How developmental psychology can help.

Examining immigration holistically – while piecing it apart.

Information about immigration is everywhere, whether you welcome it or not. From hot button and emotion-evoking topics like family separation and detention to the hyperbolic promises made by Donald Trump regarding a wall between the United States and Mexico. There are many opinions and many sides. It is easy to utilize the plight of immigrants as a political bargaining chip; the United States has done so for many decades. Attitudes towards immigrants vary and may be passed down through generation, transmitted from parent to child1. But, what happens when we return to the root of this wedge issue and realize that immigrants are humans- constantly developing humans. They are children, young adults, adults, and elderly who chose to emigrate from their heritage country and establish a life in the United States. It is dangerous not to know what all immigrants face. It is also dangerous to assume every experience is the same.

Every person that settles in a new country has a different story, a different future, and different characteristics that make up their immigrant experience.  Race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality are just a few things that negotiate people’s experiences and identities. Let us turn to developmental psychology for a few suggestions on how to best aid the people that cultivate greatness in this country.

A holistic lens.

There are broad challenges and processes that almost all immigrants must face. Immigrants go through acculturation, which is the merging of the culture from one’s home country and their new culture2. Immigrants are oftentimes more resilient in the face of adversity3. In popular media, we have seen examples of this resilience come out of the horrors of child detention and troubles at the border or the strength of immigrant communities despite political oppression. Immigrants are strong. This isn’t to say they don’t need systematic and interpersonal support. Studies have shown that immigrant children develop better when they are near familial and parental support4. Attitudes towards immigrants also improve via inter-group friendships and exposure to immigrants5. Additionally, as mentioned above, parents have a substantial role in the way their children perceive immigrants1. If we choose to raise children in this world, why not try to educate and rid ourselves of bias? Your children will be affected, whether you realize it or not.

Piecing it apart.

While there are many broad suggestions and processes that can be applied to immigrants and their experiences as a whole, we must avoid lumping all 43.7 million first and second-generation immigrants in this country together. Developmental psychology has offered several models for examining the human experience. The two models used to study immigrant lives incorporate a multilayered and reciprocal approach4 6. That’s to say they don’t discount things like race, experiences of discrimination, gender, the neighborhood, education, and healthcare system they exist in. These models also take into account the indirect processes that affect their daily lives, such as the relationships with parents and teachers.

With these models, we should be starting to understand that with many factors and forces affecting a single person, human experience is not homogenous. So, neither is the more specific immigrant experience. This hopefully will help with the other trap we sometimes fall into: assuming all immigrants are the same. Unfortunately, the current political climate has fostered attitudes that believe immigrants are infiltrating the United States and stealing jobs, corrupting values, and even committing crimes at a higher rate (not true, obviously).  About 1.9 million immigrants come to the United States each year. It is absurd to think they all fit into one category. According to research, something called ‘context of reception’ has a great effect of immigrants’ ability to successfully integrate into their new country2. The way immigrants are received – oftentimes based on their accents, country of origin, socioeconomic status, and race – matters! So what can we do? If American is striving to be great, we must embrace, accept, and promote the developmental health of immigrants in this country. Development is life-long. We must educate ourselves on the overarching challenges that all immigrants face, then work to view each experience as unique and individual, piecing it apart.

 

Looking for some organizations to get involved? Check these ones out. 

 

References

  1. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(9), 1787-1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-05-0291-3
  2. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019330
  3. APA Presidential Taskforce on Immigration (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal of Latina/O Psychology, 1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001
  4. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. In A. E. Kazdin & A. E. Kazdin (Ed) (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 3. (pp. 129–133). Washington, DC, US; New York, NY, US: American Psychological Association.
  5. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1
  6. García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600

The Developmental Impact of Trump’s Newly Proposed Law on Immigrants

During the first quarter of 2018, 264,000 immigrants had already received permanent residence in the United States. However, obtaining legal residency does not mean that the challenges associated with immigration are over. Upon moving to the United States, many immigrants are still forced to face the challenges of poverty and discrimination(1). Recently, the Trump administration has proposed a new law that will decrease legal immigrants’ abilities to receive green cards if they have used social services in the past. Therefore, many low-income families who are hoping to receive a green card will be less likely to use these social services, therefore, among many other things, leading to increased poverty levels and worse health outcomes. If this law is to be passed, it will be developmentally very detrimental to immigrants in the United States.

