The adaptation of Australian-born children of skilled immigrants

Author: Asma Akther

Akther, Asma, 2023 The adaptation of Australian-born children of skilled immigrants, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Immigration is a defining characteristic of the 21st century across the world. Successful adaptation among the children of immigrants increases their well-being and contributes to their host countries’ economic prosperity and social cohesion. Research in the USA and Europe reports that children of immigrants from most countries have poorer adaptation (e.g., OECD, 2012). However, majority research has predominantly based on pooled samples of first and second-generation children of unskilled immigrants and findings rarely separated according to those parents share the language of the host country against those who do not. Furthermore, a little former research tends to be informed by theory. It is not clear whether these findings are applicable to children born in the host country to skilled immigrant from non-English-speaking backgrounds (NESB) countries. This thesis used the “Immigrant Youth Adaptation in Context” framework (Motti-Stefanidi et al., 2012) as a guide to explore the adaptation of children born in Australia to skilled immigrants from NESB. This thesis comprised five quantitative studies including first longitudinal study on selected children group and an addition of attrition analysis. Study One examined group differences among children of NESB skilled immigrants, children of skilled immigrants from English-speaking background (ESB), and children of native-born skilled parents, in relation to emotional and behavioural problems, and academic achievement in reading and numeracy performance at aged 10, 12, and 14 years. The results showed that children of NESB immigrants were similar to or better than those of children of native-born parents and ESB immigrants for all outcomes at all ages. Study Two focused on longitudinal changes among the same groups on the same outcomes and found that the pace of improvement was also similar to or better for children of NESB immigrants compared to counterparts. Studies 3-5 focused on the theoretical framework assisted identification of predictors to explore individual differences of outcomes of children of NESB immigrants during the transition to high school. In Study Three, hierarchical linear regression analyses showed that predictors in the theoretical model accounted for 40% of the variance of outcomes in emotional and behaviour problems. Children’s self-esteem and the quality of their relationship with their teachers were negatively associated, whereas children’s reactivity and children experienced bullying victimisation relative to host peers were positively associated with emotional and behavioural problems. Studies Four and Five found that about 31.2% of variance in reading, and almost 46% of variance in numeracy performance were accounted for by the predictors in the theoretical model. Children’s reading performance was positively associated with their Primary caregivers education levels, their own school engagement, matrix reasoning ability, and educational aspirations relative to heritage peers group. Children’s numeracy performance was positively associated with children’s academic persistence, matrix reasoning ability, and educational aspirations relative to heritage peers. In conclusion, the findings from Studies One and Two have parallels among the children of Asian-American immigrants in the USA. Guided by the theoretical framework, Studies Three, Four, and Five identified specific predictors related to children’s characteristics and their developmental context that contributed independent variance to measures of adaptation among children of NESB skilled immigrants. Further research is required to understand contexts of children of skilled immigrants from NESB relative to children of skilled immigrants from ESB.

Keywords: adaptation: emotional and behavioural problems; academic achievement (reading performance and numeracy performance); second-generation immigrant children; skilled immigrant backgrounds; and English and non-English speaking country backgrounds.

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2023
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Associate Professor Helen McLaren