Naila Smith’s Bio

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Dickinson College. My research is in the area of developmental psychology. I study how social and contextual factors (e.g., parent and peer relationships, classroom climate) influence academic and socio-emotional development from childhood through emerging adulthood. I focus primarily on these developmental processes in immigrant and racial-ethnic minority populations. I am a native of Jamaica, and I love karaoke, sushi, and superheroes with capes.

Jenny Bio

I am Jenny Smith. I’m a 21 year-old, senior with a Psychology major and Sociology minor. I am from Millburn, New Jersey and I have lived there all of my life. I am very passionate about helping others and am currently applying to graduate school programs for a masters in social work. I am a member of the women’s basketball team here on campus; this has been our most successful season in my four years and I am really excited to see how the end of the season goes. My interest in psychology started with my mother, who has a severe form of Bipolar Disorder, but it has developed into a field that I am extremely passionate about. I am excited to see where the discussion in this class take us, especially surrounding the current political climate.

An Immigrant Nation: The United States

It has been 10 years when on March 6, 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted a raid in a factory that was suspected of hiring people without documentation1. That day over 361 immigrant were arrested for working without valid permits. Such instance, however, did not shatter the morale of New Bedford, Massachusetts, a small town. It did, however, change the political atmosphere of the town. Adrian Ventura, the director of a working center for Central American workers says “something new [was] created… many of the workers now know their rights and fight for their benefits”1. Such proactive response to immigrant raids is not novel to the United States.

Across the nation on February 16, supporters of immigrant communities and families participated in a “Day Without Immigrants”, an event that aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced directly and indirectly by immigrants in the country2. Some of these challenges include family deportations and separations, which generally occur in settings of stigma, discrimination, economic disadvantages, and social exclusion3. More specifically, such risk factors potentially affect the lives of unauthorized migrants and mixed-status families. Such social and political tension is increasingly pertinent because it affects the lives of 1st and 2nd generation youth, who may have authorized status4. In addition and more broadly, the immigrant population in the U.S. has diverse origins from around the world, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Western Europe 4. As a result of the expansive diversity, local communities from major cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Texas, and California supported the ‘Day Without Immigrants’ by closing down local restaurants2.

Such measures were taken to demonstrate the role of immigrants in the nation’s economy and social influence2. Erika Montes, a demonstrator who stood in front of the White House, raised her passions for supporting our immigrant histories from underrepresentation and stated, “I’m here to be the voice of those who can’t speak … to show my students and their families, and my friends and family that teachers are supporting them and we are going to make sure they have a safe place2.”

Although the Trump’s administration is prioritizing the deportation of unauthorized immigrants, the immigrant community remains strong and growing in the United States2. For example, the African immigrant population in the United States has doubled every decade since 1970, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data5. More specifically, African migrants have had the fastest growth rates in the U.S. compared to other major groups who arrived in the country in the past five years5. Many of these African immigrant communities settle in states like New York, California, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts5.

Furthermore, immigrants living in the U.S. from seven countries that the Trump administration prioritized including Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Iran have advanced degrees and are citizens6. There are large communities of Iranians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and Syrians that live within major cities like Los Angeles and Detroit 6. In addition, the 2015 census reports that 10,116 foreign-born Syrians live in the New York-New Jersey area7.

In sum, the United States is composed of immigrants and they are a strong social and political influence. Many immigrant communities show a strong emphasis on education and want to see their children thrive7. Many first and second generation immigrants carry high educational aspirations with the aims of creating an avenue to increased social mobility7. In addition. despite the negative perceptions of immigrants and policies that are harm immigrant communities, these communities demonstrate strong levels of resiliency and willingness to improve personal and familial living conditions [3,8, 9,10]. The adversity that immigrants face may create different challenges to the immigrant experience, but it also builds solidarity in numbers and similar experience. It is clear that immigrants are here to stay, so instead of fostering negative attitudes, we should be asking ourselves the question: What can we all contribute to the American table?