In order to truly understand some of the impacts this law could have we can look at it through the lense of developmental psychology. According to classical theory of developmental psychology, this law may have several long-term impacts on the development of those who are affected. First, the political environment plays a significant role on the development of an individual. On a broad scale, the political environment trickles into and impacts the more direct aspects of a person’s life(2). For example, in the case of this proposed law, a family may choose to opt out of using necessary social services. Therefore, this could lead to greater amounts of stress and financial difficulties among these families. Second, classical theory has also indicated that racism, prejudice, and discrimination also play important roles in human development(3). In relation to political environment as previously discussed, this law is inherently discriminatory because it singles out a group of individuals with legal residence in the United States. Therefore, not only will discrimination occur on a more direct level, but it will happen on a much larger scale.

Although this law has not been passed yet, it’s proposal has already caused significant changes in the use of social services. In fact, 18 states indicated that they have seen at least a 20 percent drop in enrollment of social service programs since the proposal was announced.

In order to help this issue, we must also understand how we can help non-immigrant individuals form more positive attitudes towards immigrants. Some research has focused specifically on adolescence as a very formative time in an individual’s life when it comes to forming attitudes of immigrants. For example, one study found that friendships with immigrants during adolescence can be an important buffer of negative attitudes(4). Therefore, we should focus on improving the attitudes of adolescents for more long-term positive effects.

 

  1. The APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration. (2013). Crossroads: The Psychology of Immigration in the New Century. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1, 133-148. doi: 10.1037/lat0000001
  2. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. In A. E. Kazdin & A. E. Kazdin, Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 3. (pp. 129–133). Washington, DC, US; New York, NY, US: American Psychological Association.
  3. Coll, C. C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Waski, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An Integrative Model for the Study of Developmental Competencies in Minority Children. Child Development, 67, 1891-1914.
  4. Van Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental Trajectories of Prejudice and Tolerance Toward Immigrants from Early to Late Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence, 43, 1658-1671. doi: 10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1

 

Developmental Psychology, Immigration, and the Impact of Acculturation

American society has experienced a growing immigration population with an estimated number of 39.9 million immigrants. These immigrants arrive primarily from Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean with diverse levels of education, skills, values, and customs1. These immigrants face multiple challenges which includes: unfamiliar customs, language, economic burdens, and discrimination. This can result in stress to the family as they seek to overcome these barriers. This process of adjusting to a new culture is referred to as acculturation. Developmental psychologists must gain an increased understanding of acculturation in order to understand its impact on the immigrant family and more importantly on a child’s development. Acculturation is impacted by both the individual’s ability to cope and the attitudes of the receiving society. This interactive process can also be referred to as proximal processes, reinforcing the importance of the interaction between the individual and their environment and its impact on development3.

The level of stress experienced by the family, particularly children, is directly impacted by discrimination. For Developmental psychologists, an understanding of this is critical as children are faced with the burden of discrimination while attempting to meet the expectations of adolescence. Although discrimination is not a new phenomenon, the growing differences between the immigrant population and society increase the likelihood of discrimination1. The negative view of immigrants is reinforced by daily depictions of immigrants in the current media as dangerous, uneducated, and threatening to American values. Immigrants are perceived as competing for employment, available community resources, and an overall financial burden to society1. It is noted that the existence of barriers such as discrimination will impact a child’s development and the ability to meet their developmental expectations4. Therefore, Developmental psychologists must be proactive in increasing their knowledge of the impact of acculturation and in providing culturally sensitive services to minimize negative outcomes. One such intervention is to promote intergroup relationships amongst adolescents which can increase understanding and reduce the likelihood of discrimination7.

