The civic lives of immigrant-origin youth

Authors: 
Parissa Jahromi Ballard
Publication Year: 
2013
Publication name or Publisher: 
Stanford Digital Repository

This dissertation is concerned with civic development—the process by which young people come to see themselves as part of broader society—among immigrant-origin youth in the United States. The topic is investigated through a series of three related studies. In the first paper, I show how civic motivations and barriers are derived from experiences youth have in their developmental contexts of their schools and communities. Findings point to variation in levels of civic participation and types of motivations within context. These findings have important implications for practice; opportunities can be better structured to facilitate youth civic involvement when adults understand what motivates youth toward civic participation. Findings from the second paper suggested the power of discrimination on civic development. Groups of immigrant-origin youth who perceived the highest levels of discrimination reported the lower endorsement of civic attitudes compared to groups perceiving lower levels of discrimination. At the same time, the groups perceiving the most discrimination reported the highest levels of involvement in certain types of civic activities: change-oriented activities and expressive activities. The pattern of results held true after controlling for demographics such as parental education, gender, school, and ethnicity. This is a provocative finding suggesting that the experience of racial discrimination might be both alienating and also motivating for immigrant-origin youth. The third paper tackled both methodological and conceptual issues in immigrant youth research. Measurement invariance was established for six civic attitude measures indicating that the survey instrument functions similarly for youth from different immigrant status groups. In terms of mean differences on civic attitudes, first generation youth were the most optimistic about the hypothetical functioning of the US government and American ideals; however, non-immigrants felt the most personally attached to the USA. These group differences by generational status remained after accounting for ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Together, the three papers contribute to understanding the specific experiences important in civic development among immigrant-origin youth as well as point to areas where future work is needed.

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