  1. Rios. S. (2017). 10 Years After the New Bedford ICE Raid, Immigrant Community Has Hope. NPR. Retrieved from:
  2. Stanglin, D. (2017). Business across U.S. close, students skip school on ‘Day Without Immigrants’. USA Today. Retreived from:
  3. Brabeck M. K., Lykes, B. M., & Hunter, C. (2014). The Psychological Impact of Detention and Deportation on U.S. Migrant Children and Families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 496-505. doi: http://dx/
  4. Crossroads. (2013). Crossroads: The Psychology of Immigration in the New Century. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1(3), 133-148. doi: 10.1037/lat0000001.
  5. Anderson, M. (2017). Fact Tank: African immigrant population in U.S. steadily climbs. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:
  6. Fessenden, F., Lee C. J., Pecanha, S., & Singhvi, A. (2017). Immigrants From Banned Nations: Educated, Mostly Citizens and Found in Every State. The New York Times. Retrieved from:
  7. The New York Times. (2017). Where Immigrants From Banned Nations Live in the U.S. The New York Times. Retrieved


  1. Motti-Stefanidi, F. & Masten, S. A. (2013). School Success and School Engagement of Immigrant Children and Adolescents: A Risk and Resilience Developmental Perspective. European Psychologist, 18(2), 126-135. doi: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000139.
  2. Marks, K. A., Ejesi, K., & Garcia-Coll, C. (2014). Understanding the U.S. Immigrant Paradox in Childhood and Adolescence. Childhood Development Perspectives, 8(2), 59-64. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12071.
  3. 10. Zarate, A. M., & Quezada, A. S. (2012). Future Directions in Research Regarding Attitudes Towards Immigrants. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 12(1), 160-166. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2011.0170.x

Living in Trump’s America as an Immigrant Today

Living in Trump’s America as an Immigrant Today

Alyssa Giordano ‘17

The United States receives an influx of immigrants every day. Some immigrants migrate legally, while some come in undocumented. President Donald Trump wants to crack down on the laws surrounding undocumented immigrants, resulting in many immigrants becoming detained, deported, separated from their family, or not seeking help when they need it. It should be noted however that deportation laws have been around since President Obama. President Trump is only making the laws broader and harsher. According to Vanessa Castillo, a behavioral health clinician, many immigrants will not report crimes, go to emergency rooms, or even drive, in fear they will be detained1.

When an immigrant is detained, there is a high chance they are being taken from family members, who will not know where they are. In a specific case, Julia, a Guatemalan indigenous Mayan woman, was detained during a raid at her place of work2. Her 2-year-old son was at home with the babysitter, waiting for her arrival home. Julia’s son has extreme asthma and the babysitter was never taught how to operate the oxygen machine if it’s needed. Julia was not allowed to make any calls from the detention center, restricting her from telling her son she would not be returning home anytime soon. When Julia was finally able to return home after 9 days, she finds that the separation precipitated her son’s night terrors and anxiety2. It’s easier to understand why President Trump wants stricter immigration laws, but it is inhumane to have long separations within families, especially between parents and children. Most often, immigrants live in ethnic enclaves, where there is an entire community helping each other3. This can help ease the separation if a parent is detained and the child is left alone.

President Trump points out in an immigration speech that many immigrants are low-skilled workers with less education4. Many immigrants do not want to attend school, for the fear of discrimination, or their education is not accepted in the United States. Along with this, many immigrant parents put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed in school, causing them to get lost. Looking at another case study, a Hindu family from India recently migrated into the United States5. The parents put most of the pressure on their daughter, to teach them English and help them navigate through American life. This causes the daughter to lash out at school, not able to understand and react to her own feelings. The hierarchy of the family is also disrupted because the child is teaching the parents, rather than vice versa. The family attended family therapy sessions, which started to help. This study helps to support the idea that immigrants may not also adhere to American culture, and counselors and clinicians have to be ready to deal with that.

