Month: October 2018 (page 1 of 2)

A Difficult Decision Detained Parents Soon May Have to Face

With the latest migrant caravan making its way through Central America, the future of policies regarding unauthorized immigrants have been at the forefront of national headlines. It is estimated that around 7,000 people have managed to cross the border from Guatemala into Mexico illegally. While some may choose to stay in Mexico and seek a form of asylum, many migrants plan to continue their journey all the way to the United States. Several ideas proposed by the Trump administration to respond to immigrants who cross the border into the United States illegally have come to light. One of the most profound plans that has been brought up regards the option of “voluntary family separations”. In other words, parents who are detained at the border with their children will be given the choice to stay detained as a family or to give their children to the foster system while they remain detained.

When potential policies arise that could have such a massive influence on thousands of families, it is important that we understand what effects the policy could have through the lens of developmental psychology. As many immigrant parents are coming to the United States in search of a better opportunity, they may opt to put their children in the foster care system. However, it is important that we note what effects this could have on their children.

Immigrants in the current caravan and others who cross the border into the United States are classified as voluntary immigrants (1). That is, they are coming to the United States in search of a better life which often corresponds with economic and job opportunities. Because they are voluntary immigrants it is important to take into account that they have chosen to come to the United States because they see the benefits. Therefore, if they are presented with the choice of staying detained as a family or sending their children to foster care it is likely to be a very challenging decision.

The immigrant paradox is a phenomenon that immigrants have positive health and developmental outcomes despite the fact that many find themselves in difficult situations. It is thought that one of the factors that contribute to the success of immigrant children is family(2). Therefore, if children are separated from their parents, they may lose the positive effect of the immigrant paradox due to the instability of the foster system. This is important because as a society, we want these children to grow up in the most positive way possible. The effects of the immigrant paradox can greatly improve society.

However, there are also negative developmental implications if families choose to stay together in these detentions centers. For example, families are isolated from US society making it much more difficult for their children to learn English. Research has shown that a mix of informal and academic settings are important when it comes to learning a new language (3). Therefore, in these detention centers children will lack this opportunity. While these families will likely not be able to stay in the US, the fact that they have crossed the border shows motivation to live here. It is possible that they may find a way for their children to come back to the United States or the children may come back when they are adults, making learning English very important.

Overall, if this idea turns into a law, immigrant parents who are detained with their children will have to face a very difficult decision. It is important that we consider what effects this proposal may have on the children developmentally for both the individual well-being of the child and the future of the United States.

  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, 237-251.
  2. 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
  3. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Acculturation a double-edged sword; The consequences of Acculturation on Immigrants’ Development

When immigrants make the decision to migrate to the United States it is usually with the hope of achieving a better life for themselves and their families (1). Early psychological theories proposed that as immigrants assimilate to an American lifestyle by acquiring English skills and getting an American Education, they are guaranteed a better life (2). Usually, adapting to a new country involves changes that are related to interacting with different cultures, this process is referred to as acculturation (2). However, surprising research has shown that the longer immigrants stay in the United States the more they are likely to be faced with a plethora of challenges that negatively impact their development (3). Researchers have coined this interesting phenomenon as the immigrant paradox, whereby newcomer immigrants tend to have better health and perform better in school compared to later generation immigrants (3). Thus, acculturation can be viewed as a double-edged sword, since it has both favorable and unfavorable consequences.

Before exploring the unique nature of the consequences of acculturation, it is important to understand the advantage of language acquisition, since mastering English can be an agent for successful acculturation (4). Immigrants tend to view acquiring English skills as essential for their prosperity in the US (4). Some have even gone further to argue that learning English is not only important for survival it also allows immigrants to advance economically. When immigrants speak English fluently there are able to explore career opportunities that are not limited to minimum wage jobs (5). Additionally, being able to fluently speak and understand English has been associated with immigrants being more involved in their children’s education and understanding complicated US systems such as healthcare (5). Lastly, for unauthorized immigrants speaking English can help them be knowledgeable about opportunities that can help resolve their unauthorized status and foster more civic engagement (6). Therefore, acquiring English as a second language helps immigrants acculturate and improve their lives.

