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Mexican-heritage Adolescents' Social Comparisons and Their Academic Achievement: Testing the Dual Frame of Reference Hypothesis

Some educational researchers have proposed that immigrant adolescents a "Dual Frame of Reference" (DFR) that facilitates their educational achievement. In this dissertation, previous conceptualizations of DFR were further defined and
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   MEXICAN-HERITAGE ADOLESCENTS’ SOCIAL COMPARISONS AND THEIR ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT: TESTING THE DUAL FRAME OF REFERENCEHYPOTHESISA DISSERTATIONSUBMITTED TO THE SCHOOL OF EDUCATIONAND THE COMMITTEE ON GRADUATE STUDIESOF STANFORD UNIVERSITYIN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTSFOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYWilliam PerezMarch 2004   ©Copyright by William Perez 2004All Rights Reserved- ii -   I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fullyadequate in scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. __________________________________________ Amado M. Padilla, Ph.D.Principal Adviser I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fullyadequate in scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. __________________________________________ Raymond Buriel, Ph.D.I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fullyadequate in scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. __________________________________________ Anthony L. Antonio, Ph.D.Approved for the University Committee on Graduate Studies: __________________________________________ - iii -   AbstractRoughly one in five children in the United States today lives in an immigrant-headed household. Immigrant children are now present in substantial numbers in schooldistricts throughout the country. The education of these immigrant youth is critical because schooling, arguably more than ever, profoundly shapes the current and futurewell-being of children as well as their life chances and opportunities. Many questionsremain regarding why and how immigrant children perform better, worse or the samecompared to their U.S. born counterparts.Educational researchers have proposed that adolescents from immigranthouseholds have a “Dual Frame of Reference” (DFR) that facilitates their educationalachievement. According to the DFR hypothesis, immigrants view their social andeconomic conditions in the United States as demonstrably better than their country of srcin, and from their frame of reference life is much better despite their lowsocioeconomic status.In this study, previous theoretical conceptualizations of DFR were further definedusing social comparison theory as guide. Thus, DFR was operationalized as a process of social comparisons by which immigrants and children of immigrants compare their lifeoutcomes and opportunities for economic, social, and educational advancement withthose in their country of srcin as a result of a prolonged period of uncertainty created bythe process of immigration. Social comparisons occur with those that they see as mostsimilar to themselves; family, peers, and friends in their country of srcin. Since schools provide a variety of opportunities for social comparisons, adolescents from immigranthouseholds compare schooling between their country of srcin and the United States. A- iv -   series of three studies were conducted to understand the psychosocial processesassociated with academic achievement by examining the relationship between DFR andachievement among Mexican-heritage adolescents from immigrant households. Theresearch questions guiding this dissertation were the following: (1) Do adolescents fromimmigrant households have a DFR and (2) Is there a relationship between DFR andacademic achievement?Qualitative results from Study 1 (N=40) suggest that although adolescents fromimmigrant households have varying degrees of DFR, it does not seem to be associatedwith achievement. Study 2 (N=96 for Sample 1 and N=282 for Sample 2) sought toempirically test and validate a survey measure of DFR. The resulting 15-item measure of DFR exhibited acceptable internal reliability and validity. Factor analyses revealed athree factor structure: A (1) Preference for Mexico subscale, an (2) Immigrant Optimismsubscale, and an (3) American Peer Comparison subscale. Using variable-centered and person-centered analytic procedures, Study 3 (N=345) examined the relationship betweenImmigrant Optimism and achievement using a series of mediated regression models. Itwas hypothesized that (1) Immigrant Optimism is a significant predictor of academicachievement, (2) Immigrant Optimism mediates the relationship between generationallevel and achievement, (3) Immigrant Optimism is related to academic achievementthrough its effect on academic engagement, (4) Immigrant Optimism is a better predictor of academic achievement than Family Obligation and (5)Adolescents with a high sense of Family Obligation and Immigrant Optimism would exhibit better academic outcomes.Results indicated that although Immigrant Optimism is correlated with academicengagement and achievement, after controlling for demographic characteristics, it did not- v -
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