Brokering, well-being, and family dynamics
Studies examining all three components point to the complexity of processes in immigrant families. Weisskirch (2007)
found that in the absence of family conﬂict, positive experiences of brokering were related to increased self-esteem.
Among Chinese and Korean American adolescents, the frequency of language brokering was related to perceived maternal
sacriﬁce and respect for one's mother, which was in turn related to externalizing problems in adolescents (Shen, Kim, Wang, &
Chao, 2014). Kam (2011) found that negative brokering feelings operated through family acculturative stress to negatively
affect alcohol use and other risky behaviors. These studies clearly point to the intricacies of relationships among various
components that come into play during the brokering process. The need to better understand these various factors that
impact family dynamics and youth well-being in immigrant and refugee families is therefore essential.
1.2. Gaps and overview of current study
In summary, the literature on language and culture brokering contributes valuable information to our knowledge about
processes in immigrant families. However, despite the frequency of this phenomenon, the literature that examines brokering
is still very limited. The current study will expand the previous literature and contribute to our knowledge of culture
brokering in several ways. First, the study will advance our understanding of brokering by examining a new construct called
procedural brokering, utilizing a new measure, that will tap into non-linguistic aspects of culture brokering (Lazarevic,
Raffaelli, &Wiley, 2014). Previous study has shown that young immigrants assist their parents in ways that go beyond
translating or interpreting (Lazarevic et al., 2014). As a result, procedural brokering was developed to encompass these
additional ways in which immigrant youth help their families. This kind of brokering is educational in nature, allowing young
immigrants to inform and instruct family members about various nuances of the mainstream culture (Lazarevic et al., 2014).
Previous studies that have examined language brokering mainly focused on instances of translating that immigrant youth do
for their parents. The newly-developed measure will allow for the assessment of brokering activities beyond translation, since
young immigrants draw on their cultural knowledge to perform a range of tasks that help their families adapt to the new
environment. In addition to examining frequencyof brokering, the current study also examines feelings (or perceptions) about
brokering ea concept that is not often explored in the brokering literature. Tapping these additional brokering experiences
will lead to a greater understanding of the complexities of brokering and its consequences for psychological development and
Second, the study will examine culture brokering experiences of young adults. The majority of studies on culture brokering
have been done with adolescents, providing us with some knowledge and understating how this particular experience may
impact adolescent immigrants. Transition from adolescence fromyoung adulthood is an important period, and we have much
less understanding how culture brokering may impact young immigrants in this transition. Young adulthood is a period of
time when individuals are still working on understanding their own identity and juggling various demands that may be
placed on them by their families and the larger society. At the same time, they may have a more mature understating of those
demands. This time period may be an especially unique time for immigrant young adults considering the demands placed
upon this subpopulation through immigration and acculturation. Therefore, the goal of this study was to better understand
the complexity of culture brokering when it speciﬁcally relates to young adulthood period of immigrant populations.
Related to the point above, the study will contribute to the knowledge of cultural brokering by examining this phe-
nomenon speciﬁcally in young adults from Eastern Europe because they are an understudied population with unique
immigrant experiences. First, immigrant young adults from Eastern Europe tend to reside with their families until marriage,
but the expectations of the majority US culture are that young people move out of their parents' home and live independently.
These potential conﬂicting demands of the two cultures can have profound effects on young adults' development, as well as
their relationships with their parents. Second, immigrants and refugees from Eastern Europe are often perceived as not
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e87 79
needing much assistance because they can easily blend into the majority mainstream culture. The popular belief is that this
group of immigrants doesn't experience direct and overt challenges, and therefore does not need as much assistance
adjusting to the mainstream society as some other minority groups. On the contrary, many Eastern European immigrants and
refugees are an “invisible”group who struggle with broad immigration and acculturation related issues, such as acculturation
stress, economic instability, mental health issues, and loss of social networks and support (Genkova, Trickett, Birman, &
Vinokurov, 2014; Mollica, Caridad, &Massagli, 2007; Robila, 2008; Saechao et al., 2012). Taking into account the invisible
experiences of this population and the young adulthood as a unique developmental period, Eastern European immigrant
young adults are therefore a particularly interesting population because of their developmental stage and the potential
challenges they may face. These young adults may be preparing to pursue their own path in life while at the same time
assisting their parents with daily tasks and also juggling the stressors of immigrant experience in the new land.