A key developmental task in adolescence is the development of attitudes particularly towards different groups such as immigrants. Interactions amongst immigrant children and nonimmigrant peers can also reduce fear and isolation in the immigrant child, reducing the possibility of psychological distress4. An educational effort was recently noted when action was taken by Starbucks to retrain its employees following an incident of discrimination which occurred in Philadelphia6. Although this intervention targeted adults, it did reinforce the importance of aggressively intervening to reduce discrimination through educational efforts6. Developmental psychologists must support opportunities for education which target parents, children, and institutions which interact with the immigrant population5. A particular area of concern that requires further exploration is how individual characteristics can influence a child’s development of attitudes such as discrimination7. Therefore, psychologists must develop programs that are individually tailored to increase tolerance in early education before adolescent attitudes are firmly established. Such an effort was noted in a recent article in US News and World Report that discussed how to raise tolerant and inclusive children. The author recommended that elementary school educators and professionals increase a child’s exposure to individuals of different races and cultures while exposing them to more diverse ideas. This early intervention was felt to increase the existence of tolerant and inclusive behaviors2.

As the numbers of immigrants are anticipated to continue to rise, both Developmental psychologist, educators, and the public must work together to reduce discrimination and its negative impact on the immigrant family, child, and society. Discrimination impacts the physical and emotional well-being of both the immigrants and the receiving society, resulting in both short term and long term consequences1.

References

  1. APA Presidential Taskforce on Immigration. (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal of Latina/O Psychology, 1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001
  2. Borba, M. (2018, April 13). How to raise tolerant, inclusive kids. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2018-04-13/how-to-raise-tolerant-inclusive-kids
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. In A. E. Kazdin & A. E. Kazdin (Ed) (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 3. (pp. 129–133). Washington, DC, US; New York, NY, US: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10518-046
  4. García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
  5. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(9), 1787–1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0291-3
  6. Lardieri, A. (2018, April 17). 8,000 Starbucks stores will close to conduct racial bias education. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-04-17/8-000-starbucks-stores-will-close-to-conduct-racial-bias-education
  7. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1

Immigration in America

I cannot even begin to express to you how important and critical it is for developmental psychologists and the public to understand immigration in America. America was built on immigration1. People migrate to America from around the world: Spanish, Dutch, French, English, Germans, Eastern Europeans, Africans, Indians, Asians, and the list continues1. The number of immigrants in America has grown enormously from being approximately 39.9 million in 20132 to becoming approximately 43.3 million in 20174. All these immigrants have different levels of skills, education, languages and yet they have been represented within politics and media in a negative way; a problem that needs to be solved2. Now, especially with the president, Donald Trump in office speaking very negatively about immigrants and changing people’s attitudes about them, it is very important for everyone to understand immigration. But before we begin to understand immigration we must define the different types of immigrants.  There are the immigrants who voluntarily left their home country to permanently reside in the new country. They move to a different county for many reasons: a better life, better jobs, better education, and marriage etc9. Refugees are those who were forced to leave their country due to wars or national disasters and the government agrees to let them and Asylum seekers are who voluntarily leave their home county due to fear or violence and they seek safety in a new country9. Every immigrant has his/her own unique experience in the new county and it is so important to look at their development and the changes that they go through.

As people, we are growing and changing every day and development psychology looks at how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have changed over time8. Our development also happens with our individual personality and our interaction with our environment3.  Not only do we use Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory7 to understand how our environment influences out development but we have to use other factors (race, ethnicity, gender, and social class) 5 that also have an influence on our development. According to García-Coll et al., the environment plays a role in our development but not just the environment but also things like experiencing dissertations, dealing racisms, managing emotions, and personality5.  We also have to look at where did the person come from and what they look like. Those things play a big role when it comes to discrimination. For example, a white immigrant from a Europe country who speaks English experience is going to be very different from a person of color from a non-Europe country who speaks little English to no English5 . It is very important for research to start being more culturally bound to study specific people and their experiences.

As I mentioned above about Trump changing people’s attitude towards immigrants. There is a very interesting cycle happening here: Trump influence the parent’s attitudes toward immigrants and then the parents influence their children’s attitudes. There are a lot of ways that parents influence their children’s attitudes. Parents can just express their opinions very openly, they can consciously or unconsciously partake in discriminations towards immigrants6. According to Walter van Zalk & Kerr, 2014 research shows that adolescents that have a relationship with an immigrant are more like to show tolerance towards immigrants. By encouraging non- immigrants to make friends with immigrant, prejudice will decrease and tolerances will increase10. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Trump being in office saying very negative things about immigrants. I am not sure what our future looks like anymore.

