Hyeyoung Kwon is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University. Her research areas include race, migration, and social inequalities. She is currently working on a book titled Translating Race, Class, and Immigrant Lives: The Language Brokering Work of Bilingual Youth, which examines the experiences of Mexican- and Korean-Americans who grew up translating for their non-English speaking parents and explores how migration and racialization processes impact the lives of working-class immigrant families. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. Her works have been published in Social Problems, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Childhood.
Ann Beutel (CY Publications Committee Member) asked Hyeyoung the following questions:
Ann: How did you first become interested in studying children in immigrant families?
Hyeyoung: My inspiration for studying the lives of children in immigrant families developed from my own personal experiences. Growing up, I shouldered significant responsibilities of helping my Korean monolingual, working-class parents navigate institutions and social inequality by serving as their “language broker.” My parents relied on my bilingual skills when speaking with doctors, teachers, social workers, landlords, and other English-speaking adults. From this, I wanted to use my personal experiences as a starting point to examine how migration impacts the daily lives of children in immigrant families and how race, class, and gender shape the types of work that these children perform for their families and within the larger society.
Ann: Can you tell us a little about your current book manuscript, Translating Race, Class, and Immigrant Lives: The Language Brokering Work of Bilingual Youth?
Hyeyoung: Drawing from in-depth interviews and ethnography, Translating Class, Race, and Immigrant Lives takes readers into the daily lives of Mexican- and Korean-American “language brokers” who use their bilingual knowledge to navigate English-speaking institutions on behalf of their parents. Today, nearly a quarter of U.S. children have at least one immigrant parent, and nearly two-thirds of these children’s parents have difficulty speaking English. Among children with a parent from Korea or Mexico, a respective 76 and 81 percent of such children have a parent with limited English proficiency. Although many children grow up mediating a variety of interactions and serve as liaisons of communication, their brokering work remains understudied and undertheorized in the field of sociology. Addressing this gap, my book traces racialized and classed encounters, ranging from interactions with landlords to life-threatening situations involving health care access and police protection. I find that translating encapsulates far more than verbal exchanges. For working-class immigrant youth, whose lives are marginalized by multiple forms of inequality, translating means using a simultaneously elevated and subordinated status as a bilingual speaker to challenge the imposed categories of class, race, and gender in an effort to ensure family survival. It is also about creatively blurring the boundary between “adulthood” and “childhood” in an attempt to present their working-class, non-English speaking parents—who are often stereotyped as inassimilable and undeserving free-riders of social welfare systems—as “normal” Americans deserving of full citizenship rights. Based on my findings, I move beyond the long standing assimilation paradigm, which overlooks children’s agency and the impact of everyday interactions in reproducing social inequality. Instead, I synthesize the theories of intersectionality, symbolic interactionism, and sociology of childhood, demonstrating how marginalized immigrant youth enact and contest normative understandings of “Americanness” in everyday life. In a socio-historical moment where immigrants of color are depicted as threats to the economic stability of “true” Americans, my book will offer a much needed critique of American culture, exposing the contradictions between the ideal of equality and the actual practices of race, class, and language-based exclusion.
Ann: What advice do you have for others who are interested in studying children in immigrant families?
Hyeyoung: I have three pieces of advice. First, I suggest extending the analysis beyond the dominant theory of assimilation. Scholars studying immigrant children largely focus on how they assimilate into the U.S. mainstream and become “American.” But while this is an important sociological question, assimilation theory overlooks the way in which children, as active social agents, resist social inequality daily and how these children’s actions reproduce and challenge existing social hierarchies. In other words, scholars should ask different research questions and develop new theories to highlight the precarious status of many immigrant youths in a so-called nation of immigrants. For working-class immigrant youth, whose lives are marginalized by multiple forms of inequality, translating means using a simultaneously elevated and subordinated status as a bilingual speaker to challenge the imposed categories of class, race, and gender in an effort to ensure family survival.