Finally, this study will explore the ways culture brokering is linked to both individual well-being and family dynamics. Past
studies that have explored culture brokering have been inconclusive about its effects on individual well-being and family
relations. This project aims to elucidate the relationships between young adults and their parents in the context of challenges
that many immigrant and refugee families experience. Examining these concepts can assist practitioners in their work with
immigrants by contributing to the knowledge of dynamics and relationships in immigrant and refugee families, and aiding in
understanding the complexities that often occur in these families.
This study is guided by the Family Systems Framework, which proposes that families function as a system, and that the
interactions between family members and their experiences are more important than individual members. These interactions
and speciﬁed roles help families avoid anxiety and stress (Boss, 2002;Burr, Day, &Bahr, 1993). The more those roles are
speciﬁed and clearly communicated, the less likely families are to experience confusion or stress. It is during the period of
transition that changes in roles and clear expectations of family members are likely to happen, contributing to increased
stress in families. In order for families to adapt to transitions, there needs to be a shift and adjustment to their overall family
system (Burr et al., 1993). For immigrant families, migration is a unique and very stressful transition, and cultural brokering is
one aspect of that larger transition. Cultural brokering contributes to a major change in family interactions and family roles,
causing frustration and confusion both for immigrant parents and their children.
Therefore, taking into account this theoretical framework and the previous literature on culture brokering, the following
hypotheses were tested:
(1a) Frequency of language and procedural brokering will be positively related to depressive symptoms of immigrant young
(1b) Positive feelings toward brokering (both language and procedural) will be negatively related to depressive symptoms of
immigrant young adults. Negative feelings toward language and procedural brokering will be positively related to
(2a) Language brokering and procedural brokering will be related to increased conﬂict between young adults and their
(2b) Positive feelings toward language and procedural brokering will be negatively related to family conﬂict. Negative
feelings toward language and procedural brokering will be positively related to family conﬂict.
(3) Effects of language and procedural brokering on depressive symptoms will be mediated by family conﬂict.
In order to be eligible to participate in the study, participants had to be ﬁrst generation immigrants from Eastern Europe,
between 18 and 29 years of age who immigrated with their parents. Final sample consisted of 197 ﬁrst generation immigrant
and refugee young adults (M¼22.93, SD ¼2.89). The majority of the sample was female (63.5%), and had lived in the United
States for almost 11 years (M¼10.81, SD ¼4.23, range: 1e22 years). Quarter of participants (25%) reported living with one or
both parents, and another quarter (23.2%) reported living with a partner or a spouse, with the rest of participants living with
in a college dorm (22%), with friends (19.6%), and alone (10.1%). Participants came from 12 different countries in Eastern
Europe, with Poland (41.3%), Bosnia (15.3%), and Romania (12.8%) being the most represented. Preliminary analysis showed
that participants from Poland were younger than the rest of the sample (M¼21.72, SD ¼2.73). As a result, we included age as
one of the control variables in the ﬁnal analysis. The study was approved by the University's Institutional Review Board.
A variety of methods were used to recruit participants (e.g., social network websites, listserves, and newsletters to pro-
fessional organizations). Participants completed a one-time online survey that took about 30 min. Participants who
completed the survey were compensated for their participation with a $25 gift card to Amazon.com.
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e8780
2.3.1. Demographic variables
Demographic data included participants' age, gender, living arrangements of participants (i.e. who lived in the same
household with them), country of birth, number of years living in the United States, education, and age and gender of siblings.
