The Language and Emotion Development Project (LEAD) is led by CRSC faculty affiliate Qing Zhou and fellow PI Yuuko Uchikoshi (UC Davis) to investigate the bilingual and socioemotional development of children who are dual language learners. They are following more than 400 preschool-age children and their parents from Mexican American and Chinese American families in Head Start communities over three years.
The longitudinal data from the LEAD project will allow us to investigate how language and bilingual development shapes dual language learners’ executive functions, socioemotional development, and school readiness. This new project builds on my Kids & Family Project (KFP), an ongoing longitudinal study on risk and protective factors for mental health and academic development of Chinese American children from immigrant families. The KFP project, initially funded by the Foundation for Child Development and Hellman Family Fund, has been following more than 250 Chinese American children (initially 6-9 years of age) and their families since 2007.
One out of four children in the United States grows up in immigrant families. Children of immigrant families face developmentally unique challenges and opportunities. With the rapid growth of the immigrant population, there is a great need for evidence-based and culturally-competent education practices and clinical services to promote education success and socioemotional wellbeing of children in immigrant families. As an immigrant parent myself, I have firsthand experience of the challenges that immigrant families face in supporting children’s success. It is our hope that the findings from the research can inform education and clinical services for immigrant families of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
Most challenging aspect of this research:
Recruiting immigrant families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and communities has always been a challenge. Immigrant families, especially those with limited English proficiency, are often unfamiliar with research and encounter many barriers to participate in research studies. Our team has developed a series of strategies to reach out to immigrant communities, including training a team of language and culturally competent graduate and undergraduate research assistants, developing partnerships with schools and community organizations serving immigrant families, and designing research procedures that accommodate the needs of immigrant families (e.g., conducting assessments at participants’ homes during flexible hours, making assessment materials/instruments available in multiple languages…).
Most surprising aspect of this research:
Our findings so far have revealed that acculturation (i.e., the process of adapting and engaging in the language, practices, and values of a new culture) is a dynamic process in immigrant families, and it has a complex impact on family relationships and children’s adjustment. For example, parents and children often acculturate at different paces, and the “asynchrony” between parents and children in levels of acculturation can create challenges for parent-child relationships and parenting in immigrant families. We also found some initial evidence for the socio-emotional benefits of maintaining heritage culture and heritage language in immigrant families (e.g., young children with higher heritage language proficiency tend to have a closer relationship with parents). We hope to discover the specific roles of host and heritage cultures and languages in immigrant children’s development and their underlying mechanisms.
Alignment with CRSC's mission:
Our research on immigrant families aligns well with the mission of the Center for Research on Social Change, which focuses on how immigration, globalization, economic restructuring, and development of new technologies have shaped and changed the structure and culture of various spheres within societies throughout the world.
Qing Zhou is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the director of the Culture and Family Study Lab at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on cultural, family, and temperament influences on socio-emotional and academic development of children and youth. Her team has conducted longitudinal studies on Chinese families in China, and Chinese and Mexican immigrant families in the U.S. She has published more than 50 manuscripts, including publications in leading journals such as Child Development and Developmental Psychology. She serves on the editorial boards of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology and British Journal of Developmental Psychology, and the International Affairs Committee of the Society for Research in Child Development.