This dissertation addresses the process-pathways running between immigrant adolescents' life experiences and their engagement in school by providing an ecocultural perspective on self-regulation. While the role of social context, such as stress and resources, has been identified as critical in its influence on different dimensions of adolescent development, research on its effect on cognitive self-regulation1 is limited. This thesis investigates the influence of immigrant adolescents' social context on their self-regulation during problem solving in school. In addition, it also provides a preliminary consideration of the role of cultural resources, practices and beliefs in this process. I propose that self-regulation is a process connecting immigrant adolescent developmental experiences and their school-related outcomes.
Study participants were public high school students (15 male, 22 female) aged 14-19 years (N=37) who recently immigrated to the United States. Survey data on participants' stress experiences (life events, and perceived neighborhood, acculturation, and racialization stress), perceived Social Support and Integration, and individual difference factors (depression, trait anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) were collected. During an interrupted time-series problem solving task participants' self-regulation, momentary affect, and biophysiological markers of stress (α-amylase) were assessed. Structured qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of the sample (N=18).
The findings are consistent with the ecocultural model the study was based on. Adaptive self-regulatory strategy choice was predicted by less life stress, more social support and integration, and more momentary negative affect. Conversely, goal termination was predicted by more life stress, less social support, and less momentary positive affect. Secondly, the analysis of momentary change provides evidence that self-regulation is adjusted momentarily and in agreement with changing context conditions. Thirdly, the findings indicate that participants with higher experiences of context stress respond to a situational stress condition with significantly more negative affect and suggest, if don't establish, the increased use of maladaptive self-regulation strategies. Lastly, an exploratory investigation of the role of cultural resources for affective self-regulation identified a range of resources, practices and beliefs particular to this ecocultural setting.
1Self-regulation includes the setting of goals and their pursuit through the management of affect, thought and behavior.