Based on the previous literature that relates sibling position to brokering (Valenzuela, 1999), a variable called sibling
constellation was created. The coding scheme (described in the Plan of Analysis section) from Sletto (1934) was used to
determine each participant's position within their family based on age and gender of their siblings. In addition, participants
were asked to report their parents' age, education, country of birth, and number of years living in the United States. In
addition, participants were asked to report their parents' language acculturation using Short Acculturation Scale for Hispanics
(SASH; Marin, Sabogal, Vanoss-Marin, Otero-Sabogal, &Perez-Stable, 1987). The items were adapted by changing response
categories from “Spanish”to “native language”and by asking about parents' language (instead of one's own) acculturation so
that the response categories apply to the current population. The SASH has been used to assess language acculturation in
immigrants (dela Cruz, Padilla, &Butts, 1998; Ellison, Jandorf, &Duhamel, 2011). The current study used three items from the
original SASH scale: “what language do your parents read and speak?”,“what language do your parents speak at home?”, and
“what language do your parents speak with their friends?”The response categories ranged from 1 ¼only native language to
5¼English language only. The scale was computed by averaging the three items. Participants received a score if they
completed at least two of the three items. Cronbach's alpha for the scale was 0.67.
2.3.2. Language brokering
A language brokering (LB) scale originally developed by Tse (1995) and revised by Buriel et al. (1998) was utilized. The scale
has been widely used with adolescents from different Latino ethnic groups (Acoach &Webb, 2004; Love &Buriel, 2007;
Weisskirch &Alatorre-Alva, 2002).
For the purposes of the current study, the measure was modiﬁed to make it applicable to the experiences of young
adults brokering for their parents (Lazarevic et al., 2014). The ﬁnal revised scale consisted of 17 items. One item asked
participants in general how frequently they translate for their parents. Eight items assessed how frequently participants
performed brokering in various locations. Possible responses ranged from 1 ¼never did this to 6 ¼frequently/always in the
past year, to distinguish among young adults who had never brokered, those who brokered to some extent in the past year,
and those who brokered frequently in the past year. Eight items assessed feelings about LB, with ﬁve items examining
positive (e.g., “I feel good about myself when I translate for my parents,”) and 3 items examining negative feelings toward
brokering (“I feel embarrassed when I translate for my parents”). The responses ranged from 1 ¼never to 4 ¼always. Scores
for each scale (frequency, positive feelings, and negative feelings) were computed by averaging items. Cronbach's alphas for
each scale were 0.94, 0.77, and 0.54 respectively (Lazarevic et al., 2014). See Tabl e 1 for means and standard deviations for
all key variables.
2.3.3. Procedural brokering
The study also assessed non-linguistic brokering using a newly developed measure (see Lazarevic et al. (2014) for
detailed description of the measure). The ﬁnal measure consisted of 15 items assessing two domains of procedural
brokering, frequency and feelings. First, participants indicated the extent to which their parents relied on them for
assistance (e.g., “How often do your parents rely on you to explain the American school system to them?”). Response
categories mirrored those for the language brokering scale, ranging from 1 ¼never did this to 6 ¼frequently/always in the
past year. Second, participants indicated how they felt about procedural brokering, examining both positive (e.g., “Helping
or assisting my parents makes me feel grown-up”) and negative feelings (e.g., “I feel embarrassed when I help out or assist
my parents”). Answer choices ranged from 1 ¼never to 4 ¼always. To maintain consistency with LB scale, the scores for
each procedural brokering scale (frequency, positive, and negative feelings) were computed by averaging items. The
Cronbach's alpha for PB frequency was 0.80, for positive feelings toward PB was 0.82, and for negative feelings
(Lazarevic et al., 2014).
Correlations, means and standard deviations for main variables.
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. LB frequencies e
2. LB positive feelings 0.164* e
3. LB negative feelings 0.367** 0.105 e
4. PB frequencies 0.662** 0.141 0.358** e
5. PB positive feelings 0.074 0.749** -0.084 0.039 e
6. PB negative feelings 0.324** 0.059 0.743** 0.310** 0.009 e
7. Depressive symptoms -0.001 0.033 0.172* 0.104 0.054 0.083 e
8. Family conﬂict 0.297** 0.140 0.395** 0.311** 0.187* 0.355** 0.258** e
M (SD) 2.59 (1.20) 2.38 (0.65) 1.59 (0.56) 2.80 (0.94) 2.62 (0.67) 1.56 (0.58) 0.82 (0.50) 1.92 (0.75)
*p<0.05 level; **p<0.01 level.