To sum everything up, it is crucial for the United States to find a better way for immigrants to have more access to mental health services. President Trump must also understand the implications of detaining and deporting immigrants, creating separations that will result in extreme trauma.



  • Peterson, G. (2017, April 26). Peterson: Deportation fears are sending many ‘back into the shadows’. Retrieved from
  • Brabeck, K. M., Lykes, M. B., & Hunter, C. (2014). The psychosocial impact of detention and deportation on U.S. Migrant children and families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 496–505.
  • Leventhal, T., & Shuey, E. A. (2014). Neighborhood context and immigrant young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 50(6), 1771–1787.
  • Bump, P. (2016, August 31). Here’s what Donald Trump said in his big immigration speech, annotated. Retrieved from
  • Beckerman, N. L., & Corbett, L. (2008). Immigration and families: Treating acculturative stress from a systemic framework. Family Therapy, 35(2), 63– 81.


The United States’ Hostile Context of Reception and Current Policy Present Negative Developmental Outcomes for Immigrant Youth

As the number of immigrants—documented and undocumented—is substantial and growing, the United States has begun to revise its immigration policies1. Unfortunately, the United States’ priority is excluding immigrants, rather than welcoming them, for “national security” purposes1,3.  A common fear and reality for many immigrant families is detainment and subsequent deportation.  As current immigration policy paints the image of immigrants as unauthorized aliens, criminals, and terrorists, many children grow up in fear, questioning the stability of their home lives and sometimes even the character of their own parents1.  Ironically, the United States was a nation built by immigrants, so policies banning and barring future immigrants is extremely hypocritical and anti-nationalistic. For example, although the 2012 Immigration Reform Bill created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States, it also stopped the migration of potential Mexican migrants by increasing the militarization of the border3.  Policies such as these not only go against American values, but also promote isolationism. For a country that prides itself on being a global and diverse melting pot, current immigration policy is contradictory.

These immigration policies paint immigrants as a common enemy of the United States. Immigrants serve as a scapegoat for unrelated internal dysfunction and are paying the price for crimes they have not committed1.  Current immigration policy depicts all immigrants as aliens, criminals, and threats to national security which are misrepresentations. Although President Trump claims that “DREAMers” are not the target of immigration reform, this appears to be false. In fact, Attorney General Sessions has said that all immigrants who enter the country illegally are subject to deportation, so DREAMers cannot “rest easy” as Trump previously reassured. It appears that DREAMers are in danger, as DREAMer Daniela Vargas spoke out against current immigration policies and was swiftly detained by the ICE.

Although these polices may not directly affect immigrant children who are documented, they have uniformly negative outcomes for their development. Though immigrant children themselves may not experience deportation, their parents or other close family members likely will. A parent’s deportation, compounded by existing risk factors and stressors, elevates the likelihood that children of these undocumented immigrants will experience negative developmental outcomes and trajectories1,3.  In addition, deportation of a parent creates an unwanted lengthy, if not permanent, separation between parent and child. In this case, parents must make a “Solomonic decision” to either leave their children in the United States or bring their children along with them to their country of origin, which allows children and parents to maintain their relationship, but severely limits the opportunities children would have had if they remained in the United States1.

Even if families arrive and remain in the United States through legal means, they are still subject to elevated levels of acculturative stress, acculturative dissonance, trauma, and mental illness2.  To address these issues, immigrant families should seek outside help to ease the process of adjustment.  Systematic family therapy shows great promise for immigrant families as it not only helps families regain their homeostasis (stability) but also gives marginalized (underrepresented) family members a voice to communicate their concerns2.  In this way, this sort of therapy not only repairs family relationships but also individual struggles.  However, these psychological interventions must be culturally-competent and realistic in that they must be accessible and affordable for immigrant families.



