Childhood language brokering and mental health: A systematic review

Diana Beceriga, Danielle McGregor, Yumiko Jamieson, Laura Cariola

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract / Description of output

When migrant families move to a new country, the process of acculturation begins as they adapt to a new environment by possibly learning a new language and/or adjusting to new customs, values and a new culture. The experiences of migration carry notable demands and complexities, and migrants often experience pressure to rapidly acculturate to their new environment. Compared to their parents, children of migrant households tend to master the host language, and acquire bilingual and bicultural skills more rapidly than their parents and/or other adult counterparts. Without any formal training in translation, children may frequently be tasked to undertake ‘language brokering’. This refers to the process by which children interpret, translate and facilitate communication for their parents. In the past decade, there has been an increased focus on exploring socio-emotional and psychological outcomes associated with language brokering in young people. To better understand childhood language brokering as a complex language-based behaviour, this systematic review explored and critically appraised empirical literature on childhood language brokering and mental health outcomes. A search of relevant articles was conducted using PsychINFO, MEDLINE, ASSISA, CINAHL Plus, EMBASE and IBSS databases published before August 2020. Studies relevant to language brokering, young people, mental health and migration were included. A thematic synthesis of the included studies identified five core themes: (1) Family dynamics; (2) Language brokering frequency; (3) Language brokering context; (4) Reflections on language brokering; and (5) Gender differences. Key results suggest that language brokering is a complex activity that impacts mental health outcomes of young people through both risk and protective factors; however these outcomes are dependent on the context and circumstances of the language brokering experience. Discussion of the results take a mental health perspective to explore the development of culturally-appropriate supports and policies to positively impact the lives of migrant families and children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
EventBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference -
Duration: 1 Jul 20212 Jul 2021


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Annual Conference


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