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e87 81
2.3.4. Young adults' depressive symptoms
Participants' depressive symptoms were measured using short form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression
(CES-D) scale developed by Radloff (1977), the CESD-10 (Kohout, Berkman, Evans, &Cornoni-Huntley, 1993). The measure
assesses depressive symptoms during the past week on a scale from 0 ¼rarely or none of the time (less than 1 day) to 3 ¼all of
the time (5e7 days). Sample items include “I was bothered by things that usually don't bother me”and “I could not ‘get going.’”
An overall score was computed by averaging with a higher score indicating higher depressive symptoms. The Cronbach's
alpha in the current study was 0.81.
2.3.5. Family conﬂict
Family conﬂict was assessed using a 3-item subscale from the Network of Relationships Inventory (NRI, Furman &
Buhrmester, 1985; 1992). The NRI assesses perceptions of characteristics of different personal relationships, and it has
been used with Latino immigrant young adults (Moilanen &Raffaelli, 2010). Respondents rated their relationship with both of
their parents (“How much do you and your parent(s) argue with each other?”) using a scale from 1 (little or none)to5(the
most)(Furman &Buhrmester, 1985). The overall score was calculated by averaging the three items in the scale. Cronbach's
alpha for the current study was 0.86.
2.4. Plan of analysis
The sibling constellation variable was computed from participant reports of the number of older and younger sisters
and brothers in their family. Sletto’s (1934) coding system was used to place each participant within their sibling
constellation. The index child (i.e., study participant) is assigned a position depending whether they are male or female,
the gender of their siblings, and whether they are the oldest child, the youngest child, or somewhere in the middle. In the
current study, each respondent was classiﬁed into one of 12 mutually exclusive categories. For example, a participant
would be classiﬁed as “oldest male child in a mixed family”if the participant indicated that he has younger brothers and
sisters, whereas a participant would be classiﬁed as “oldest son”if he indicated that he has younger brothers, but no
younger sisters. If a participant reported no brothers or sisters, they were classiﬁed as only child. Since analysis yielded
no signiﬁcant results between LB and sibling constellation, and between PB and sibling constellation, this variable was
not further examined.
In the following step, bivariate analyses were conducted to explore linear relationships between the constructs. The
regression models examined how speciﬁc aspects of brokering experiences are related to youth depressive symptoms. Two
separate regression analyses were conducted, one examining effects of language brokering on depressive symptoms, and the
second examining effects of procedural brokering. Each of these models included control variables (time in U.S., participant's
gender, parents' acculturation, and parents' age) at Step 1, frequency of brokering at Step 2, and feelings toward brokering at
Step 3. All models were inspected for violation of the assumptions of normality, linearity, multicollinearity, and
Following the procedures laid out in Baron and Kenny (1986), a series of regression analysis were conducted to test
whether family conﬂict mediated the relation between culture brokering and youth depressive symptoms. The regression
analysis revealed that of the six brokering scales, 4 (frequency of language brokering, positive feelings toward language
brokering, and positive and negative feelings toward procedural brokering) were not signiﬁcant predictors in the models.
These analysis indicated that the ﬁrst condition for mediation was not met and, as a result, no further analyses were con-
ducted for those variables. Mediation was therefore tested with the two brokering variables that emerged as signiﬁcant
predictors of depressive symptoms (frequency of PB and negative feelings toward LB). Even though the overall models were
not signiﬁcant, the signiﬁcant individual predictors were used as part of the exploratory analysis (P. Jose, personal
communication, April 9, 2012).
3.1. Language brokering, depressive symptoms, and family conﬂict
Bivariate analysis indicated that depression was signiﬁcantly positively correlated only with negative feelings toward LB.
No other signiﬁcant relations emerged between depressive symptoms and brokering variables. Family conﬂict was positively
associated with frequency of language and negative feelings toward language brokering (Table 1).