  1. Allen, B., Cisneros, E. M., & Tellez, A. (2015). The children left behind: The impact of parental deportation on mental health. Journal of Child and Family Studies24, 386–392.
  2. Beckerman, N. L., & Corbett, L. (2008). Immigration and families: Treating acculturative stress from a systemic framework. Family Therapy35, 63– 81.
  3. Brabeck, K. M., Lykes, M. B., & Hunter, C. (2014). The psychosocial impact of detention and deportation on U.S. Migrant children and families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry84, 496–505.


Families, Schools, and Neighborhoods influencing immigrants

In this unit of class, we discuss how families, schools, and neighborhoods influence each other and immigrants. According to Suarez-Orozco Bang & Kim (2011)[1], families are affected directly by family separation or deportation. When parents are separated from their children it takes a while for the children to readjust to living on their own. However, when the families are again reunited there is not that much excitement because there is a loss of connection. The once close and loving family then becomes distant and the children of the family significantly become anxious and depressed. The parents of these families provide support and motivation, thus without them they children may feel lost. Especially if the families are separated at the critical point of the children’s lives, adolescence.

We also discussed schools and how they help the growth of immigrant children. A great video discussed ways that could not only help the students but also the families. One method was hosting cooking classes for the parents that way the students don’t starve at home and wait until school to have their meals. Many of the students of the schools in low socioeconomic social class, are homeless, thus this solution of teaching kids’ parents how to cook if very helpful (Sanchez)[2]. This program for the parents is an example of school engagement. It is important that the students also are engaged in the school, through after school programs or sports. Motti-Stefanidi & Masten (2013)[3] discuss how engagement in school directly influence the academic success of the students. Because the students are more engaged in the schools through after school programs or sports, they will feel a sense of comfort and community, thus having a safe space for them to learn during the day.

Just recently, an article was published about an immigrant from Vietnam who now lives in Philadelphia, PA. It has been difficult for this student to do well in school because she experiences constant bullying from having an accent. For this student to receive help with learning English she must work through a number of obstacles, “The student might begin the process by seeing a social worker. If the school has no social worker, the student may go to a school counselor and be referred to a school psychologist. But school psychologists are overburdened; most serve several schools and are also responsible for testing for special education, speech therapy, EL (English learning) programs, and therapeutic programs” (Xu 2017)[4]. The stress this student experiences is overwhelming and even affects her relationship with her mother because her mother does not know any more than what she knows. Finally, the immigrant found an English Learning program after she transferred schools. This program worked well and improved her English, and emotional standing because she felt safe while being in a classroom filled with other English learners.

Neighborhoods in the United States are also a significant part of where immigrants feel safe. There are ethnic enclaves, which is section of where one specific culture lives, and they provide a sense of community for the immigrants. Especially for first generation immigrants, they might feel the most comfortable in a neighborhood that has very similar culture as their home country. One issue with ethnic enclaves would be that it makes it difficult for children’s identity to bloom in the United States. Will the children have a diverse array of friends, or will they only interact with people from their ethnic enclave? Vo-Jutabha, Dinh, McHale & Valsiner (2009)[5] describe the challenges of this issue, whether living or interacting with only the ethnic enclave is positive or negative for identity development in the United States. Many participants of their study express interest in having friends outside the ethnic enclave, and that the ethnic enclave is a way to indirectly force the children to live a distinct lifestyle such as only speaking a certain language.



  1. Suárez-Orozco, C., Jin Bang, H., Yeon Kim, H. (2010). I felt like my heart was staying behind: Psychological implications of separations & reunifications for immigrant youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 26(2), 222-257.
  2. Taboada, M. B. (2013, October). Growing number of Hispanic students reshapes Texas education.
  3. Motti-Stefanidi, F., & Masten, A. S.(2013). School success and school engagement of immigrant children and adolescents: A risk and resilience developmental perspective. European Psychologist18(2), 126-135.
  4. Xu, A. (2017, April 17). To get services, English learners face extra obstacles. Retrieved from
  5. Vo-Jutabha,Dinh, McHale & Valsiner (2009). A qualitative analysis of Vietnamese adolescent identity exploration within and outside an ethnic enclave. J Youth Adolescent, 38(5), 672-690.



