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.
- 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
- (2013). Crossroads: The psychology of immigration in the new century. Journal Of Latina/O Psychology, 1(3), 133-148. doi: 10.1037/lat0000001
- 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.
- 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/
- 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
- 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
- HQ, P. (2013). What is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory?. Retrieved from https://www.psychologynoteshq.com/bronfenbrenner-ecological-theory/
- McLeod, S. (2017). Developmental Psychology | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/developmental-psychology.html
- 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
- 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