Regression model examining the effects of language brokering on depression was not signiﬁcant. Of the individual pre-
dictors, negative feelings toward LB was a signiﬁcant predictor of depressive symptoms on initial entry into the model
¼0.19, p¼0.05) and remained signiﬁcant (Table 2). The regression model examining the effects of language brokering on
family conﬂict was signiﬁcant. Frequency of language brokering was positively related to conﬂict (
¼0.44, p<0.001) and
remained signiﬁcant when both positive and negative feelings toward LB were entered into the equation (
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e8782
3.2. Procedural brokering, depressive symptoms, and family conﬂict
To examine associations between procedural brokering, depression, and family dynamics, we ﬁrst explored bivariate
relations. Depression was not associated with procedural brokering variables. However, family conﬂict had a signiﬁcant
association with all procedural brokering variables. Findings indicate that family conﬂict was positively related to frequency
of procedural brokering, as well as to negative feelings toward procedural brokering. Family conﬂict was also negatively
associated with positive feelings toward PB (Table 1).
The overall regression model examining the effects of procedural brokering on depression was not signiﬁcant. However,
there was a signiﬁcant association that emerged for frequency of PB. Namely, frequency of PB was a signiﬁcant predictor of
depressive symptoms on initial entry into the model (
¼0.23, p<0.05) and remained signiﬁcant in the ﬁnal model (Table 3).
The regression model examining effects of procedural brokering on family conﬂict was signiﬁcant. The ﬁndings for pro-
cedural brokering indicate that frequency of PB (
¼0.30, p<0.001) and negative feelings toward PB (
were signiﬁcant predictors of family conﬂict (Table 3).
3.3. Testing mediation models
3.3.1. Language brokering, depressive symptoms, and family conﬂict
Regression analyses were also conducted to examine if the family dynamics variables mediate the association between
LB negative feelings and depressive symptoms. In these analysis, the association between LB negative feelings and
conﬂict was signiﬁcant (
¼0.46, p<0.001). At the last step of the mediation analysis, both LB negative feelings and
conﬂict were entered as predictors and depressive symptoms as dependent variable. Fig. 1 shows that the association
between LB negative feelings and depressive symptoms was reduced from 0.215 to 0.033 when conﬂict was entered in
the equation. Therefore, conﬂict was a signiﬁcant mediator between LB negative feelings and depressive symptoms (Sobel
Test ¼2.121, p¼0.03).
3.3.2. Procedural brokering, depressive symptoms, and family conﬂict
First, we established an association between frequency of procedural brokering and depressive symptoms. In Model 2, the
link between frequency of PB and conﬂict was signiﬁcant. In Model 3, both frequency of PB and conﬂict were entered as
predictors. As shown in Fig. 2, when conﬂict was entered into the equation, the standardized regression coefﬁcient between
frequency of PB and depressive symptoms was reduced. Moreover, the paths from frequency of PB to conﬂict, and from
conﬂict to depressive symptoms, were both signiﬁcant. The Sobel test conﬁrmed that the reduction in the coefﬁcient for
frequency of PB was signiﬁcant (Sobel test ¼2.17, p¼0.03). Therefore, we can conclude that family conﬂict partially mediated
the association between frequency of PB and participants' depressive symptoms.
3.4. Additional analysis
Post hoc analysis were conducted to better understand the nuanced differences between procedural brokering and lan-
guage brokering. Using depressive symptoms and family conﬂict as outcomes, regression analysis controlled for language
brokering variables to better understand the unique contribution of procedural brokering. When controlling for language
brokering variables, and using depressive symptoms as outcome, the overallmodel was not signiﬁcant, however PB frequency
variable remained a signiﬁcant predictor (
¼0.25, p<0.05). When using family conﬂict as an outcome and controlling for LB
variables, the overall model was signiﬁcant (F¼6.092, R
¼0.28, p<0.001) with the PB frequency variable being a
marginally signiﬁcant predictor (
Regression analysis showing effects of language brokering on depressive symptoms and family conﬂict.