Capitalism vs. Humanity

On February 7th, 2017, Betsy DeVos was voted as the 11th United States Secretary of Education under Trump’s administration, against strong opposition against the nomination. Fast forward 2 months and she has begun the process of ridding states of their public school’s systems and replacing with the “school of choice” system that allows students to leave the public-school system but use their share of state funding to pay for private school, homeschooling or online education. The term of this system might initially sound positive, because who wouldn’t want the ability to “choose.” However, in the end, this system of school choice negatively affects the poor. Those who can’t afford to choose a school other than what’s closest will be left without the adequate amount of resources or diversity of people in their classrooms. And with immigrant students growing numbers in the public education system and the US lower socioeconomic class, they will be one of the first to reap the consequences of this educational system change.

The school of choice system already existed in states like Nevada and Detroit. However, just this month Governor Doug Ducey passed the legislation in Arizona, a state highly populated by immigrants. Education is a shared good that thrives on the inclusion of diverse knowledge and ideas. Individualism might be part of American culture but quality education comes from strong relationships and communities. Research shows that immigrants benefit greatly from strong mentorships and relationships in their communities that help them gain confidence and resilience against their oppression1. Immigrating to a new society can be scary, and children spend most of their time in school, making teachers an integral contributor to their development2.

Immigrant students need a step forward towards a balance of integration and inclusion where they are given the integrated space to accommodate their language acquisition needs and exposed to the diverse knowledge an inclusive classroom offers. Though some research shows that immigrant children have less internalizing problems around peers of similar background, segregation of the education system will only further decrease their academic success1. Academic achievement in immigrant student is highly dependent on resources and accommodating structures at the individual, communal and societal levels2. Immigrant youth already find themselves in racially and ethnically segregated schools, decreasing the educational resources offered to them and negatively impacting their academic achievement3.

However, with the application of school of choice, the current administration is taking a step back towards further segregation, where those who can afford to will attend school they see as more “attractive,” demographically and academically, decreasing the resources and connections immigrant students truly need. The marketization of the educational system makes it a competition. A successful market is made up of winners and losers. It is clear, that in this case immigrant children are being set up to lose.


  1. Leventhal, T., & Shuey, E. A. (2014). Neighborhood context and immigrant young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 50(6), 1771-1787
  2. Motti-Stefanidi, F., & Masten, A. S. (2013). School success and school engagement of immigrant children and adolescents: A risk and resilience developmental perspective. European Psychologist, 18(2), 126-135.
  3. Suárez-Orozco, C., Gaytán, F. X., Bang, H.J., Pakes, J., O’Connor, E., & Rhodes, J. (2010). Academic trajectories of newcomer immigrant youth. Developmental Psychology, 46(3), 602-618.


The Impact of Family, Schools, and Neighborhoods on Immigrant Children’s Development

Immigrant families that migrate to the United States face several unique challenges, all of which impact immigrant children, and must be understood in relation to the neighborhoods they live in, and the schools they attend. Such challenges include prolonged separation from loved ones, followed by potentially tumultuous reunifications,1 and cultural dissonance in parenting practices and.2 Due to financial or legal obstacles, some immigrant parents must make the harrowing decision to pursue opportunities in the new country, while leaving their children behind. This separation can put children at risk for anxiety and depressive symptoms depending on the child’s age at separation, length of separation, and amount of contact with the parent during the separation.3 Other research suggests that parenting practices are socialized.2 Mothers who immigrate during middle-late adolescence may experience partial socialization from both countries, which influences parenting practices, thus affecting child development.2

Previous understandings of immigrant neighborhoods saw them to be a source of protection and support. While true to an extent, many immigrants tend to live in neighborhoods marked by less affluence, fewer youth services, more foreign-born residents, and heightened residential instability.4 Research suggests that the presence of more foreign-born residents reduces the opportunities for immigrant youth to practice their English.4 Also, despite increased cultural opportunities, immigrant youth living in ethnic enclaves —neighborhoods characterized by their concentration of immigrants from the same ethnic group—may encounter surmounted pressures and cultural expectations imposed by their communities.5 Still, neighborhood compositions are not random. Lingering effects of historic trends towards residential segregation continue to exist in the neighborhoods that newcomers are funneled into.