 

 

 

References

 

  1. Abad, C. (2018). The United States Was And Continues To Be Built On The Backs Of Immigrants. Retrieved from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/american-history-immigrants
  2. (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal Of Latina/O Psychology1(3), 133-148. doi: 10.1037/lat0000001
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. In A. E. Kazdin & A. E. Kazdin (Ed) (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 3. (pp. 129–133). Washington, DC, US; New York, NY, US: American Psychological Association.
  4. CAP Immigration Team, & Nicholson, M. (2018). The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition – Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2017/04/20/430736/facts-immigration-today-2017-edition/
  5. García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
  6. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(9), 1787-1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-05-0291-3
  7. HQ, P. (2013). What is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory?. Retrieved from https://www.psychologynoteshq.com/bronfenbrenner-ecological-theory/
  8. McLeod, S. (2017). Developmental Psychology | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/developmental-psychology.html
  9. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019330
  10. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1

Blog 1: Immigrants in United States and their Developmental Struggles: Identifying and Intervening Causes of Negative Attitudes

With the growing number of immigrants to the United States, immigration is gaining attention as it becomes a controversial issue. It is necessary to provide information on the backgrounds and issues of immigration to properly address struggles immigrants face in many contexts1. Furthermore, immigrant children’s developmental process should be examined, as current conditions may impact how they grow up. A theory-supported integrative developmental model is constructed to inform of factors influencing the growth of minority children2. Among the factors, environment is a large component in the model, where the surrounding environment in which the child interacts with may promote or inhibit development. Constant interactions with the environment, or proximal processes, are crucial in determining how a child develops, as maintaining healthy proximal processes can tremendously help with development3.

As the environment is considered a major factor in immigrant children’s development, the characteristics of the environments children live in should be assessed. The common issue posing as an obstacle for a good environment is prejudice and discrimination. These negative attitudes play a large part in the integrative developmental model and have roles in forming promoting or inhibiting environments for minority children2. Such attitudes against immigrants are prevalent as they are frequently communicated, like how United States President Donald Trump constantly denounces Mexicans, inciting negative views toward them. This leads to disadvantages, stress and worry, and poor physical and mental health for immigrants1. For example, daily life events and unfair conditions are told to create stress and impact health in rural immigrant communities. Studies discovering the roots of these attitudes are imperative. For this purpose, some studies have found intergroup friendships, personality, and parents to have the largest influences on attitudes toward immigrants4,5. Parents may pass down negative attitudes to their children during adolescence, but children having friends with an outgroup member may reduce such attitudes.

Knowing how negative attitudes against immigrants in children form, authorities can devise interventions to reduce such attitudes, and in turn provide better growing environments for immigrant children. Studies implied that prejudice is mostly influenced in early adolescence4,5. Therefore, interventions should be aimed to influence attitudes during this time. Furthermore, since parents transmit negative attitudes to their children5, they should be targeted as part of the interventions. In addition, to further reduce prejudice, interventions could provide opportunities promoting intergroup friendships, as it tremendously helps in facilitating attitudes4. Family and peers are part of the microsystem, the direct surrounding environment, of Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model, a model depicting influences of different environmental systems on a person’s development6. This may explain the large impacts of parents and friendships on attitudes. Based on this, interventions can target parts of the system to effectively eliminate negative attitudes against immigrants. Since schools and neighborhoods are parts of the microsystem and of the promoting or inhibiting environments in the integrative model, they should also be closely assessed and shaped into suitable environments for immigrant children. Using the above suggestions, interventions need to soon be developed to combat negative attitudes against immigrants, as the current anti-immigrant trend in the US could likely be long lasting. If interventions can effectively reduce negative attitudes in children, the trend could be cut short by the growing generation of youth with more positive attitudes. So far, good progress is being made. There are programs such as workshops supporting immigrant students, which provide opportunities to build inclusive environments and promote knowledge and empathy regarding immigrants. Such efforts would help improving attitudes and create promoting environments that immigrant children need. Looking forward, if the country continues to put effort into tackling negative attitudes and their causes, it would help providing quality environments for immigrants.