However, even though mastery of English affords immigrants opportunities that improve their lives, we still see patterns of poor health and educational outcomes among later generation immigrants as compared to new immigrants (3). Additionally, immigrants also tend to have better health and educational outcomes than white native-born Americans (7). For example, according to a report by the CDC, Hispanics have a higher life expectancy than whites. The report also indicates that during the first years of immigration Hispanics have lower rates of smoking and a better diet. They attribute this to the fact that Hispanics have stronger family ties that foster better health behaviors. In terms of educational outcomes, first generation immigrants tend to outperform their later generation counterparts in school and native-born Americans (8). One reason that has been highlighted for this paradox is parents transferring their motivations, expectations, and values about school to their children (9). However, research is still needed to fully understand this occurrence.

To better understand the impact of acculturation on immigrants we need to acknowledge both the positive and negative outcomes that result from intercultural contact. Adopting this holistic framework allows us to tackle some of the challenges immigrants face when they immigrate to the United States.

References
1. Wing, N. (2018, June 20). Immigrants Describe The Horrors That Made Them Flee Latin America For The U.S. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/latin-america-migrants-gangs-violence_us_5b295213e4b0a4dc99219f06
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. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
4. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
5. Denver Post. (2016, April 30). Learning English can help immigrants survive. Retrieved from https://www.denverpost.com/2013/03/08/learning-english-can-help-immigrants-survive/
6. 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.
7. Gispert, J. G. (2015, May 29). Hispanic paradox: Why immigrants have a high life expectancy. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32910129
8. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014
9. Study: First generation immigrant children do better in school than US-born kids. (2012, September 12). Retrieved from http://nbclatino.com/2012/09/11/study-first-generation-immigrant-children-do-better-in-school-than-us-born-kids/

The (non) truths of the immigrant experience.

It would be easy to explain immigrants’ experiences of integrating into the United States using a one-size-fits-all model. Would it simplify our discussions? Would it streamline legislation? Maybe. But in addition, it would also be foolish. The truth is that acculturation (the changes a person goes through when they interact with a culture different from their own) is multidimensional and varies greatly1. Acculturation of immigrants differ based on the individual, their access to quality education, their authorization status, their generation, and resiliency, among other things2 3 4 5. In this post, I hope to explore and unwrap the complex and non-standardized process of acculturation.

Speaking ‘American’?

One dimension of acculturation that comes up often is learning the language of your new country. The rhetoric of ‘immigrants should speak American’ is alive and well in contemporary times. People who speak different languages are harassed in public spaces and accused of assisting in the demise of the English language and American culture (which actually don’t go hand in hand, as the U.S. does not have an official language).  Politicians (on either side of the aisle) don’t hesitate to emphasize the need for immigrants to learn English. Whether people are supporting or demonizing immigrants, there seems to be a link between learning English and assimilating in the ‘right’ way.

This sentiment is not only enacted by native-born Americas. In fact, almost all immigrant students in one study indicated that learning English was extremely important to assimilating into the United States3. In addition to acknowledging that learning English was important, they also viewed the process of learning it favorably3. If this is true, then why do some Americans feel the need to inform immigrants to speak English? An unfortunate truth is that having a positive attitude towards learning a new language doesn’t mean the process will be easier3. What do help are effective language-education programs. Just like acculturation in general, bilingualism is not a simple and objective concept. In that same study, language acquisition programs were examined and researchers concluded that dual immersion programs were best for learning English3. So, when bias-motivated racist individuals want to accost and blame individual immigrants for not speaking ‘American’, they may need to turn their scrutiny around at the educational aid the United States school system offers to immigrant youth or the social services or community programming offered to adults. English may lead to easier acculturation, but good programming leads to better acquisition of English.

Documentation status and barriers.

Another factor that feeds this theme that acculturation is a multidimensional and complicated process is authorization status. For unauthorized immigrants, certain routes to acculturation, and milestones towards American adulthood, are inaccessible. Unauthorized immigrants, whose numbers have significantly increased over the past decade, do not all have the same experience and families may have members with different statuses2. When it comes to engaging in American culture and society, lack of authorization prevents certain activities, like voting, driving, going to college, and getting a job2. Additionally, the fear of deportation of oneself of one’s family is present2. The interaction of documentation status and various social and cultural systems theoretically leads to negative developmental outcomes2. So, while native-born Americans push the importance of assimilation, they are ignoring the barriers of institutional, economic, and cultural contexts that exist for almost one-fourth of all immigrants2. Programs like DACA may serve as a route out from this limbo that unauthorized youth are stuck in. Even if people support unauthorized immigrants being brought out from the shadows and taking their place in line for citizenship, it’s not always that easy.

Generational gaps and resiliency.