Schools have the potential to support immigrant students by protecting against neighborhood and family context risks.1 Despite past research on the immigrant paradox, first-generation immigrant youth may experience particular difficulties due to less developed language skills, thus leading to frustration, disillusionment, and poorer academic achievement. However, school factors such as poverty rate, segregation rate, and students’ perceptions of their schools impact the level of support schools can offer.6 Also, certain evaluative techniques may be inappropriate measures of immigrant youths’ school experiences.

Furthermore, unauthorized status compounds migration-related stress for immigrant families and their children through fear of deportation, inaccessibility to resources such as healthcare, and lack of prospects for social mobility despite academic achievement.1

As more immigrant youth come to the United States, developing appropriate educational programs that are attentive to their unique experiences becomes more urgent. Internationals Network For Public Schools seeks to create such environments of academic support for newly arrived immigrants. Currently, the network includes 27 schools in seven states.7 Their student bodies consist solely of immigrant students, and teachers who are trained to help English Language Learners. While some believe that integration into mainstream classrooms is most beneficial, research has identified potential risks to academic achievement and psychological wellbeing associated with premature integration.1 School administrations must also recognize the kinds of resources immigrant parents have to offer, such as support and involvement with their child’s learning. While currently under political scrutiny, sanctuary cities, which intend to provide a safe haven for unauthorized citizens, would ideally promote a sense of security.8 This might lead to unauthorized parents being more willing to participate in their children’s schools, and take advantage of school resources.


  1. Suárez-Orozco, C., Gaytán, F. X., Bang, H. J., Pakes, J., O’Connor, E., & Rhodes, J. (2010). Academic trajectories of newcomer immigrant youth. Developmental Psychology, 46(3), 602–618. doi: 10.1037/a0018201.supp
  2. Glick, J. E., Hanish, L. D., Yabiku, S. T., & Bradley, R. H. (2012). Migration timing and parenting practices: Contributions to social development in preschoolers with foreign- born and native-born mothers. Child Development, 83(5), 1527–1542. doi: 10.1111/j.1467- 8624.2012.01789.x
  3. Suárez-Orozco, C., Yoshikawa, H., Teranishi, R. T., & Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2011). Growing up in the shadows: The developmental implications of unauthorized status. Harvard Educational Review, 81(3), 438–472.
  4. Leventhal, T., & Shuey, E. A. (2014). Neighborhood context and immigrant young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 50(6), 1771–1787. doi: 10.1037/a0036424
  5. Vo-Jutabha, E. D., Dinh, K. T., McHale, J. P., & Valsiner, J. (2009). A qualitative analysis of Vietnamese adolescent identity exploration within and outside an ethnic enclave. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(5), 672–690. doi: 10.1007/s10964-008-9365-9
  6. Motti-Stefanidi, F., & Masten, A. S. (2013). School success and school engagement of immigrant children and adolescents: A risk and resilience developmental perspective. European Psychologist, 18(2), 126–135.
  7. Boyd Alvarez, S. (2017) Helping immigrant students catch up, fast — It takes a whole school  Retrieved from
  8. Cameron, D. (2017). How sanctuary cities work, and how Trump’s executive order might affect them. The Washington Post. Retrieved from


Families, Neighborhoods, & Schools: Assessing Immigrant Youths’ Development

Immigrant youth not only face normative challenges of development, but also they face pressures within their families, neighborhoods, and schools that can produce difficulties to performing well. It is critical that immigrant youth receive the necessary emotional and social supports in order to thrive.