Second, although sociologists of childhood such as William Corsaro, Berry Thorne, and Allison Pugh, among others, have argued that children are not passive recipients of adult values, immigrant scholarship tends to take an adult-centric view and undermine the critical role children and young people play in changing the harsh realities in their own households and the broader society. Although parents influence their children’s lives significantly, children and youths also shoulder important responsibilities and often change the intergenerational dynamics of their families. This is especially true of children of immigrants, who often learn English faster than their parents and navigate multiple inequalities in the name of “family.” Accordingly, I encourage scholars of immigrant children to focus on those children’s work, with particular attention to how their struggles are interconnected with multiple social inequalities.
Finally, I suggest that scholars take competing dominant ideologies seriously and move away from essentializing ethnic culture. As cultural sociologists remind us, there are many forms of cultures in the U.S. For example, there are multiple youth cultures, which vary greatly by social class, gender, and race. Likewise, immigrant youths do not draw on a singular and static “ethnic culture”; rather, they use multiple and competing cultural scripts to make sense of their lives. In short, there are many theoretical lenses scholars studying children of immigrants can use to develop innovative questions; sociology of childhood, intersectionality, social and cultural citizenship, emotion work, and symbolic interactionalism are important theories that I’ve found useful in analyzing the struggles that children of immigrants endure in their daily lives and highlighting these children’s agency. Children of immigrants, like any children, are resilient; they respond to exclusion every day, resist social inequalities in creative ways, and contest the dominant meaning of “American.” We need new theories, creative methods, and empirical findings to document this process.
Ann: What has your experience as a postdoctoral fellow been like? What advice do you have for Children and Youth (CY) section graduate students who are interested in postdoctoral fellowships?
Hyeyoung: A postdoctoral fellowship is a great way to start a career in academia, especially if you need time to revise your dissertation project into a monograph. The postdoc at Indiana University’s Center for Research in Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) and sociology department gave me the opportunity to connect with colleagues both inside and outside the university who were conducting innovative research on inequality and social justice; it also provided me with the time to develop my book manuscript further.
I’d give this advice to graduate students interested in postdoctoral fellowships. First, identify your fellowship opportunities early in your graduate career. Next, foster relationships with potential postdoctoral mentors who can provide information about their programs. Some postdoctoral fellowships explicitly ask applicants to identify sponsors, so it’s important to connect with people who are affiliated with the programs. Third, give yourself ample time to develop your proposals; postdoctoral fellowship applications often look different from tenure-track position applications. And as with any good writing intended to convince the readers—in this case the fellowship committee—it takes time. Starting on the application materials early also lets you solicit feedback from colleagues and mentors. As we all know, nobody writes alone, and it’s critical for all of us to a foster supportive intellectual community and develop relationships with colleagues who can provide honest and critical feedback on our postdoctoral applications (and any other writings). It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is invaluable.
Ann: What projects are you looking forward to working on in the future?
Hyeyoung: In addition to my book, I am looking forward to developing articles that will examine how race, class, and gender intersect when shaping the emotion work performed by Mexican- and Korean-American language brokers. The goal is to highlight how the cultural image of the “good” immigrant reverberates in the family lives of working-class young people. I am also looking forward to co-authoring an article with Michela Musto and proposing a new methodological strategy to enable scholars to reveal the impact of unmarked categories such as whiteness and masculinity when conducting interviews with children. Finally, my next big project will examine the connection between micro interactions to larger economic forces of globalization through a multi-sited ethnographic study of transnational families.
The Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development (JC) was established in 2003 as a joint venture between the University of Zurich and the Jacobs Foundation. It is currently undergoing a major expansion. From 2003 to 2015, Prof. Marlis Buchmann served as the Director and also established COCON (COmpetence and CONtext), a nationally representative study of Swiss youth. The Jacobs Foundation and the University of Zurich began a considerable expansion of the JC in 2015 with 70 million Swiss Francs committed over the next 20 years.
