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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Child Bilingualism or Familial Acculturation? 'New' Directions in Measuring Acculturation


Over the past fifteen years, the bilingualism or language acculturation of the ‘new’ second generation has received increasing attention in the literature. Child bilingualism is viewed as an intervening variable in the relationship between immigrant background factors and the future socioeconomic assimilation of second generation children. Missing from this conversation though is the possibility that language acculturation is not a process occurring only among immigrant children; it can occur among families. I fill this gap by first providing a conceptual framework for understanding how acculturation can occur among families and then producing a blueprint for measuring familial acculturation. I then determine which child and parental factors affect familial acculturation. Three results surface from multivariate analyses. First, by far, parental skills and resources, as well as child tenure in the U.S. are the strongest and most consistent determinants of familial acculturation. Second, there is no evidence that the process of familial acculturation differs by sex. Third, parental modes of incorporation do not moderate the effects of parental skills and resources. Together, these findings and the measurement blueprint presented encourage further consideration of how familial acculturation within immigrant families contributes to the entire process of second generation socioeconomic assimilation.

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