One of the last factors I will discuss regarding the intricate and complex process of acculturation is something researchers call the immigrant paradox. The paradox is that second-generation immigrants (children of first-generation immigrants that came to the United States) have worse developmental outcomes and have less success than their parents4 5. To complicate this more, this may be due to the process of acculturation itself5. One proposed theory is that while first-generation immigrants self-select and have the drive to succeed in a new country as immigrants, their children are not guaranteed to have that same success5. They did not choose to be immigrants. Despite the risk factors, a model of resiliency is possibly more important4. While people may continue to spew misinformed or hateful rhetoric about immigrants and their influence and integration to the United States, one thing that’s for sure is that immigrants are resilient and should be studied in a model that reflects this.

Acculturation is complicated, non-linear, and subjective. Whether it is learning a language, reaching educational and cultural milestones, or achieving success in a new country and culture, acculturation is not a one-size-fits-all concept. And it certainly won’t be one any time soon.

 

  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. 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.
  3. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. (The Challenge of Language Acquisition)
  4. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
  5. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014

The Impacts of Immigrant Status on the Nation’s Youngest

The ever-growing immigrant population in the United States1 calls for an increase in our understanding of how immigrants participate in United States society how our society can be molded in a way that accommodates this significant portion of the population.  Inundated by the  political turmoil and anti-immigration rhetoric of today, perhaps the most important immigrant population to focus on is those who are growing up in the thick of it all: the children.   As of 2013, one-fifth of children in United States schools came from immigrant families, a number that is expected to grow2.  These individuals have the potential to become the leaders, teachers and change makers of the future, but this cannot and will not happen given the systems we have in place.  So, how can we best serve these children?  What barriers stand in their way?

The topic of best-practice for immigrant children can get muddled by the individual and group differences within this population.  The relationship between the context of the receiving culture a child enters into, and the heritage culture that their family has come from plays a significant role in their development both inside and outside of the classroom3.  For example, developmental theory describes that the more similar the heritage and receiving culture are, the easier it will be for an immigrant to integrate into society3.  This notion has significant implications in terms of schooling, even if the immigrant child is a United States citizen.  Take the fundamental issue of race for example, a factor that can have a phenomenal impact on the perceptions of students in the classroom.  The current anti Mexican rhetoric, and the deeply rooted racial prejudice of our nation systematically disadvantages immigrant students of color, compared to those that may pass as white3.  Our cultural preference for “whiteness”, situates those immigrants who are white or who may pass as white more in line with the norms of United States culture, thereby easing their integration into it3.

In looking at cultural norms and expectations, if both parent and child understand the interworking’s of their receiving society, active parent participation within the educational system is more likely to occur3,4.  One of those expectations is the ability to speak English4.  The inability of a parent to effectively speak English, places a barrier along the path to their active participation to their child’s education.  Active parental participation has been shown to bolster student motivation and performance, thereby, disadvantaging immigrant students with non-English speaking parents.  Although sentiments about schooling, and the motivation to do well may vary by immigrant generation1,2, the general belief of immigrant students is one that acknowledges the importance of English profiencency4.  While bilingual education programs do exist within many United States schools, they vary in effectiveness, and are challenging to create and regulate based on the differences in language ability and the scope of the students they serve4.

Issues such as the relationship between heritage and host culture apply to most all immigrant students, but one group within this population that experiences additional barriers to optimal development are those that are unauthorized.  The term ‘unauthorized immigrant’ refers to an individual who is not legal United States citizen but is rather living in the United States in a state of never-ending uncertainty5.  As of 2011 nearly one-fourth of all immigrants living in United States society were undocumented5, pointing to the challenges of gaining United States citizenship.  If it were so easy to become a citizen, why would one fourth of the population be undocumented?  The constant worry of being deported yourself, or having a parent be deported adds an additional psychological burden to daily life as a student, making it more challenging to relate to and interact with those around you5.  Policies such as The Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals act, otherwise known as DACA, intend to lessen some of these burden’s by providing protection for children who immigrated to the United States as children.  These individuals, having never gaining citizenship, are protected from deportation and allowed to work and often attend college in the United States.  Although the mission of DACA is to help, because of a lack of bipartisan support since its introduction its future is uncertain leaving many students in a state of fear and ambiguity as to whether their DACA status will be maintained or if they are at risk of deportation5.

In order to create the most conducive environment for the successful personal and educational development of immigrant children, a deeper understanding of these issues is essential1,4.  If educators are not aware of the unique psychological stressors and societal barriers facing immigrant students both documented and undocumented, there is no way to improve their experience and advance society.

