Multilingual children living in multilingual families: investigating factors impacting children’s happiness

Graziela N.M. Dekeyser, Calvin G. Swicegood, Orhan Agirdag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to successive immigration waves, many European countries are experiencing a rise in ethnic minoritized families. In this study, we investigate how risks and resources associated with multilingualism at the individual and the family level shape minoritized children’s reported happiness and whether these effects are independent of children’s ethnic and national identification and perceived family cohesion. We use data collected from over 800 children (ages 10–12) living in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium. Results from multinomial logistic regression models on reported happiness provide robust evidence that speaking and understanding two languages well is beneficial for children compared to being fluent in only one. Moreover, the positive effects of multilingualism are not attributable to children’s ethnic and national identification, factors that are beneficial in themselves. Our results further suggest that differences in mother–child language use and brokering are associated with lower levels of happiness, independently of family cohesion and individual factors. The findings of this study yield important insights for current political debates surrounding policies associated with multilingualism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Happiness
  • minoritized children
  • minoritized families
  • multilingualism
  • resilience
  • risks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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