References

  1. APA Presidential Taskforce on Immigration (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001
  2. García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. Encyclopedia of Psychology, 3, 129–133.
  4. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1
  5. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(9), 1787-1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-05-0291-3
  6. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development, 1, 993-1028.

Blog Post 1

Reports indicate that a higher number of documented immigrants are more likely to come from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas, two decades ago they were more likely to come from Europe and Latin America. Estimates toady report that most undocumented immigrants are however from Latin America and the Caribbean1. African immigration to the US shows the most rapid growth from 2000 to 2013, making African immigrants the fastest growing group of black immigrants in the U.S. Nigeria and Ethiopia topping the list of where most foreign-born Africans come from2. It is important to note with the U.S.’s history of racism towards people of African descent, these African immigrants are at risk of facing the same discrimination African-American deal with. For example, even though black immigrants from Africa are more likely than the average American to possess a college degree, they still experience inequalities in the job market2. Thus, Garcia Coll et al. 1996 points to the social position (race, ethnicity, social class and gender) of the immigrant as an important aspect that is impacted by racism, prejudice, discrimination and oppression3. In the case of African immigrants their race might negatively affect their access to jobs, regardless of their education due to the mechanisms of institutional and systemic racism.

Furthermore, African immigrant children are affected by negative attitudes that are likely to have an impact on their development. Poor developmental outcomes might consist of challenges in psychological processes and physical health. Research shows that African-immigrant students face discrimination and bullying from their peers at school due to their accents, race and traditional customs4. These attitudes as research has shown may be passed down from parents to children5. Additionally, these negative attitudes are usually informed by stereotypes of Africa as poor, backwards, war torn, and diseases filled that are perpetuated by the media. Scholars have argued that one way to challenge prejudice against immigrants is to foster relationships between non-immigrants and immigrants6. Research shows that adolescents that have peer relationships with immigrants are likely to have tolerant attitudes towards them6.

It is important that the current research on the development of immigrants use models that are culturally specific. The Bronfenbrenner bioecological model focuses on the importance of proximal process in the process of development7. Proximal processes are the mechanisms that foster development. Attachment between a parent and child might be a proximal process necessary for development. However, when studying attachment among immigrant populations for example African immigrants, attachment between child and parent might look different. Thus, necessary measures that account for this difference need to be developed. The APA presidential task force on immigration suggests that there must be a committed, purposeful ongoing interaction with the culture of the individuals being assessed8. Thus, if accurate measures are to be created based on the bioecological theory then there must be work done to access and interact with these communities.

Lastly, there is an overwhelming amount of research on the impact of challenges ethnic minority immigrants face 8. However, little is known about some of the protective factors that contribute to their resilience. For example, surveys show that Nigerian Americans have the highest levels of education in America. One explanation for this might be immigrant optimism, which is the positive attitudes that immigrants have towards school. More research could be done on this concept of immigrant-optimism and how it can be fostered among different immigrant populations. The Psychology community is hence tasked with broadening research to encompass various topics that will better the livelihood of immigrants in the USA.

References

  1. How the geography of U.S. immigration has changed over time. (2013, May 17). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/17/how-the-geography-of-u-s-immigration-has-changed-over-time/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.737660880166
  2. Anderson, M. (2017, February 14). African immigrant population in U.S. steadily climbs. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/14/african-immigrant-population-in-u-s-steadily-climbs/
  3. Coll, C. G., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
  4. Getnet Bitew (2018) African immigrants’ experiences in American schools: complicating the race discourse, Ethnic and Racial Studies,41:3, 570-572, DOI: 1080/01419870.2017.1360504
  5. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence44(9), 1787–1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0291-3
  6. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1
  7. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development(pp. 993-1028). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  8. Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. (2013). Journal of Latina/o Psychology1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001

