Language, Gender, and Academic Performance: A Study of the Children of Dominican Immigrants

Language, Gender, and Academic Performance: A Study of the Children of Dominican Immigrants

Language, Gender, and Academic Performance: A Study of the Children of Dominican Immigrants

Language, Gender, and Academic Performance: A Study of the Children of Dominican Immigrants

Synopsis

Research has found immigrant youth perform better in school compared to their native-born peers. However, academic performance deteriorates with acculturation to US culture, whereas bilingualism has been associated with better performance in school. Perea examined whether language acculturation could explain the variation in academic grades among Dominican children of immigrants, and tested whether children who preferred Spanish and English equally had better grades than those who preferred English only. Results indicate benefits associated with bilingualism, however they also indicate a gender-by-acculturation interaction for grades as sex moderated the effects of language preference on academic performance: girls who preferred bilingualism had better grades than those who preferred English, but language preference had little explanatory power for boys.

Excerpt

The process of immigration is as old as humans creating permanent settlements. Poverty, displacement, famine and persecution have been common antecedents of migration across history. the dreams and plans for the future are powerful, as captured by Fievel, the child of the mouse family immigrating to the United States in the movie An American Tale “there are no cats in America and the streets are paved with cheese!” But there have always been required adaptations to different climates, geographies, languages, customs and rituals. Reality bites. and struggles ensue as different family members work through acculturating to a new land, in different ways, as immigrants have at different times throughout human history.

In many occasions, families migrate so the next generation has a better chance at life. the parents sacrifice the familiar, their networks, the value of their skills and knowledge for the unknown. Sometimes they are surprised and alarmed at how much more difficult things are in the new country. But, as revealed in many stories of immigration, if the children are adapting well, parents feel the sacrifices made are worth it.

For many of these children, succeeding in school means repaying their elders for their sacrifices, but it is also their only way out of poverty and increasing their social status. Doing well in school is their job; their employment. Most parents have high expectations for their children: Over 90% of mothers expect their children to go to college and become professionals such as physicians, engineers and lawyers (Garcia Coll et al, 2002; Garcia Coll & Marks, 2009). Similarly, Asian and Latino immigrant students report very positive attitudes toward teachers, school work and the institution (Fuligni, 1997; Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1995). However, these attitudes are related to . . .

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