This expansion is dedicated to transforming the JC to an interdisciplinary platform for youth research. To this end, the Center has recently made three new hires: (1) economist Prof. Hannes Schwandt, who studies health economics, including the role of in utero conditions in life attainments; (2) psychologist Prof. Lilly Shanahan, Chair of Clinical Developmental Psychology, who studies stress, developmental psychopathology, health, sex differences, and substance abuse; and (3) myself, Chair of the Sociology of Child and Youth Development and new director of the JC, who studies social context and gene expression. Additional searches in Economics and Psychology are underway. As the final professorships are filled, the Center’s budget provides for a research project that will be jointly designed and implemented by all professors.
One core idea driving the Center’s activities is the collection of long-term longitudinal data that joins social, economic, psychological, and biological levels of analysis. Two existing projects are especially noteworthy. First, COCON studies youth development from a life course perspective, focusing on important developmental tasks such as school entry and the transition to secondary schooling. The study’s major aim is to provide empirical evidence of what promotes and what impairs coping with early life course transitions. COCON includes three nationally representative cohorts, surveyed since 2006, including a child cohort (6-years old at intake, last assessed at age 16; N=1273), a youth cohort (15-years old at intake, last assessed at age 21; N=1258), and a young adult cohort (21-years old at intake; N=584). To grasp young people’s family and school contexts, their primary caregiver and teacher were also surveyed. As part of the expansion of the Center, a new wave of data collection has been funded, extending the child cohort to age 18.
Second, the Jacobs Center is also now home to the Zurich Project on Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso), a prospective longitudinal study of the long-term development of violent, delinquent and other problem behaviors in the city of Zurich. The study is directed by Prof. Manuel Eisner of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge and co-directed by Dr. Denis Ribeaud at the JC. The target sample consists of 1675 children who entered a public school in 2004 and is highly multiethnic, with more than 50% of the primary caregivers born outside Switzerland in over 70 different countries. The first three years of the study also included a randomized experiment with two early prevention programs: the Triple P parenting program and the classroom-based PATHS social skills program. To date, seven main data collections have been completed with the children and their teacher, spanning ages 7 to 17. In addition, from ages 7 to 11 the study also comprised four standardized parent interviews conducted in ten different languages. The next interview wave is scheduled in 2018 at age 20, with plans to collect additional data, including an experience-sampling module, hair samples, and gene expression.
Overall, the expanded Center is becoming a hub for international and interdisciplinary activities that advance the study of child and youth development. We presently sponsor a seminar series on genetics and social sciences. This summer, we are co-sponsoring the Summer School on Longitudinal and Life Course Research, and we have convened a workshop on gene expression data in Add Health. We also anticipate new training initiatives, a visiting scholars program, and an ongoing research seminar featuring international scholars whose work enriches the Center’s research. Above all, the Center strives to embody the new science of youth, breaking barriers among disciplines to facilitate long-term research—made possible by our unique 20-year funding plan—that draws from the scientific toolkits of many areas of study. Importantly, the goal of the JC is ultimately practical: to improve the productive lives of young people through a mix of basic science and intervention.
Authored by Mike Shanahan, University of Zurich
The Committee on Research and Ethics for the Children and Youth Section was established Summer 2015 by then-section chair Allison Pugh. This committee originated in a working group that included Allison Pugh, Melissa Swauger (inaugural committee chair), Ingrid E. Castro (founding committee member), and Brent Harger (founding committee member). The four members of the working group came together Spring 2015 to construct briefing papers on the status of researching children. In these short documents, we explored navigating ethical issues such as consent/assent, confidentiality and anonymity, power structures, and dissemination of data. These papers also made recommendations on guidelines for conducting ethical research with children and youth. Ultimately, these papers became the foundation for and were distributed at the 2015 ASA Workshop Navigating IRB Approval for Studies of Vulnerable Populations: The Case of Children and Youth.