Depressive symptoms Family conﬂict
(SE B) Model 2
(SE B) Model 3
(SE B) Model 1
(SE B) Model 2
(SE B) Model 3
Time in the U.S. 0.04 (0.01) 0.02 (0.01) 0.01 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.05 (0.02) 0.07 (0.01)
Participant's gender 0.01 (0.09) 0.01 (0.09) 0.00 (0.09) 0.07 (0.14) 0.07 (0.13) 0.12 (0.12)
Parents' language accult. 0.04 (0.08) 0.08 (0.09) 0.09 (0.09) 0.10 (0.13) 0.26** (0.13) 0.24** (0.12)
Parents' age 0.03 (0.01) 0.04 (0.01) 0.03 (0.01) 0.03 (0.01) 0.07 (0.01) 0.05 (0.01)
LB frequencies scale 0.13 (0.04) 0.05 (0.04) 0.44*** (0.06) 0.32*** (0.06)
LB positive feelings 0.08 (0.07) 0.11 (0.09)
LB negative feelings 0.19* (0.08) 0.35*** (0.11)
R-squared 0.00 0.02 0.05 0.01 0.18 0.30
Adjusted R-squared 0.03 0.02 0.00 0.02 0.15 0.27
Model F0.11 0.46 0.93 0.48 5.64*** 8.12***
*p<0.05; **p<0.01; ***p<0.001.
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e87 83
Prior studies have offered mixed results regarding effects of brokering on young individual's well-being (Jones &Trickett,
2005; Love &Buriel, 2007; Weisskirch &Alatorre-Alva, 2002; Weisskirch, 2007; Wu &Kim, 2009) and family dynamics in
immigrant families (Orellana et al., 2003; Trickett &Jones, 2007; Uma~
na-Taylor, 2003; Wu &Kim, 2009). While the past
research has provided invaluable knowledge about our understanding of brokering experiences, much of it was speciﬁcally
focused on language brokering and its frequency. The current study builds and expands on the previous literature by
examining relations between cultural brokering (both language and non-linguistic), family dynamics, and young adults'
psychological health among ﬁrst generation immigrant young adults from Eastern Europe. Moreover, this study examines
how frequency and feelings toward brokering contribute to the well-being of immigrant youth and dynamics in immigrant
families. The ﬁndings indicate that there are distinct patterns of association that emerged for frequency of brokering vs.
feelings about brokering and their relations to well-being and family dynamics. This demonstrates the complexity of
brokering experiences, and points to the need for further examination of brokering and its relation to multitude of factors (i.e.,
youth well-being, family relationships, roles and responsibilities) in immigrant families.
Regression analysis showing effects of procedural brokering on depressive symptoms and family conﬂict.
Depressive symptoms Family conﬂict
(SE B) Model 2
(SE B) Model 3
(SE B) Model 1
(SE B) Model 2
(SE B) Model 3
Time in the U.S. 0.02 (0.01) 0.03 (0.01) 0.03 (0.01) 0.01 (0.02) 0.06 (0.02) 0.04 (0.01)
Participant's gender 0.02 (0.09) 0.01 (0.09) 0.01 (0.09) 0.09 (0.13) 0.10 (0.12) 0.14 (0.12)
Parents' language accult. 0.10 (0.08) 0.16 (0.08) 0.15 (0.08) 0.11 (0.12) 0.22* (0.12) 0.18* (0.11)
Parents' age 0.07 (0.01) 0.09 (0.01) 0.09 (0.01) 0.06 (0.01) 0.12 (0.01) 0.09 (0.01)
PB frequencies scale 0.23* (0.05) 0.21* (0.05) 0.42*** (0.07) 0.30** (0.07)
PB positive feelings 0.02 (0.07) 0.15* (0.08)
PB negative feelings 0.06 (0.08) 0.33*** (0.10)
R-squared 0.02 0.06 0.06 0.02 0.17 0.29
Adjusted R-squared 0.02 0.03 0.01 0.01 0.14 0.25
Model F0.51 1.69 1.25 0.79 5.55*** 7.73***
*p<0.05; **p<0.01; ***p<0.001.
β= 0.46** β= 0.218*
β= 0.215* (0.082)
Fig. 1. Test of mediation between negative feelings toward language brokering and depressive symptoms, with family conﬂict as the mediating variable. Model is
based on steps recommended by Baron and Kenny (1986). Beta values in the model are standardized regression coefﬁcients. The model indicates a drop in the
value between negative feelings toward language brokering and depressive symptoms, when conﬂict is included in the model. *p<0.05. **p<0.01.