References

  1. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
  2. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014
  3. 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
  4. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. (The Challenge of Language Acquisition)
  5. 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.

The Immigrant Paradox and the Growing Consequences of Acculturation: Should Immigrants Not Acculturate?

As immigration grows in the US, the many immigrants would experience the process of acculturation, the changes during adaptation to the new culture1. However, it may not be an easy process, especially with the issue of the immigrant paradox, where immigrants may face worse health outcomes the more they acculturate1. Compared to the first generation, later generation immigrants have more mental health issues, showing the worsening effects of acculturation. If acculturation is bad for immigrants, is it better to not go through the process?

Studies have examined the immigrant paradox and suggested how worse outcomes are more associated with later generation immigrants who are more acculturated2,3,4. Children of immigrants often lose positive attributes such as optimism and determination that their parents had when they came to the US2,3. Furthermore, immigrant parents had more protective processes while their children are more exposed to risks2. Thus, immigrant children may be more likely to have worse outcomes than their parents. Compared to their parents, they also have more negative educational attitudes and are more influenced by negative peer culture3. These explain the children’s worse educational outcomes. In addition, children may face hardships during their transitional period into adults as they try to be integrated into society4. This process, called liminality, is incredibly lengthy and difficult for immigrant youths due to their immigration status4. It has negative developmental implications and causes these children to have poor senses of belonging and identity4. It is not getting any better for immigrant children, as stricter regulations further threaten their chances of attaining proper citizenship. Overall, evidence suggests that immigrant children, who are more acculturated than their parents, face worse outcomes as they acculturate.

With the consequences of acculturating in the US, is it better for immigrants to refrain from acculturation? The long and harsh process of acculturation may not even be worthwhile. For example, learning English as part of acculturation, though is important, is challenging and take a very long time to be proficient in5. On the other hand, retaining one’s own language and becoming bilingual may be the better option, since scores on a bilingual test have been found to be better than an English-only test5. Being bilingual can also give intellectual and mental benefits. Thus, it may be better for immigrants then to learn enough English to be bilingual. Would refraining from acculturation also apply in other aspects? Previous studies have shown immigrant parents, who are less acculturated, to have more positive health and educational outcomes compared to their children2,3. If the children decide to acculturate less, they may have more protective processes and less risk factors like their parents. Immigrant youths overall also have more positive outcomes than native students3, giving less incentive to become more like natives.

The consequences of the immigrant paradox limit immigrants’ abilities to acculturate. This may discourage immigrants from acculturating at all. However, it is still necessary for immigrants to adapt into the US culture. For instance, despite the hardships of liminality, immigrants still need to go through the process to attain proper status in the country. Learning English is also still vital for success in the US5. It may be important to understand the methods in acculturating to take the proper course of action. An acculturation model has suggested how one could selectively retain aspects of the heritage culture and receive aspects of the receiving culture1. With this, an immigrant could determine what practices, values, and identifications to keep and what not to keep from both cultures, based on what benefits them the most. The model has suggested biculturalism, the endorsement of both heritage and receiving cultures, to be the best method of acculturation, as it has been found to be the most facilitative of health outcomes1. Biculturalism also provides advantages for social connections, intellect, and career. This may be the recommended approach to resolve the immigrant paradox.

  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. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
  3. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014
  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. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. (The Challenge of Language Acquisition)

“Why Can’t They Just Learn English”: Challenges for Immigrants regarding Language Acquisition, Acculturation, and Documentation Status in the U.S.

Many immigrants face significant challenges in moving to the United States, yet it is unfortunately common to hear insensitive remarks about immigrants. Many Americans are concerned with immigrants’ effect on culture, and ask reductive questions such as “How will they learn English?” Many claim that immigrants are not even trying to learn English or adapt to U.S. The reality is that many immigrants actually are trying. However, English is a difficult language to learn and can take years to master.1 In terms of adapting to a new culture, it is not as simple as just learning English or understanding American social customs. There are many parts involved in interacting with and adapting to a culture different than one’s own, which is a process called acculturation.2 People who question why immigrants can’t just learn English are being insensitive to their efforts, and are not recognizing that language acquisition resources are not accessible or equal for everyone, especially in regards to language education for immigrant children.1

 

