One in four children in the United States live in immigrant families. The majority of children of immigrants are US citizens. Most (11.4 million) of these children have at least one parent who is a US citizen; another 7.2 million have two non-citizen parents.
Restrictive policies put forth by the Trump administration have destroyed families. A recent study investigated whether worry and concern about immigration policy were associated with poor mental and physical health among adolescent US citizens whose parents are Latinx immigrants. Brenda Eskenazi and colleagues collected data, predominantly from Mexican American families living in California, to examine adolescents’ health status before the 2016 presidential election (at age 14) and the first year after the election (at age 16).
The researchers encourage future research to track potentially enduring effects on youth exposed to anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric as they become young adults.
The researchers used parts the Perceived Immigration Policy Effects Scale and questioned 400 adolescents about their perception of threats and social vulnerability. One item, for example, asked if youth feared that they or a family member would be reported to immigration officials. Other items inquired about worries over family separation and having difficulties focusing in school due to immigration policies. The teens’ mothers also rated the adolescents’ overall health.
Nearly half of the teens worried at least sometimes about family separation because of deportation and being reported to the immigration officials. Comparing wellbeing before and after the 2016 election, the researchers observed that self-reported anxiety symptoms increased distinctly among individuals who reported more worry about immigration policy. Changes in blood pressure associated with high levels of anxiety were most pronounced in youth whose mothers had more recently immigrated to the US, a proxy for presumed undocumented status.
This study is the first to measure a sample of adolescents from immigrant families before and after the 2016 election. The researchers encourage future research to track potentially enduring effects on youth exposed to anti-immigrant policy and rhetoric as they become young adults.