β= 0.44** β= 0.205*
β= 0.23* (0.064)
Fig. 2. Test of mediation between frequency of procedural brokering and depressive symptoms, with family conﬂict as the mediating variable. Model is based on
steps recommended by Baron and Kenny (1986). Beta values in the model are standardized regression coefﬁcients. The model indicates a drop in the
between frequency of PB and depressive symptoms, when conﬂict is included in the model. *p<0.05. **p<0.01.
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e8784
4.1. Language brokering
The ﬁndings from the current study indicate that negative feelings toward language brokering (LB) are positively related to
depression for Eastern European young adults, however, frequency of LB and positive feelings toward LB are not related to
depressive symptoms. This is similar to the ﬁndings from a study with Mexican immigrant adolescents, which indicated that
negative feelings were associated with increased depressive symptoms (Kam &Lazarevic, 2013). These ﬁndings are dissimilar
to previous studies, which found that frequency of LB was associated with negative outcomes (Jones &Trickett, 2005; Love &
Buriel, 2007). One explanation for the differences could be related to the age of participants and their developmental stage.
Young immigrants in the current study were on average 23 years old, whereas participants in these previous studies were
adolescents (Jones &Trickett, 2005; Love &Buriel, 2007). It is possible that for adolescents, the frequent brokering took them
away from school work or socializing with peers, and as a result, the sheer frequency of brokering was causing some distress
for this population. Young adults, on the other hand, may feel stronger sense of obligation toward their parents and be more
willing to assist their parents. However, they may still harbor negative feelings toward this work because, as Family Systems
Theory would propose, these young adults may still experience confusion relating to their role within the family. Even though
they are older, they still have a ‘designated’place within their family. However, through their brokering work, that place may
shift, and these youth may experience some confusion and stress around their own family position. In other words, young
adults may have a much more complex view about the brokering work, their parents, and the overall family system. Further
examination of family structure and age and how these may interact with brokering experiences to impact young immigrant
well-being and development is needed to better understand the nuanced differences in experiences.
How young immigrants feel about language brokering operates through family dynamics to impact young immigrants'
well-being in a unique way. Findings suggest that negative feelings toward LB and depression are associated; however, this
association is mediated by family conﬂict. While the cross-sectional design of the current study does not allow causal
pathways to be tested, the ﬁndings are similar to previous research (Weisskirch, 2007). Additionally, the results support the
notion that negative feelings toward LB lead to increased family conﬂict, which in turn contributes to depression among
immigrant youth. This is true even when acculturation (time in the U.S. and language acculturation), youth gender, and
parents' age are held constant. An explanation for this ﬁnding may be that negative feelings toward LB are a way for
immigrant young adults to express frustration with their parents' low acculturation to US culture. As a result, youth may
experience embarrassment and anger with their parents, which may increase their depressive symptoms. This is similar to
ﬁndings from a study with immigrant Latino adolescents (Weisskirch, 2007), which focused on self-esteem as the well-being
outcome. The study posited that negative feelings toward brokering represent the overall negative feelings among family
members. Eastern European youth may also harbor negative feelings toward brokering because of continual demand for
cultural brokering well into adulthood and after a decade of residing in the United States. Additionally, the fact that young
immigrants take on roles that are often reserved for adults in the family, may contribute to family stress and conﬂict because
these changes in roles may not be clearly deﬁned. Future research should examine complexities of brokering among
immigrant young adults to better understand the nuanced ways in which brokering operates within the intersection of this
particular developmental stage and the context of immigrant family.