Acculturation does not only involve the learning of a new language, but also adopting the beliefs and values of the new country of residence. However, adopting these new beliefs does not equal losing the beliefs and values they acquired from their country of origin. The level of difficulty an immigrant may have acculturating to their new country of residence can depend upon how similar the new country and their country of origin are. As previously mentioned, many Americans judge immigrants negatively for speaking a language other than English. This means that for immigrants who come from an English speaking country to the United States, they may have an easier time acculturating and experience less discrimination, as language barriers are not an issue and they will not be judged based on language.2

 

Language acquisition and acculturation are long, difficult processes for immigrants. However, difficulties and discrimination that result from being unauthorized are some of the most limiting, and attitudes towards unauthorized immigrants are particularly negative in the United States today3. In 2014 there were 12.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S.4 These 12.1 million immigrants are experiencing unique stressors that accompany an unauthorized status. Many people do not take children into account when debating unauthorized immigration issues5, even though they are severely affected by growing up without authorization. Growing up in the U.S. as an unauthorized child or adolescent affects the ability to engage in activities or experiences that are considered important to an American’s identity, such as obtaining a drivers license or attending college. They also grapple with the issue of whether or not to expose their status to their friends—but it is also important to note that some unauthorized children are never told of their status until they are teenagers. Another unique stressor that unauthorized children deal with is the fear of themselves or their families being deported3. This fear unfortunately turns into a reality for many children, and has been the topic of news coverage constantly throughout 2018. Over the summer, unauthorized families who were detained at the Southern border of the U.S. were being held separately from each other. Children as young as only a few months old were being taken away from their parents for extended periods of time, which for such a young child is severely stressful6. Many unauthorized families watching these events unfold likely experienced an increase in the fear that already exists of being discovered and detained.

 

Overall, immigrants both authorized and unauthorized face a plethora of stressors, and many Americans are not sensitive to the length of time it can take to learn English or acculturate, nor to the fears that accompany being an unauthorized citizen. With so many immigrants in the U.S., it is imperative that people somehow become more educated about all of the different parts involved in immigrating and cultivate more empathy, instead of reducing the experience to “just learning English” or labeling immigrants as “alien”.

 

References

  1. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M. & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. From: The Challenge of Language Acquisition
  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, 237–251. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019330
  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, 438–472.
  4. Baker, Bryan. (2017). Estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population residing in the United States: January 2014. Office of Immigration Statistics: Office of Strategy, Policy, & Plans, 1-9.
  5. Yoshikawa, H. (2011). Immigrants raising citizens: Undocumented parents and their young children. New York: Russell Sage.
  6. Domonoske, C. & Gonzales, R. (2018, June, 19). What we know: Family separation and zero tolerance at the border. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621065383/what-we-know-family-separation-and-zero-tolerance-at-the-border

Coming to a New Country is Only the First Step

There continues to be a growing wave of immigrants entering the US. However, the face of this current immigrant differs from prior decades in that the immigrant’s country of origin may be vastly different from the new culture4. This change has served to complicate the process of acculturation which is defined as a process of adopting cultural traits and patterns from another culture4. Earlier perspectives of acculturation noted the expectation that immigrants would naturally adopt the values, beliefs, and practices as well as the language of the new culture while letting go of their initial culture. However, current perspectives on acculturation recognizes that this process can occur in a variety of ways4. An individual can adopt the new culture while discarding the old, referred to as assimilation, adopt the new culture while retaining the old, referred to as integration, and may even reject both cultures which is called marginalization. There are individual differences in how people achieve social, psychological, and cultural adaptation of the new culture. Those that pursue the integration type of acculturation experience less stress than those who choose marginalization1.Research has noted that the type of acculturation with the greatest degree of success with reduced stress is integration1.

Furthermore, the process of acculturation is impacted by factors which include: the individual’s ability to adjust, the level of familiarity with the new culture, existence of available resources, and the presence of existing barriers such as lack of citizenship6. Therefore, entering a new country is only the first step in the process of successful acculturation and learning a new language. The greater the difference in the two cultures, the harder it will be to assimilate and master a new language. Individuals may develop the ability to converse in English but a deeper level of understanding to allow them to succeed in school takes several years5. Both acculturation and mastering a new language occurs over time. In both of these processes, it is critical that there be existing resources to promote the learning process in order to reduce potential failure5.

