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Kids in the Middle

Kids in the Middle: How Children of Immigrants Negotiate Community Interactions for Their Families

Vikki S. Katz
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Kids in the Middle
    Book Description:

    Complicating the common view that immigrant incorporation is a top-down process, determined largely by parents, Vikki Katz explores how children actively broker connections that enable their families to become woven into the fabric of American life. Children's immersion in the U.S. school system and contact with mainstream popular culture enables them more quickly to become fluent in English and familiar with the conventions of everyday life in the United States. These skills become an important factor in how families interact with their local environments.Kids in the Middleexplores children's contributions to the family strategies that improve communication between their parents and U.S. schools, healthcare facilities, and social services, from the perspectives of children, parents, and the English-speaking service providers that interact with these families via children's assistance. Katz also considers how children's brokering affects their developmental trajectories. While their help is critical to addressing short-term family needs, children's responsibilities can constrain their access to educational resources and have consequences for their long-term goals.Kids in the Middleexplores the complicated interweaving of family responsibility and individual attainment in these immigrant families.Through a unique interdisciplinary approach that combines elements of sociology and communication approaches, Katz investigates not only how immigrant children connect their families with local institutional networks, but also how they engage different media forms to bridge gaps between their homes and mainstream American culture. Drawing from extensive firsthand research, Katz takes us inside an urban community in Southern California and the experiences of a specific community of Latino immigrant families there. In addition to documenting the often-overlooked contributions that children of immigrants make to their families' community encounters, the book provides a critical set of recommendations for how service providers and local institutions might better assist these children in fulfilling their family responsibilities. The story told inKids in the Middlereveals an essential part of the immigrant experience that transcends both geographic and ethnic boundaries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6220-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-14)

    Luis is eleven years old.¹ He is soft spoken, with warm brown eyes partially hidden by long, thick hair he shyly retreats behind from time to time. Luis is the eldest of Ana and Felipe’s three US-born sons; both parents are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Felipe works in a clothing factory for an hourly wage as the family’s sole breadwinner; Ana hasn’t worked since her youngest son was born two years ago. Both parents have had limited employment options in part because of their unauthorized residency status, but also because they, like many of their contemporaries, cannot speak, read, or...

    (pp. 15-31)

    This chapter provides background on Greater Crenshaw, an urban community located in South Los Angeles, a few miles from downtown.¹ The community and the institutions within it had been profoundly shaped by social and demographic shifts that had taken place in the preceding decades.²

    From the 1920s to the 1950s, South Los Angeles grew and flourished as a set of predominantly blue-collar neighborhoods populated by families connected to the local steel, automotive, and food-processing plants. These communities were also fiercely segregated; Josh Sides (2004b, 585) describes the “incredibly successful” efforts of segregationists to maintain these all-white neighborhoods. Supreme Court rulings...

    (pp. 32-46)

    The chapters that follow draw on the experiences of twenty families in which children brokered at home and at local schools, healthcare facilities, and social services. This chapter introduces these children and their families, explains why certain children are more likely to shoulder these responsibilities than their siblings, and describes what kinds of gaps they are enlisted to bridge in their parents’ social networks and local connections.

    Parents generally relied on their eldest child to broker for them. These children had spent their early years in language environments where they were primarily, if not entirely, surrounded by their parents’ language....

    (pp. 47-72)

    The interactions that children broker in local institutions do not begin in doctors’ waiting rooms or school admissions offices; they begin at home. Since children’s brokering is most visible in public spaces, prior research has been largely focused on these locations.¹ In this chapter, I argue that children’s public brokering is shaped by domestic forms of these activities, making the family home a central component of understanding how child brokers and their families interact with their community.

    I engage a family systems perspective to explore what children do for their families and how families differ with regard to how they...

    (pp. 73-95)

    The healthcare and social services environments these families encountered in Greater Crenshaw were critical to addressing many of their basic, and often urgent, needs. These institutions were also spaces where families accessed resources and services that could provide them a measure of security and social mobility. I discuss healthcare and social services together because they were generally intertwined in families’ lived experiences. For example, when complications from diabetes forced Alejandro to quit his restaurant job, his doctor encouraged him to apply for disability benefits to which he was entitled. His daughter Milagro (age thirteen) helped him fill out the paperwork....

    (pp. 96-121)

    As community sites, no institutions are more closely tied to parents’ aspirations for their children than the schools. Providing children with broader educational and occupational prospects is often a major motivation for parents’ migration. Their children’s educational attainment is also viewed as a pathway toward repaying their parents’ sacrifices.¹ These repayments may be literal, in that they can more easily help support their families with a professional salary than with earnings from low-skilled work. Education can also provide emotional payback made manifest in parents’ pride in the opportunities their migration has made available to their children.

    These parental expectations, and...

    (pp. 122-138)

    The preceding chapters document how children’s brokering influenced their families’ interactions across community locations, as well as the individual and collective activities that enabled and constrained their efforts. By considering what children do across multiple sites, it was possible to assess what strategies were successful in which settings and how interactions with service providers in particular institutions affected what child brokers could (and could not) help their families accomplish. Children’s brokering is an important dimension to how we understand two issues of great concern to a range of stakeholders: namely, immigrants’ interactions with US social institutions, and the social trajectories...

  12. APPENDIX: Challenges of Departure
    (pp. 139-148)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 149-158)
    (pp. 159-170)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 171-180)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-182)