The workshop was well attended, and break-out groups addressing a variety of issues surrounding ethical research with children and youth were fruitful. After the session, Ingrid E. Castro proposed that the book series Sociological Studies of Children and Youth would be the best way to bring together the various ideas that emerged from the briefing papers and workshop. Fall 2015, the founding members of the new Committee on Research and Ethics put together a book proposal for Emerald Press. The proposal was accepted and the volume Researching Children and Youth: Methodological Issues, Strategies, and Innovations will be published in February 2017.
In next steps, the Committee on Research and Ethics for ASA’s Children and Youth Section aims to put together a virtual library, where links for books and articles will be provided for access by the section’s members. A work very early in progress, we hope to supply our section’s members with a comprehensive reference list for use in future sociological research projects on children and youth. Please email any suggestions for publications to add to the virtual library at: email@example.com
The forthcoming volume:
Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Volume 22: Researching Children and Youth: Methodological Issues, Strategies, and Innovations. Edited by: Ingrid E. Castro, Melissa Swauger, and Brent Harger. Series Editor: Loretta E. Bass.
Table of Contents:
1. Melissa Swauger, Ingrid E. Castro, and Brent Harger
Introduction. The Continued Importance of Research with Children and Youth: The “New” Sociology of Childhood 40 Years Later
Section I: Methodological Issues: Ethics, Locations, and Roles
2. Brent Harger and Melissa Quintela
The IRB as Gatekeeper: Effects on Research with Children and Youth
3. Vanessa R. Panfil, Jody Miller, and Maren Greathouse
Utilizing Youth Advocates and Community Agencies in Research with LGBTQ Young People: Ethical and Practical Considerations
4. Anne Scheer
Maneuvering the Stormy Waters of School-based Ethnography: Reflections from the Field
5. Heidi M. Gansen
Researcher Positionality in Participant Observation with Preschool Age Children: Challenges and Strategies for Establishing Rapport with Teachers and Children Simultaneously
6. Melanie Jones Gast
Researcher as College Coach: Dilemmas and Possibilities in Fieldwork with Adolescents
Section II: Methodological Strategies: Theory, Agency, and Voice
7. Jessica Clark and Sarah Richards
The Cherished Conceits of Research with Children: Does Seeking the Agentic Voice of the Child through Participatory Methods Deliver What It Promises?
8. Ingrid E. Castro
Contextualizing Agency in High-Structure Environments: Children’s Participation in Parent Interviews
9. Sally McNamee and Sam Frankel
Subverting the Research Encounter: Context, Structure, and Agency in the Creative Analysis of Research Data
10. Kristin Turney, Britni L. Adams, Emma Conner, Rebecca Goodsell, and Janet Muñiz
Challenges and Opportunities for Conducting Research on Children with Incarcerated Fathers
11. Ana Campos-Holland
Sharpening Theory and Methodology to Explore Racialized Youth Peer Cultures
Section III: Methodological Innovations: Visuals, Media, and Technology
12. Henry Zonio
“Is That a Mom and Dad Church?” Children’s Constructions of Meaning through Focus Group Interviews
13. Tricia McTague, Carissa Froyum, and Barbara J. Risman
Learning About Inequality from Kids: Interviewing Strategies for Getting Beneath Equality Rhetoric
14. Margaret Ann Hagerman
“The Celebrity Thing”: Using Photographs of Celebrities in Child-Centered, Ethnographic Interviews with White Kids about Race
15. Alecea Standlee
Digital Ethnography and Youth Culture: Methodological Techniques and Ethical Dilemmas
16. Ana Nunes de Almeida, Diana Carvalho, and Ana Delicado
Accessing Children’s Digital Practices at Home through Visual Methods: Innovations and Challenges
17. Gary Alan Fine
Afterword. My Kids: Fair Warnings and Brazen Methods
Authored by Ingrid E. Castro, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Section on Children and Youth