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.
- 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
- 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
- Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. Encyclopedia of Psychology, 3, 129–133.
- 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
- 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
- Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development, 1, 993-1028.