Author: phamm

Considerations of Parents in the Immigration Process: The Roles of Parents, Schools, and Neighborhoods in Fostering Immigrant Children’s Development

Parents, schools, and neighborhoods are important factors immediately affecting children as they grow up4. However, these relationships may be different for immigrant children as they face disadvantages growing up as immigrants, including the increasing threats against their health. How do parents, schools, and neighborhoods determine how an immigrant child develops, and how do immigrant parents address this issue as they immigrate?

Family provides constant and direct support for children’s healthy development. However, parents may not always be there for immigrant children. Transnational families are growing as families separate when they immigrate1. Losing close support from parents may have negative outcomes for immigrant youth, as those with longer separation duration have been found to experience more depression and anxiety symptoms1. Alternatively relying on friends and family connections in the neighborhood may not provide support as it does not help with developmental outcomes3. Thus, the absence of parents is highly detrimental. Parents should be aware of this if they expect to be separated from their child as they immigrate. However, over time, immigrant children demonstrate less psychological symptoms, suggesting the effects of separation to be short termed and conveying the resiliency and coping ability of immigrant children in the absence of parents1. Knowing this, parents anticipating separation should provide the most long-distance support, such as maintaining contact through messaging and video calling, during the early stages of separation and trust their children to develop coping mechanisms as separation prolongs.

Providing distant support during separation is not the only way immigrant parents can do to foster their children’s development. Academic achievement in school can also yield positive adaptation and future outcomes for immigrant children2. As such, ensuring good academic outcomes, or school success, is important for immigrant youth’s development. School engagement, the children’s efforts and investment in classwork and school, has been found to promote school success, indicating better academic outcomes2. Thus, in order to promote school success and consequent positive developmental outcomes, parents can encourage high levels of children engagement with their schools. This also suggests parents to properly select schools with curriculum and programs most suitable for boosting child engagement with the school. For example, immigrant parents can send their children to schools with diverse teaching faculties, as immigrant students can have better engagement when they have teachers of similar race they can identify with.

Other than the school environment, the neighborhood is also an environment that can influence immigrant children’s development. Neighborhood institutional resources (access to educational, social, and health services) is found to be a large factor in determining how well immigrant children develop through providing adequate resources3. For example, a supper club formed in an immigrant neighborhood provides beneficial social resource for immigrant children, as families gather to share food and connect. Where there are more youth services, immigrant children have fewer internalizing problems (internal negative behaviors)3. In the case where children may face separation that lead to psychological symptoms1, having reliable neighborhood services may provide more support in place of parents. Furthermore, having educational resources translates to schools having quality programs and curriculum that foster school engagement and subsequently academic achievement2. As neighborhood institutional resources play such a large role, immigrant parents should choose to reside in the neighborhood with the most access to such resources to enable healthy development for their children.

In conclusion, aspects of the surrounding environment, parents, schools, and neighborhoods, greatly affect the immigrant child’s development. In the process of immigrating, parents need to pinpoint and intervene in such influential factors on their children’s development. Thus, they should have proper decision making as they commit to separation and select schools and neighborhoods.

  1. Suárez-Orozco, C., Bang, H. J., & Kim, H. Y. (2011). I felt like my heart was staying behind: Psychological implications of family separations & reunifications for immigrant youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 26(2), 222–257. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558410376830
  2. Motti-Stefanidi, F., & Masten, A. S. (2013). School success and school engagement of immigrant children and adolescents: A risk and resilience developmental perspective. European Psychologist, 18(2), 126–135.
  3. Leventhal, T., & Shuey, E. A. (2014). Neighborhood context and immigrant young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 50(6), 1771–1787. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036424
  4. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes.Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development, 1, 993-1028.

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)

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.

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.