4.2. Procedural brokering
Examining the relations between procedural brokering (PB) and individual well-being, the ﬁndings indicate that the ef-
fects of frequency of procedural brokering onyouth depressive symptoms may be mediated by family conﬂict. In other words,
data show that frequent procedural brokering leads to increased conﬂict between youth and their parents, which in turn leads
to increased depressive symptoms inimmigrant young adults. This was true evenwhen controlling for acculturation variables
(time in the U.S. and language acculturation), parents' age and youth gender. One explanation for this ﬁnding may be related
to issues of independence and autonomy. The youth in this sample were in their early to mid-twenties, and may not feel that
they have much independence from their parents if they are frequently being called to broker for them. The repeated requests
could lead to struggles or conﬂict within the family. Parents, on the other hand, may feel frustrated, embarrassed, or inad-
equate because they have to rely on their children for assistance. Like their children, they may also feel the loss of inde-
pendence because they are giving up the control totheir children. In other words, both immigrant youth and their parents are
placed in different roles than what may be expected, causing stress and confusion in the family. Future research should
explore in more depth the unique dynamics of parent-child relations in families where children broker for their parents.
4.3. Study limitations
The current study contributes to the literature on brokering by examining a new type of brokering, and shedding more
light on the impact of brokering on immigrant youth well-being as well as their relationships with their parents. The study
does have some limitations that future research can address. This is one of only a few studies to examine brokering among
Eastern European immigrants, but the sample was restricted in terms of size and diversity. Certain populations from Eastern
Europe were more represented than others, and onlyparticipants between the ages of 18 and 28, which had lived in the US no
more than 15 years were able to participate in the survey. A larger and a more diverse sample would provide a wider dis-
tribution of experiences, and allow for more detailed examinations of brokering experiences. The sample also excluded young
V. Lazarevic / Journal of Adolescence 55 (2017) 77e87 85
adults without access to a computer. Some studies indicate that immigrants are less likely to have access to a computer than
their native-born counterparts (Fairlie, London, Rosner, &Pastor, 2006). Therefore, this study may have omitted a potentially
large population of immigrants with unique cultural experiences.
Another limitation is the retrospective design of the study. Participants reported primarily on their past experiences of
brokering, rather than on their current brokering tasks. It would be ideal to examine brokering at the time it occurs, and see
how the frequency and feeling toward it change over time. A longitudinal study that follows immigrant youth and their
parents prospectively would be an ideal tool to examine how acculturation, time spent in the U.S., and education are all
playing parts in brokering experiences and family dynamics. Additionally, participants were asked about their depressive
symptoms, and researchers did not examine any positive outcomes that may be related to cultural brokering. Future studies
should examine the relationship between brokering and possible positive outcomes to further expand on the resilient factors
that many immigrant youth and their families possess.
A third major limitation is that parents' experiences were not assessed directly, but were examined by looking at young
adults' perceptions of their parents' characteristics as well as the amount of brokering they do for their parents. It would be
beneﬁcial to examine parents' experiences of acculturation, brokering and relations with their children. Research however,
has indicated that one's perceptions of his or her experiences may be more salient than the actual events (Boss, 2002; Park,
Vo, &Tsong, 2009). In other words, individuals' perceptions of the amount of brokering they do may be stronger indicator of
their well-being than the actual amount of brokering they do.
Lastly, it should be noted that the LB negative feelings scale had somewhatof low reliability (
¼0.54) that was due to few
items that comprised the scale. The aim of the future studies should be to expand on this concept and further understand how
perceptions about brokering may contribute to the wellbeing of immigrant young adults.
5. Conclusions and implications
Overall, the ﬁndings from the current study point to different aspects of cultural brokering (negative feelings toward LB vs.
frequency of PB) along with family dynamics as variables playing important roles in the psychological health of immigrant
youth. This points to the possibility that various types of brokering may impact immigrant youth differently, although more
research is needed to understand the mechanisms through which brokering types effect different aspects of individual and
family well-being. More importantly, educators, doctors, and other service providers need to pay special attention to the
impact of brokering on the psychological development of immigrant youth. While effort has been made to employ profes-
sional cultural brokers in some medical settings, vast majority of immigrant families rely on their children for cultural
brokering. Providing families with tools, resources, and knowledge about the potential negative impact of brokering can be
helpful in reducing the risks associated with it.
I would like to thank Drs. Marcela Raffaelli and Angela Wiley for their unwavering support, guidance, and mentorship
during this process. I would also like to thank American Association of Family &Consumer Sciences and Pampered Chef
Dissertation Enhancement Award, Department of Human and Community Development, University of Illinois for providing
funding for this research.
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