March 01, 2018
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Latino parents experience psychological distress due to US immigration laws

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Changing immigration policies in the United States have caused many Latino parents of adolescents to experience high levels of psychological distress, according to findings published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“U.S. Latino parents of adolescents face unprecedented threats to family stability and well-being due to rapid and far-reaching transformations in U.S. immigration policy,” Kathleen M. Roche, MSW, PhD, from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, and colleagues wrote.

“However, little empirical data document how rapid changes in immigration news and actions are affecting Latino families,” they added.

To address this gap in knowledge, Roche and colleagues analyzed survey data on the psychological distress of 213 Latino parents of adolescents, as well as how immigration actions and news has affected them. Approximately two-thirds of participants were living in the United States legally — as a citizen, permanent resident or under temporary protected status — while the rest were undocumented.

Changing immigration policies in the United States have caused many Latino parents of adolescents to experience high levels of psychological distress.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The survey revealed that a significant number of Latino parents were adversely affected, emotionally and behaviorally, by recent immigration actions and news. Sixty-four percent of Latino parents reported worrying very often or always about family members being separated.

Due to recent immigration events, almost 40% of participants reported avoiding seeking medical care, help from police or social service support.

Additionally, nearly 50% of Latino parents very often or always warned their adolescent children to avoid authorities and alter certain behaviors or routines, including where they chose to spend time because of immigration news.

Permanent residents, undocumented parents and those with temporary protected status were significantly more likely to suffer from negative psychological states due to immigration actions than United States citizens. Parents who frequently worried because of immigration events were at least 300% more likely to experience high psychological distress, such as symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. After accounting for parents’ education, residency status and gender, the association between psychological distress and immigration actions remained.

“Such high levels of distress among parents raise concerns about immigration impacts on the entire family, including among teenagers,” Roche said in a press release. “Studies show that adolescents whose parents are anxious or depressed are at elevated risk of doing poorly in school, adopting risky behaviors, and developing lifelong health and mental health problems.”

The researchers noted that most of the Latino adolescent children of the parents who participated in the study were either citizens of the United States or protected under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals law.

“Thus, even though Latino adolescents have grown up in the United States and are here legally they still face serious risks to their health and well-being,” Elizabeth Vaquera, PhD, co-author and director of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute at George Washington University, said in the release. – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.