Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Brian K. Barber

Committee Members

Elizabeth I. Johnson, Hillary N. Fouts, Heid E. Stolz, John G. Orme


Rapidly increasing numbers of immigrant families with children in the U.S. have led researchers to study the dynamics of immigrant families, focusing particularly on discrepancies in the acculturation levels of parents and children. Many studies have found such an acculturation gap to be associated with problematic functioning, such as conflicts between family members and poor adjustment outcomes among immigrant youth. Other studies have found no such associations. In order to clarify this association, this dissertation conducted a meta-analysis of available studies. Literature searches identified 63 qualifying studies, in which 117 separate effect sizes were reported.

Concentrating on main effects, the findings of the meta-analysis revealed small but significant average effects between an acculturation gap and each of three dependent variables: youth internalizing problems (r=.1), youth externalizing problems (r=.06), and family conflict (r=.15). Thus, the higher the acculturation gap, the higher the level of individual and family difficulty. Next, a series of moderator analyses were conducted to test the degree to which these main effects might be contingent on a variety of study and personal characteristics, as well on methodological features of how an acculturation gap is perceived, measured, and calculated.

No significant moderation effects were found for age or country of origin. There were not adequate studies that reported separate effect sizes to test for youth gender differences. For internalizing problems only, the mean effect was higher for studies published in journals than in dissertations. The only significant finding from analyses using methodological features as moderators was that studies that assessed an acculturation gap in the specific domain of cultural values had a higher mean effect than studies that assessed the acculturation gap with a global acculturation index.

In sum, the study confirms that within the currently available empirical literature, an acculturation gap between immigrant parents and children in North America is significantly associated with poorer family and individual youth functioning. These effects are systematic in that they held regardless of differences in various individual and study characteristics. Implications for application and research refinement are discussed.

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