Migrant youth as cultural brokers, a focus on family-school interaction

The Region of Puglia conducted a pilot study (in Italian) on migrant youth as culture brokers. Culture brokering refers to the ways in which children and youth with a migrant background serve as mediators between their families and aspects of the new culture.

The study was presented to the Includ-EU consortium for exchanges and feedback, before it was actually carried out. The below description is the one from October 2021.

It often happens that young immigrants have more opportunities to get in touch with the Italian culture and language thanks to school and friendships with classmates and peers. This is why it can also happen that young immigrants act as intermediaries between their family of origin and the various community contexts with which they come into contact, to a greater or lesser extent, where they live.

In any case, it is not only an activity of linguistic translation but of real negotiation of meanings, a linguistic and cultural mediation, which can have implications for the acculturation process of the young people, their families and the host society. An emblematic case is, without a doubt, that of the school-family relationship: if, on the one hand, young immigrants can carry out an informal activity of linguistic and cultural mediation on behalf of their parents, on the other hand it can happen that teachers and operators turn to them to translate educational issues that concern them.

  • What are the possible effects of this linguistic and cultural mediation activity for young immigrants and for the reciprocal relationships they establish with their families and schools?
  • What are thepossible effects on family relationships?
  • Does a sort of two-speed acculturation process occurs whereby young immigrants acquire linguistic and cultural cultural skills at a faster rate than their parents?
  • Is there a sort of role reversal within immigrant families?
  • What are the possible effects on immigrant youth’s experience of school?
  • Do they feel overburdened by a responsibility that they cannot manage or, on the contrary, do they perceive this role as something positive that strengthens their self-esteem?
  • What are the possible effects on the school-family relationship and, more generally, on the possibilities for parents and teachers to come into contact and establish relationships with each other that can improve their attitudes towards ethnic groups other than their own?

These some of the possible questions that can be formulated. To deepen the knowledge of informal support and mediation activities of the type ‘culture brokering’ is a priority in order to understand the extent to which these experiences help immigrant youth to cultivate more positive forms of adaptation. We believe that acquiring an in-depth knowledge of the phenomenon is essential in order to activate interventions in support of the well-being of young immigrants at school that enhance, in a logic of empowerment of the self, of groups and communities, their protagonism within the relationship school-family relationship.

• Could young immigrants be informal contact persons for school-family interaction?
The researchers intended to start from an analysis of the young people’s experiences, that of their family members and teachers with the aim of:
1) Describing the type of “culture brokering” activities and behaviors that are enacted by immigrant adolescents;
2) Exploring how “culture brokering” practices are connected to the processes of acculturation that involve the young people, their families and teachers.
3) Exploring how culture brokering practices are related to acculturation gaps between parents and children.
4) Investigating how “culture brokering” practices are related to cross-cultural adaptation of adolescents and their parents.

To this end, in-depth interviews will be organized and conducted with immigrant youth and their parents, with the collaboration of some mediators. In addition, in-depth interviews will also be conducted with teachers of secondary secondary schools in Apulia.

The presentation shared at the Includ-EU workshop 2 is available under this link.

The pilot study is described in the REGIN project website:

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