Monday, November 27, 2017

The Impact of Immigration on Childhood Development

This Blog Written By 
Karla Tomala

Many individuals pass through the New York Harbor and The Statue of Liberty comes into view. For many, it represents freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and so on. For immigrants, The Statue of Liberty can represent a safe haven for their family and children. As of 2016, about 60,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border to get into The United States. These undocumented children migrate to the U.S. because of their need or desire for income while others go to seek a better life for themselves. The obstacles they face in the journey of coming to the U.S can be dangerous as well as traumatizing.
         Immigration is defined as individuals moving into a new foreign country where they do not possess citizenship. The effect of crossing the border as well as adapting to a new environment can take a toll on the child’s development. But many children come to the United States for the sole purpose of living in a different environment. Many of them flee their country because of the toxic environment they were living in. However, adjusting to a new environment can be difficult for a child. 

Children have to learn how to speak English as well as adjusting to the social norms of today’s society. The difficulties they may face such as getting made fun of because of where they come from or how they speak can impact the child. The child may start to have low self-esteem issues as well as self-doubt. Unfortunately, many children do not overcome this and it is because of that more light needs to be shined on the developmental issues immigrant children face.
         There are many situations in which children do not cross the border but instead, the parents leave their child behind to cross the border by themselves. Parents do this so their child can avoid being exposed to the dangers of traveling without legal documents. Unfortunately, leaving a child behind whether it is for good intentions or not, can still have an impact on the child. “Yet researchers have also recognized that parental migration, inherently involves parental absence from the home that can have a negative impact on child outcomes which may outweigh the positive effects of remittance.” (Zimmermann, 2015) Children are innocent minded but as they grow up without the influence of the parents their mindset can easily be turned into a negative one. Children who grow up without one of their parents have set to believe they abandoned them or believe the parent did not want the responsibility of taking care of them. Children’s lack of connection to their parents when they need them can negatively impact their mental health as well as their educational outcomes.

Social Exclusion is defined as the “inability to participate in economic, social and cultural life and in some characteristics, alienation, and distance from mainstream society.” When children migrate to the U.S. there is a possibility they face discrimination, which can eventually lead to suffering from psychological consequences. Settling into a country that is unknown to them, difficulties may arise such as learning how to balance your own culture with the American culture. “Immigrant children are more likely to experience negative mental health symptoms such as suicide attempts, substance abuse and depression which may be the cumulative result of having experienced more racism and discrimination.” (Androff, 2011) In the United States, there are policies that enforce “English Only” education, which can negatively impact children’s education performance as well as their self-esteem. Their inability to speak English can impact their social group, which can lead to social isolation. 

      As they turn into adolescents, there is a necessity of wanting to fit in with the social norms of today’s society. The want can eventually turn into a need, which could eventually control their actions. Their actions include falling into peer pressure and/ or going against their parent’s orders. Actions such as these can impact their development because they are letting others control them rather than taking control of it themselves. Carl Rogers was an American Psychologist and he believed humans have the ability to realize their maximum human potential to which he called self-actualization. Adolescents are on their way to self-actualization but if influenced by the wrong crowd they can easily lose sight of their full potential.
Many children migrate to the United States to break free from their laws back home. In order to understand the mental disorders of immigrant children, there needs to be an understanding of the past trauma as well as their current situation. By not letting children into the United States we are mentally damaging them. 

America is known to be the land of the free, the land of being able to give opportunities to anyone no matter the race, gender or ethnicity. Meanwhile, the treatment undocumented children receive says something entirely different about America. America wants to protect its country by denying access to entry to children who come to settle here because they have a dream.

Androff, K., David (2011). U.S. Immigration Policy and Immigrant Children’s
         Well-Being: The Impact of Policy Shifts. The Journal of Sociology &
         Social Welfare: Vol. 48: Iss. 1, Article 5
Constant, A., & Zimmermann, K.F. (2015). International handbook on the economics of
         migration. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar

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