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Family plays a critical role in the lives of immigrant-origin children and youth (see for example, Garcia Coll & Marks, 2012; Suárez-Orozco, et al, 2010). Many immigrant-origin families share collectivistic values of familism and interdependence, common in their home countries. These values and practices, particularly common among Asian Pacific and Latino origin families, stand in stark contrast to the more individualistic U.S. cultural schemas (see for example, Tseng, 2004). Immigrant youth frequently contribute to family expenses at home and abroad, care for siblings and extended family members, translate for family members, and help navigate social institutions (see for example, Faulstich- Orellana, 2009).

The cultural demands of family interdependence highlight lifelong financial and emotional support among family members, living close to or with parents, and consulting parents on important decisions (see for example, Tseng, 2004). Moreover, siblings and cousins in Latino immigrant-origin children and youth families spend more time together in shared activities than with their parents, other adult kin, or their European American peers (see for example, Updegraff, et al., 2005) which can serve as a tremendous (often under-recognized) resource.

Though family members’ collective contributions often support adaptation and developmental tasks, (see for example, Cardoso & Thompson, 2010) immigrant-origin children and youth may also navigate discordant cultural values between home and school that can have important repercussions for development. Cross-cultural conflict in value systems has been well-documented with young children in primary schools (see for example, Greenfield & Quiroz, 2013) as well as in adolescence (see for example, Marks, Patton, & Coyne, 2011). In the U.S., intergenerational conflicts between the family and adolescents have been linked to higher rates of risk behaviors (see for example, Marks, Ejesi, & Garcia Coll, 2014).

bigstock Ukrainian Refugee Family With 453123611Another specific challenge that many immigrant families undergo is the process of family separations and reunifications during migration and post-settlement. Immigrant parents must often make the difficult decision to leave children behind as they venture forth to establish themselves in a new land before sending for their children. For example, in a study of 400 newcomer U.S. children from five sending origins, more than three-quarters of the participants had been separated from one or both parents from 2-10 years; the longer the separation, the more complicated the reunification and the more likely children were to report negative wellbeing (see Suárez-Orozco, Bang, & Kim, 2011). Further, increasing numbers of unaccompanied children are migrating on their own, sometimes seeking their parents but most frequently fleeing catastrophic violence in their homeland (see Krogstad, Gonzalez-Barrera, & Lopez, 2014). Further, a growing number of youth experience forcible separation from their family members through detention and deportation (Dreby, 2012). While exact data is difficult to come by, it is estimated that approximately half a million children have experienced the deportation of a parent in between 2009 and 2013, the majority of whom are citizen children with clear negative developmental implications for wellbeing.

Learn more

Bouza, J., Camacho-Thompson, D. E., Carlo, G., Franco, X., Coll, C. G., Halgunseth, L. C., & Suárez-Orozco, C., White, R. M. B. (2018). The science is clear: Separating families has long-term damaging psychological and health consequences for children, families, and communities. Society for Research in Child Development, 20.

Cardoso, J. B., & Thompson, S. J. (2010). Common themes of resilience among Latino immigrant families: A systematic review of the literature. Families in Society, 91(3), 257-265.

Orellana, M. F. (2009). Translating childhoods: Immigrant youth, language, and culture. Rutgers University Press.

Mejívar, C. & Cervantes, A. G. (2016). The effects of parental undocumented status on families and children. American Psychological Association.