Family Structure, Family Processes, and Sociocultural Outcomes Among Adolescents in Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Families

Mohammad Ismail Nooraddini

Advisor: Shannon N Davis, PhD, Mason Korea

Committee Members: Adam Winsler, Dae Young Kim

Horizon Hall, 6325 and on Zoom
November 21, 2022, 02:00 PM to 03:30 PM


This dissertation studies the role family structure and processes play in the sociocultural outcomes and well-being of children from immigrant and non-immigrant households. Diverse immigrant groups and their families are constituting larger shares of the U.S. population, often sparking conversation on their children’s ability to fit into mainstream American culture. Immigrant families are one of the primary sources of socialization, and as such, the context of the family can affect how immigrant children are introduced into their host society. There is a growing body of literature that examines cultural outcomes of adolescents in the context of immigrant households. This study adds to this body of literature by examining three topics: whether family structure impacts adolescent sociocultural outcomes (e.g. primary language spoken at home, religion, and dating) and well-being by generation, the extent to which family structure operates indirectly through family processes (e.g. parental attachment, involvement, communication, and control), and the manner in which nativity paints the effects of family structure and processes on adolescent outcomes and well-being.

To answer my research questions I analyzed Wave 1 (1994) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescents to Adult Health (Add Health). The final sample consisted of 13,801 first- (n=1,008), second- (n=2,007), and third+ generation children (n=10,786) aged 14 – 17 with at least one biological parent. I used a variety of statistical approaches to test for direct and indirect effects of family structure (one vs two parent households) on three measures of sociocultural outcomes- primary language spoken at home, religious beliefs and behaviors, and dating activities – as well as three measures that make up well-being (e.g. depression, delinquency, and drinking/smoking). Indirect measures were assessed by testing mediating effects of parental attachment, involvement, communication, and control. Statistical approaches depended on the outcome variable of interest and included ordinary least square (OLS), binary logistic, negative binomial regression, and multinomial logistic regression. Analysis consisted of fully moderated regression models and increasingly complex regressions. I also test if nativity modifies the effects of family structure and family processes on measures of interest.

I found that the effects of family structure differed across generations, with the presence or absence of a parent playing less of a role for immigrant families. Similarly, the effects of family structure were less likely to operate indirectly via parental attachment, involvement, communication, or control in immigrant homes. And finally, there were minor differences between immigrant and non-immigrant family structures and their effects on primary language spoken at home, religious identity, and well-being, with first- and second-generation children from single-parent homes experiencing advantages relative to their third+ generation counterparts. Future research should explore how factors outside the home, including peers, neighborhoods, and schools, might contribute to adolescent sociocultural outcomes and well-being. This study concludes with theoretical, practical, and policy implications, as well as a brief discussion on the role public sociology can play in immigrant research.