It is important to realize the interconnectedness between an immigrant parent’s development (e.g. age at time of migration to the United States, socioeconomic status, and level of education) and their child’s subsequent trajectories2,5. Differences have been found to exist between U.S.-born mothers and immigrant mothers according to their age of arrival to the U.S., education level, socioeconomic status, parenting practices, and academic outcomes2,5. Namely, mothers who came to the U.S. between 13-21 years old were reported to have the lowest levels of education and lower SES2. Their limited level of education5 can impact their socioeconomic status in addition to their ability to serve as advocates for their children (e.g. knowledge of English and meeting with teachers. In particular, such economic constraints place immigrant families within lower-SES areas. Such neighborhoods typically contain highly-segregated, underprepared schools5 and limited access to social services3. In many cases, immigrant youth are less likely to have access to pre-school programs such as HeadStart3. Although these enclaves contain high concentrations of fellow immigrants which can further enforce ethnic pride, ethnic peer friendships, and heritage customs, they also may contain gaps within language proficiency and knowledge of the U.S. educational system6. Thus, there is a critical need to bring increased social supports to these immigrant neighborhoods.

Moreover, the interaction between socioeconomic status, low-SES neighborhoods, and schools highlights the risk that immigrant youth have of experiencing academic and psychological problems. Many foreign-born youth who attend low-SES schools feel bored and isolated4. Their decreased involvement and declining academic achievement is highly influenced by stress from racial discrimination. For example, minority and immigrant students often arrive late to class1 because they must enter metal detectors and remove clothing. Such instances not only produce strong emotional responses, but also it causes the body to secrete stress hormones1. Thus, youth are likely to perceive school as a threatening, discouraging environment4. As a result, they are more likely to disengage from their work and activities4,5. In particular, undocumented students may perceive their effort as useless because of the impending barriers they will face in attending college5. In sum, socioeconomic status plays a major role within immigrant youths’ school environment and subsequent academic performance.

In considering the barriers that immigrant youth face within families, schools, and neighborhoods, it is imperative to implement interventions that promote increased access to social services, early education programs, and high-quality educators. In providing the necessary supports for immigrant youth, it sets a positive foundation for future success.


  1. Anderson, M. D. (2016, October 11). How the Stress of Racism Affects Learning. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from stress-of-racism-affects-learning/503567/
  2. Glick, J. E., Hanish, L. D., Yabiku, S. T., & Bradley, R. H. (2012). Migration timing and parenting practices: Contributions to social development in preschoolers with foreign‐born and native‐born mothers. Child Development, 83(5), 1527-1542. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01789.x
  3. Leventhal, T., & Shuey, E. A. (2014). Neighborhood context and immigrant young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 50(6), 1771-1787. doi:10.1037/a0036424
  4. Motti-Stefanidi, F., & Masten, A. (2013). School Success and School Engagement of Immigrant Children and Adolescents A Risk and Resilience Developmental Perspective. European Psychologist, 18(2), 126-135.
  5. Suárez-Orozco, C., Gaytán, F. X., Bang, H. J., Pakes, J., O’Connor, E., & Rhodes, J. (2010). Academic trajectories of newcomer immigrant youth. Developmental Psychology, 46(3), 602-618. doi:10.1037/a0018201
  6. Vo-Jutabha, E. D., Dinh, K. T., McHale, J. P., & Valsiner, J. (2009). A qualitative analysis of Vietnamese adolescent identity exploration within and outside an ethnic enclave. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 38(5), 672-690. doi:10.1007/s10964-008-9365-9

Immigrant Acculturation

Immigrant Acculturation

By Katie Schmidt, ‘19


The United States population is largely constructed and formulated by a strong presence of immigrants.  This is something that so many Americans have in common in that the majority of people are somehow an immigrant whether they are a first generation immigrant or a fifth, many ancestry lines did not begin in this country.  However, somehow many Americans are struggling to remember this as newer immigrants are feeling alienated and unwanted in the U.S1.  What people need to realize is that the newer immigrants have been incorrectly stereotypically defined by a lack of intelligence and an interest in stealing jobs1.


