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Family Functioning and Early Learning Practices in Immigrant Homes


  • Our work is supported by the Hewlett Foundation, National Research Foundation of Korea, and Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley. The Spencer Foundation initially funded the Latino Child Development Project, supporting the present analysis, codirected with Margaret Bridges, Eugene Garcia, and Angela Arzubiaga. Special thanks to Susan Dauber. Gail Mulligan and Jennifer Park patiently answered many questions about the data set.

concerning this article should be addressed to Bruce Fuller, Tolman Hall 3659, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. Electronic mail may be sent to


Poverty-related developmental-risk theories dominate accounts of uneven levels of household functioning and effects on children. But immigrant parents may sustain norms and practices—stemming from heritage culture, selective migration, and social support—that buffer economic exigencies. Comparable levels of social-emotional functioning in homes of foreign-born Latino mothers were observed relative to native-born Whites, despite sharp social-class disparities, but learning activities were much weaker, drawing on a national sample of mothers with children aging from 9 to 48 months (n = 5,300). Asian-heritage mothers reported weaker social functioning—greater martial conflict and depression—yet stronger learning practices. Mothers’ migration history, ethnicity, and social support helped to explain levels of functioning, after taking into account multiple indicators of class and poverty.