A significant barrier faced by immigrants is their lack of citizenship and legal documentation. This dilemma impacts not only the individual, put the entire family. This is particularly true in children as they develop and seek to pursue higher education and independence. Their ability to successfully complete the goal of separation from family is obstructed by their illegal status6. However, despite barriers, immigrants adjust to a new environment with their children seeking academic advancement and improved educational outcomes. For example, in Latino/a immigrants children, a higher level of acculturation is associated with their ability and desire to pursue a college education7.

As acculturation continues, first and second generation children demonstrate a decline in academic success. This decline has been referred to as the immigrant paradox2. There has been growing research that as children become removed from their parent’s initial incentive to migrate to a new country in search of greater opportunities and more exposure to American peers, they lose their enthusiasm and drive3. Therefore, it is critical that the process of acculturation be better understood related to a more integrated perspective of what factors either support or hinder successful acculturation. In addition, consideration must be given to supporting this process through the generations to provide early intervention and to counter the effects of the immigrant paradox2. Both acculturation and the immigrant paradox must be better understood as these concepts continue to impact a family and a child’s development, not only upon entry to a new country but through their lifespan3.

References

  1. Berry, J.W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29,697-712. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2005.07.013
  2. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014
  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. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12071
  4. 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
  5. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. (The Challenge of Language Acquisition)
  6. 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.
  7. Vela, J. C., Johnson, M.B., Cavazos, L., Ikonomopoulos, J., & Gonzalez S. L. (2014). The effects of barriers, acculturation, and academic goals on Latina/o students’ academic performance. The American Counseling Association, 1-11. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/article_37.pdf?sfvrsn=6

The effect of unauthorized status, acculturation process, and learning English on Immigrant children.

In the United States, ¼ of the immigrants are considered unauthorized ¹ which are people who live within a country without having the legal authorization to do so. Approximately 5.5 million children and adolescents are growing up with unauthorized parents, about a million are unauthorized themselves.¹ The child may be an American in spirit, school, and their everyday experience but in the eyes of the law, they are not legal citizens and their family status hinders the regular stages of their development.¹ In some religions, there are rituals that mark new stages of life such as baptism, quinceaneras, and bar mitzvahs.¹ These rituals are called rites of passage. In America, there are legal rites of passage that an unauthorized child may not partake in, like getting a driver’s license, passport, even going to college.¹ This may lead the child to question their identity and where they belong. Children of immigrants are also being put into a position of interminable liminality¹ (practicing rites of passages to belong but the corresponding country does not acknowledge it and consider them illegal and cannot belong) by the legal status of themselves and their family.¹ American Identity is the degree of which the person feel connected and engaged with America and its history and traditions.² The children believe that they are American because they share America’s values, beliefs, and speak the language, but still, are seen as illegal because they do not have the legal documentation.¹ These issues call into question what it really means to be an American – if speaking the language, sharing the same values and beliefs as my peers is not enough, then why is a piece of paper all that it takes to help shape a national identity?

Immigrant children did not make the choice to migrate to another country, as it was their parents’ decision and they should not have to struggle to define their identity simply because their family does not have the means of legally documenting their citizenship. ¹ Not only do the children grow up worried about their status but also the acculturation process. Acculturation is the changes that occur as a result of contact with people, and groups and who are culturally different.² Going through the acculturation process may lead to discrimination toward immigrants who are from lower socioeconomic status as well as against immigrants who are illegal and are viewed as a burden and a drain to the receiving country resources.² This discrimination may lead immigrants to have more problems adapting or resisting to adopt the practices, values, and beliefs of the receiving culture.²

Learning English is another complication for immigrant children and is an added stress on top of dealing with their legal status and the process of adjusting to a new country. Children of immigration reported that learning English was a harder obstacle than any of the other difficulties they faced during immigration.³ Immigrants are often criticized for not learning English quickly upon their arrival due to a lack of understanding and compassion, especially when considering how long it takes for a person to become proficient in a new language. ³ Despite the language barrier, studies show immigrant children, on the whole, perform surprisingly well in school compared to natives who come from the same socioeconomic status.⁴  This advantage of the immigrant children, who might unknowingly be considered educationally disadvantaged due to a shift in language and general unfamiliarity with the culture, is called the immigrant paradox.⁴ Though immigrant children may perform well in school they still face difficulties with their unauthorized status, acculturation process and being proficient in English.

 

 

 

References

  1. 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.
  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. Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M. M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge, MA, US: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press. (The Challenge of Language Acquisition)
  4. Greenman, E. (2013). Educational attitudes, school peer context, and the “immigrant paradox” in education. Social Science Research, 42(3), 698–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.12.014

 

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

 

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