Developmental Psychology, US Immigration, and Attitudes Towards Immigrants

The United States has long been regarded as a hub for cultural and ethnic diversity.  Some may consider it a ‘melting pot’ while others may opt for a ‘mosaic’ or ‘salad bowl’ in their metaphoric depictions, but the idea remains much the same: different people with different ideas coming together.  Is the issue of immigration as simple as these words may describe?  In short, the answer is no.  Since the early 19th century, the United States has experienced successive waves of immigration from all over the world, with the current post 1960’s wave being the most massive1.  As of 2013, the United States had approximately 39.9 million immigrants2, with growing populations from Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East1.  When thinking about people coming into America, it is important to understand what we mean by the term ‘immigrant’.  Immigrants are individuals who leave their home country voluntarily because of a want to go somewhere else permanently.  This can be for any number of reasons, including a job offer, marriage, enhancement in opportunities, or simply because they believe the benefits of immigrating outweigh the benefits of staying in their home country1.  This term is different from others you may have heard such as ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’ as these designations describe people who migrate from their home countries involuntarily, not because they want to but because they feel as if they have to.  Questions about the actual experience of immigration, and what happens to immigrants once they arrive in a new country are innumerable, as these experiences are extremely multifaceted1.  One avenue that can be explored in terms of immigrant experience, is its impacts on human development.

As human beings, we are growing and changing from the moment we are conceived, to the moment we die.  This is development.  How we develop is a result of our individual personalities and our interactions with the world around us3.  For immigrants, this process intertwined with issues surrounding race/ethnicity, cultural background, age, language, and time of immigration1.  All of these things affect the ability of an immigrant to interact with United States society.  Although there are certainly developmental experiences that are consistent across all immigrant populations such as the need to find balance between home culture and new culture, placing all immigrants into one descriptive box is not helpful2.  For example, the experience of a white immigrant from Canada who speaks English is going to be drastically different from a person of color from Iran who speaks little English4.  Similarly, the experience of a two-year-old immigrating from China, is likely going to be much different than their parent once in the United States2.

One of the most important contributing factors to the experience of an immigrant in their new country is the current rhetoric surrounding their specific immigrant population.  Although the United States has always had a preference for whiteness1, an attitude that is openly endorsed in today’s presidential administration, the ideas surrounding specific immigrant groups are subject to change. For example, the events of 9/11, lead to a phenomenal increase in the presence of islamophobia, an effect that still lives on today.  Fast-forward to 2018 and examine the more current negative rhetoric surrounding Mexican immigrants as is similarly promoted by the Trump administration.  The dominant cultural ideas at the time of immigration play a phenomenal role in the experience of the immigrant2.

The interaction between immigrant and their environment in each of the situations described above serve to tremendously impact development3.  Specifically, prolonged interactions such as those between parent and child, and peers in a school setting play a crucial role in the development of both immigrant attitudes about themselves, as well as attitudes about immigrants amongst native born citizens3,5.  So what does all of this mean for immigrants?  How can those living in United States society make their experience better?  Researchers are consistently attempting to construct new models to describe the strategies that immigrants develop as they integrate into U.S society3.  The most important thing we can do as active citizens is talk to each other.  Parents play a key role in the construction of their children’s attitudes surrounding immigrants, specifically in early adolescence, but once this period passes, peer influence plays the larger role5.  By encouraging children to think positively of immigrants and encouraging the formation of friendships between native born Americans and their immigrant counterparts, in most cases, prejudice against immigrant groups will decrease6.  Through further research and conversation, the United States can become a more inclusive environment for all of its citizens.

References

  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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019330
  2. APA Presidential Taskforce on Immigration (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal of Latina/O Psychology, 1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. In A. E. Kazdin & A. E. Kazdin (Ed) (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Psychology, Vol. 3. (pp. 129–133). Washington, DC, US; New York, NY, US: American Psychological Association.
  4. García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H. P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Garcia, H. V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
  5. Gniewosz, B., & Noack, P. (2015). Parental influences on adolescents’ negative attitudes toward immigrants. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(9), 1787-1802. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-05-0291-3
  6. Zalk, M. H. W., & Kerr, M. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(10), 1658–1671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0164-1

Blog Post 1

Now, more than ever, is a critical time for developmental psychologists and the public at large to understand the state of immigration in the United States. The number of immigrants in the U.S. has grown considerably in just the last 5 years, with there being around 39.9 million immigrants in the U.S. in 2013 (APA, 2013) and around 43.3 million in 2017 (CAP Immigration Team, 2017). Many of these immigrants hail from Mexico, Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean, and come with varying levels of education, skills, and language ability. And yet despite such a wide array of backgrounds and types of people immigrating into the U.S., immigrant populations as a whole are often painted in a negative light (APA, 2013). Attitudes towards immigrants today are especially controversial, with the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, publicly describing immigrants as infesting the U.S. and specifically targeting Mexican immigrants as being rapists (Simon, 2018; Reilly, 2016). Both the sheer number of immigrants arriving in the U.S. and the widespread prejudices against them are reasons why developmental psychologists and the general public should be concerned with how to help immigrants experience healthy development throughout their life.

