The Influence of Family Capital on Children's Working Memory in New Immigrant Families in the United States

Jeong, Yu-Jin;You, Hyun-Kyung

  • Received : 2013.09.30
  • Accepted : 2013.11.12
  • Published : 2013.12.30


This study investigated how family capital was associated with the working memory of young school-aged children from immigrant families in the United States using the New Immigrant Survey. Family capital was identified as economic, human, cultural, and social capital, and children's working memory was measured by the Digit Span scores. Poisson regression analysis was used for examining the sample of 428 children from the New Immigrant Survey. Results indicated that cultural capital within the home was positively associated with the working memory of young school-aged children whereas economic, human, and social capital was not. Implications and limitations of the study are also discussed.


Family Capital;immigrant families;working memory;school-aged children


  1. Agger, B. A., & Anne, S. B. (2007). Class in class: Capital, human capital, cultural capital. In B. Agger and S. B. Anne (Eds.), Fast families, virtual children: A critical sociology of families and schooling (pp. 125-151). Boulder, CO: Paradigm.
  2. Anguiano, R. P. V. (2004). Families and schools: The effect of parental involvement on high school completion. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 61-85.
  3. Annie E. Casey Foundation (2007). The Annie E. Casey Foundation 2007 Kids count data book. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  4. Blau, D. M. (1999). The effect of income on child development. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 81, 261-276.
  5. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood.
  6. Bornstein, M. H., & Cote, L. R. (2007). “Who is sitting across from me?” Immigrant mothers' knowledge of parenting and children's development. Pediatrics, 114, 557-564.
  7. Buchmann, C. (2002). Measuring family background in international studies of education: Conceptual issues and methodological challenges. In A. C. Porter & A. Gamoran (Eds.), Methodological advances in cross-national surveys of educational achievement (pp. 150-197). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  8. Caughlin, J. P., & Malis, R. S. (2004). Demand/withdraw communication between parents and adolescents: Connections with self-esteem and substance use. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 125-148.
  9. Cheon, H. (1996). Korean immigrant mothers and American teachers: Mothers' experiences with their children's school and teachers' experiences with the mothers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota.
  10. Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 84, S95-S120.
  11. Crosby, D. A., & Dunbar, A. S. (2012). Patterns and predictors of school readiness and early childhood success among young children in black immigrant families. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. available at
  12. Davis-Kean, P. E. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 294-304.
  13. De Feyter, J. J., & Winsler, A. (2009). The early developmental competencies and school readiness of low-income, immigrant children: Influences of generation, race/ethnicity, and national origins. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 411-431.
  14. Desimone, L., Payne, B., Fedoravicius, N., Henrich, C. C., & Finn-Stevenson, M. (2004). Comprehensive school reform: An implementation study of preschool programs in elementary schools. The Elementary School Journal, 104, 369-389.
  15. Eamon, M. K. (2005). Social demographic, school, neighborhood, and parenting influences on the academic achievement of Latino young adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 163-174.
  16. Eccles, J. S., & Harold, R. D. (1993). Parent-school involvement during the early adolescent years. Teachers College Record, 94, 568-587.
  17. Fuligni, A. (1997). The academic achievement of adolescents from immigrant families: The roles of family background, attitudes and behavior. Child Development, 68, 351-363.
  18. Glick, J. E., Bates, L., & Yakibu, S. T. (2009). Mother's age at arrival in the United States and early cognitive development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 367-380.
  19. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the ‘‘immigrant paradox'' in education. Social Science Research, 42, 698-714.
  20. Hale, J. B., Hoeppner, J. B., & Fiorello, C. A. (2002). Analyzing digit span components for assessment of attention processes. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 20, 128-143.
  21. Hernandez, D. J. (2004). Demographic change and the life circumstances of immigrant families. The Future of Children, 14, 16-47.
  22. Hernandez, D. J., Takanishi, R., & Marotz, K. G. (2009). Life circumstances and public policies for young children in immigrant families. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 487-501.
  23. Huntsinger, C. S., & Jose, P. E. (2009). Parental involvement in children's schooling: Different meanings in different cultures. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24, 398-410.
  24. Jasso, G., Massey, D. S., Rosenzweig, M. R., & Smith, J. P. (2005). The U.S. New Immigrant Survey: Overview and preliminary results based on the new immigrant cohort of 1996 and 2003. available at
