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.
- 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
- 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/
- 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 Development, 67(5), 1891–1914. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131600
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. (2013). Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 1(3), 133–148. https://doi.org/10.1037/lat0000001