People can understand how being discriminated against might hurts one’s feelings, but it is also important to understand how it affects one developmentally. People also might ask—what areas of development are impacted? Or even, what are the areas of development to begin with? According to García-Coll et al., areas of development for minorities—including immigrants—include environments like schools, community gathering spaces, and families. It is important to note, however, that areas of development do not only include physical places or things—they also include things like how an individual copes with racism, their temperament, and their ability to engage healthily in social situations and with their emotions (García Coll et al., 1996). With these areas in mind, it is easier to understand how discrimination can have adverse affects on an immigrant’s development. For example, several studies show that being bullied or discriminated against by peers is linked with more difficulty adjusting to school and lower levels of self-esteem in immigrants (Walter van Zalk & Kerr, 2014). This means they could exhibit poorer school performance, and having lower-self esteem could potentially result in inabilities to engage healthily in social situations or an inability to cope with emotions in a safe, productive manner. Regardless of what area is being impacted, it is crucial for people to be aware of how deeply discrimination can affect healthy development in immigrants.

With an understanding of how healthy development can be impeded by negative attitudes towards immigrants, it is then crucial to understand how to reduce such attitudes and discrimination. It is of course not up to developmental psychologists, unfortunately, to implement immigration policies, but they can conduct research aimed towards decreasing negative attitudes against immigrants. For example, studies have found that friendships between immigrant and non-immigrant teenage students are related to an increased level of tolerance and a decreased level of prejudice among those students (Walter van Zalk & Kerr, 2014). García Coll et al. also suggest that bilingual education could help immigrant children in terms of school performance and reducing language barriers within families (García Coll et al., 1996).

It may take a long time before discrimination against immigrants is eradicated, especially considering today’s political climate. But continued research by developmental psychologists regarding understanding and assisting with immigrant’s development, and the fellow understanding of the general public, can certainly help society move in the right direction.

 

 

References:
APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal of Latino/a Psychology, 1, 133-148.

CAP Immigration Team & Nicholson, Michael D. (2017, April 20). The facts on immigration today: 2017 edition. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from

The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition

García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., Mcadoo, H.P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H. & Vázquez García, H. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67, 1891-1914

Reilly, Katie. (August 31, 2016). Here are all the times Donald Trump insulted Mexico. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/4473972/donald-trump-mexico-meeting-insult/#

Simon, Abigail. (2018, June 19). People are angry President Trump used this word to describe immigrants. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/5316087/donald-trump-immigration-infest/

Walter van Zalk, Maarten Herman & Kerr, Margaret. (2014). Developmental trajectories of prejudice and tolerance toward immigrants from early to late adolescence. Youth Adolescence, 43, 1658-1671.

Minh’s Biography

I am currently a senior majoring in Psychology and Economics. I am from Vietnam and moved to the United States in 2010. I attended middle school and high school in New York and Washington DC before going to Dickinson. I have personal interests in social and personality psychology. After graduation, I do not have clear plans yet but I hope to gain work and research experience and maybe find opportunities to go to graduate school. I studied abroad in Korea and currently studying Korean on my own as I hope to return someday. My hobbies include hanging out with friends, playing soccer, and listening to Kpop.

Katia’s Bio

 

Hi I am Katia, I am from Kigali, Rwanda. I am a senior Psychology major and Africana Studies minor, my academic interests lie in the intersection of mental health services and the experiences of people of African descent. In the spring semester, I will be doing an independent study that looks at mental health services among black communities.  At the moment I am looking into applying to grad school programs in counselling psychology. On campus I am the president of Anwar belly dance troupe and work for Res life and the library. I am into watching Insecure on HBO and love dancing.

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