The price of uniformity: Language, family and personality adjustment in the immigrant second generation

Alejandro Portes, Lingxin Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


We examine the process of linguistic adaptation among children of immigrants and the extent to which distinct language types exist between foreign monolingualism and a full transition to English. While complete linguistic assimilation remains the normative outcome and is widely perceived as desirable, we examine alternative theories holding that selective rather than full acculturation is a preferable alternative for immigrant children and their families. For this purpose we contrast effects of fluent bilingualism, indicative of selective acculturation, with other types of linguistic adaptation on various measures of family conflict, solidarity and personality. The data come from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study [CILS], which have been used in several previous studies of the second generation. We use this data-set to test new hypotheses on the interactive effects of parental and children's knowledge of English on family relations and personality outcomes and to examine the effects of gender differences throughout the process. We find that a plurality of second generation linguistic adaptation types exists in reality and that, among them, fluent bilingualism is consistently preferable. Theoretical and policy implications of these and other results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-912
Number of pages24
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingualism
  • Family solidarity
  • Linguistic assimilation
  • Second generation
  • Selective acculturation
  • Self-esteem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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