  25. Klebanov, P. K., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Duncan, G. J. (1994). Does neighborhood and family poverty affect mothers' parenting, mental health, and social support? Journal of Marriage and Family, 56, 441-455.
  26. Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  27. Lee, S., & Son, S. (2012). The effects of social capital and community resources on the cost of child rearing. International Journal of Human Ecology, 13, 39-52.
  28. Leung, B. P. (1998). Who are Chinese American, Japanese American, and Korean American children?: Cultural profiles. In V. O. Pang & L. L.-R. Cheng (Eds.), Struggling to be heard: The unmet needs of Asian Pacific American children. Albany, NY: University of New York.
  29. Lew, J. (2003). Asian American in class: Charting the achievement gap among Korean American youth. New York: Teachers College Press.
  30. Long, S. J., & Freese, J. (2006). Regression models for categorical dependent variables using Stata (2nd ed.). College Station, TX: Stata Press.
  31. Mandakini, M. S., & Kaur, P. (2009). Effect of socioeconomic variables on immediate memory span of school children of Hisar. International Journal of Educational Science, 1, 15-18.
  32. Mistry, R. S., Biesanz, J. E., Chien, N., Howes, C., & Benner, A. D. (2009). Socioeconomic status, parental investments, and the cognitive and behavioral outcomes of low-income children from immigrant and native households. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 193-212.
  33. Moon, S. S., Kang, S., & An, S. (2009). Predictors of immigrant children's school achievement: A comparative study. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 23, 278-289.
  34. Ngo, B. (2006). Learning from the margins: The education of Southeast and South Asian Americans in context. Race, Ethnicity, and Education, 9, 51-65.
  35. Palacios, N., Guttmannova, K., & Chase-Lansdale, P. L. (2008). Early reading achievement of children in immigrant families: Is there an immigrant paradox? Developmental Psychology, 44, 1381-1395.
  36. Parcel, T. L., Defur, M. J., & Zito, R. C. (2010). Capital at home and school: A review and synthesis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 828-846.
  37. Parker, S. J., & Benson, J. M. (2004). Parent-adolescent relations and adolescent functioning: Self-esteem, substance abuse, and delinquency. Adolescence, 39, 519-530.
  38. Perreira, K. M., Harris, K. M., & Lee, D. (2006). Making it in America: High school completion by immigrant and native youth. Demography, 43, 511-536.
  39. Plunkett, S. W., & Bamaca-Gomez, M. (2003). The relationship between parenting, acculturation, and adolescent academics in Mexican-origin immigrant families in Los Angeles. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 25, 222-239.
  40. Pong, S., Hao, L., & Gardner, E. (2005). The roles of parenting styles and social capital in the school performance of immigrant Asian and Hispanic adolescents. Social Science Quarterly, 86, 928-950.
  41. Pong, S., & Landale, N. S. (2012). Academic achievement of legal immigrants' children: The roles of parents' pre-and post-migration characteristics in origin-group differences. Child Development, 83, 1543-1559.
  42. Shin, H. J. (2004). Parental involvement and its influence on children's school performance: A comparative study between Asian (Chines and Koreans) Americans and Mexican Americans. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Columbia University, New York.
  43. Smith, J. R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Klebanov, P. K. (1997). The consequences of living in poverty for young children's cognitive and verbal ability and early school achievement. In G. J. Duncan & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Consequences of growing up poor (pp.132-189). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  44. StataCorp. (2011). Stata Statistical Software: Release 12. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.
  45. Sun, Y. (1998). The academic success of East Asian American students: An investment model. Social Science Research, 27, 432-456.
  46. Tenenbaum, H. R., & Ruck, M. D. (2007). Are teachers' expectations different for racial minority than for European American students?: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 253-273.
  47. Turney, K., & Kao, G. (2009). Assessing the private safety net: Social support among minority immigrant parents. The Sociological Quarterly, 50, 666-692.
  48. Vandewater, E. A., & Lansford, J. E. (2005). A family process model of problem behaviors in adolescence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 100-109.
  49. Vinnard, C., Wileyto, E. P., Bisson, G. P., & Winstond, C. A. (2013). First use of multiple imputation with the National Tuberculosis Surveillance System. Epidemiology Research International. doi:
  50. Warren, J. R. (1996). Educational inequality among white and Mexican-origin adolescents in the American Southwest. Sociology of Education, 69, 142-158.
  51. White, M. J., & Kaufman, G. (1997). Language usage, social capital, and school completion among immigrants and native-born ethnic groups. Social Science Quarterly, 78, 385-398.