Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States

Authors: Min Zhou and Carl L. Bankston III

Publisher: New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press, 1998

Language: English

ISBN: 0871549956 (paper)



Vietnamese Americans form a unique segment of the new U.S. immigrant population. Uprooted from their homeland and often thrust into poor urban neighborhoods, these newcomers have nevertheless managed to establish strong communities in a short space of time. Most remarkably, their children often perform at high academic levels despite these difficult circumstances.

Growing Up American describes the process of building communities that were distinctive outgrowths of the new environment in which the Vietnamese found themselves. Familial and cultural organizations reformed in new ways, blending economic necessity with cultural tradition. These reconstructed social structures create a particular form of social capital that helps disadvantaged families overcome the problems associated with poverty and ghettoization. Outside these enclaves, Vietnamese children face a daunting school experience where language difficulties, racial inequality, deteriorating educational services, and exposure to an often adversarial youth subculture pose serious threats.

How have the children of Vietnamese refugees managed to overcome these challenges? Growing Up American offers important evidence that community solidarity, cultural values, and a refugee sensibility have provided the Vietnamese second generation with the very resources needed to get ahead in American society. Zhou and Bankston also document the price sometimes exacted by the process of adaptation, as the struggle to define a personal identity and to decide what it means to be "American" sometimes leads children into conflict with their tight-knit communities.

Growing Up American is the first comprehensive study of the unique experiences of Vietnamese immigrant children. It sets the agenda for future research on second generation immigrants and their entry into American society.

Table of Contents:


  1. The Scattering of War

  2. Resettlement

  3. The Reconstruction of the Ethnic Community and the Refugee Family

  4. Networks of Social Relations: Support and Control

  5. Language and Adaptation

  6. Experiences in Adaptation to American Schools

  7. Straddling the Gap: Bicultural Conflicts and Gender Role Changes

  8. Delinquency: Insiders and Outsiders

  9. Conclusion: Contexts of Reception, Selective Americanization, and the Implications for the New Second Generation

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