Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Early academic outcomes and social skills of Latino children: Exploring the immigrant paradox in a young cohort
by Kelley, Elaine Marie Nyirady, Ph.D., Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, 2010, 204; 3409991
Abstract (Summary)

Children of immigrants currently represent one of every five students in grades K-12; predictions are that by 2040 the ratio will change to one in three. Within the last decade alone, the number of Latino children entering the public school system grew 68 percent. Current research indicates a paradox: in spite of greater socioeconomic risk factors, many first and second generation Latino high school youth demonstrate more positive academic outcomes and fewer high-risk behaviors than their third+ generation ethnic peers. However, limited research has explored the presence of similar generational patterns in an early elementary school cohort.

The purpose of this study was (1) to examine child, parent, and family characteristics of immigrant Latino children (ILC) with foreign-born parents and nonimmigrant Latino children (NILC) with U.S.-born parents to determine if the “immigrant paradox” could be found in a primarily low income cohort of elementary school children, and (2) to explore the family context in which Latino children develop academic and social skills, identifying variables that encouraged positive outcomes. The theoretical perspectives framing this research included systems theory, nested in an integrated model that considered the context of the Latino family’s cultural values and experiences, and segmented assimilation theory, which provided a path to understanding generational differences.

The data were from The National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study (1992-1998), a longitudinal study of a predominantly low income, former Head Start population followed from kindergarten through third grade. Sixty-eight percent of the 1000+ Latino children in the dataset were ILC. Data analysis techniques included descriptive statistics, bivariate analysis, and multiple regression models.

The findings confirmed the presence of the immigrant paradox in a young cohort. Although ILC families struggled with poverty, lack of social benefits, and low parental education, strong parenting skills and cultural values were associated with children realizing positive academic outcomes and high social skills. NILC families possessed significantly more resources and parent educational achievement than earlier generations but had less effective parenting practices than ILC families and characteristics mirroring other lowincome U.S. minorities - more teen mothers and single-parent households, and higher use of welfare benefits. Although there were no significant differences between ILC and NILC reading and math scores, teachers assessed NILC as having fewer social skills and more classroom problem behaviors than ILC. The findings suggest that changes in Latino family structure, family resources and parenting behaviors occurred over generations, and that assimilation into a low-income minority group may result in less than positive outcomes for parents and children. A separate analysis of Mexican and Salvadoran families identified differences in characteristics and outcomes, suggesting that specific immigrant journeys and the presence of established subgroup communities may influence resources and outcomes.

Studies have shown that third grade achievement may predict a child’s academic future (Entwistle, Alexander, & Olson, 2003). Optimal long-term outcomes for Latino children require social policies and programs that incorporate Latino cultural strengths and values, promote effective parenting practices and support families by expanding access to social resources.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Klerman, Lorraine V.
Commitee: Levenson, Marya, Nguyen, Huong, Ramey, Sharon L.
School: Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Department: The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Elementary education, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Academic outcomes, Children, Education, Immigrant, Latino, Paradox, Social skills
Publication Number: 3409991
ISBN: 978-1-124-07941-7
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