In reality, newer generations of immigrants have certain intellectual advantages over the rest of the population.  For example, it is evident that people who are multilingual can develop better social skills for “effective communication”2.  Communication is a critical aspect of our daily lives and being multilingual allows the brain to understand body language and tone more effectively, making it easier to socially interact.  This example is one that supports the immigrant paradox; the phenomenon in which young first generation immigrants are strikingly healthier and demonstrate better developmental outcomes than American youth3.  These outcomes decrease with the proceeding generations, which can be attributed to the claim that in the acculturation process, immigrants start to lose the beneficial cultural traditions that they had originally arrived with in the U.S.


Two models created by two distinctive psychologists demonstrate different ways to understand the acculturation process.  One represented a bi-dimensional graph while the other was a multidimensional spectrum1.  While the bi-dimensional approach only offered two directions, the multidimensional spectrum showed that it is possible for immigrants to be acculturated in some aspects more than others in terms of practices, values, and identifications1.  However, many psychologists wonder if these models apply in the same manner, or which would be more applicable, to unauthorized immigrants.  There are different developmental challenges for unauthorized immigrants that hinder their acculturation which is why the spectrum model may be more applicable.  Illegal immigrants are more likely to be timid, however in their attempt to go unnoticed they make more of an effort to become acculturated in society4.


This pressure to remain quiet about their status can cause stress on illegal immigrant youth that can cause further developmental and cognitive problems.  However, this stress does not just apply to the illegal immigrants, other first generation immigrant youth have had reported mental health problems from the stress of acculturation causing depression and anxiety on the children to blend in with society while also being academically successful5.  This problem is reflected in the immigrant paradox.  The paradox only exists for the first-generation immigrants and one possible explanation for this is that over time the immigrant youth become too stressed and lose motivation to work hard in school and continue health lifestyle habits6.  Especially in today’s times, the immigrant population has become increasingly worried, especially with the newest presidential administration.  President Trump has voiced his opinions that immigrants are unwelcome in the U.S. and his plans to diminish their population in this country.  This can only increase the already existing stress amongst the immigrants and his thoughts are enabling hate crimes against immigrants in the U.S. not only to continue but to grow, leaving many people scared for their safety and security in this country (  The negative stigma that immigrants in the U.S. have today are inaccurate and are causing them unnecessary problems, all of this can be fixed if they were welcomed and encouraged to achieve in this country.




  1. Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., & Szapocznik, J. (2010). Rethinking the concept of acculturation: Implications for theory and research. American Psychologist, 65(4), 237–251.
  2. Fan, S. P., Liberman, Z., Keysar, B., & Kinzler, K. D. (2015). The exposure advantage: Early exposure to a multilingual environment promotes effective communication. Psychological Science (0956-7976), 26(7), 1090– 1097.
  3. Marks, A. K., Ejesi, K., & García Coll, C. (2014). Understanding the U.S. immigrant paradox in childhood and adolescence. Child Development Perspectives, 8(2), 59–64.
  4. Suárez-Orozco, C., Yoshikawa, H., Teranishi, R. T., & Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2011). Growing up in the shadows: The developmental implications of unauthorized status. Harvard Educational Review, 81(3), 438–472.
  5. Sirin, S. R., Ryce, P., Gupta, T., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2013). The role of acculturative stress on mental health symptoms for immigrant adolescents: A longitudinal investigation. Developmental Psychology, 49(4), 736–748.
  6. Mendoza, F. S. (2009). Health disparities and children in immigrant families: A research agenda. Pediatrics, 124, S187–S195.
  7. Editorial Board. (2017, February 27). Who Belongs in Trump’s America? The New York Times. Retrieved from
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