Table of Contents
Aspect of Culture
Vulnerability to Health and Social Risks
Immigration has emerged as a serious social issue in different regions of the world. For instance, immigration into the US has raised immense concerns due to the threat of terrorism. This has led to policy responses that aim at enhancing homeland security. On the other hand, immigration comes with its share of economic implications, racial discrimination, and juvenile delinquencies (Adelman et al., 2017; Ousey & Kubrin, 2013). Of great concern are the effects of immigration on children. Children are considered to be prone to the negative consequences arising from immigration, which is attributable to their dependency nature and challenges in adapting to family dynamics, especially in diverse cultural settings. It is implicit that immigration has taken diverse trends, which are not consistent with the traditional social theories such as the straight-line assimilation. As such, there is need to investigate this aspect from an advanced perspective. Evidence indicates that one in every five children in the US is either a second-generation immigrant or an immigrant child (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). This paper offers a comprehensive analysis of the effects of immigration on children.
Aspect of Culture
Cultural differences are one of the main issues that complicate the life of immigrants. In reality, a person is usually accustomed to his or her own culture. Therefore, exposure to a foreign culture creates social difficulties. As immigrant children move into new cultural settings, which are quite different from their native culture, they are faced with adaptation difficulties. For instance, Latino immigrants, a majority of US immigrants, have been experiencing immense cultural differences after moving from their countries of origin into the US (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2006). In their countries of origin, Latino culture exhibits differences across Latino subgroups. These cultural differences manifest themselves across other ethnic groups even those who have close ancestral origins. Therefore, children immigrants from all ethnic groups and races meet cultural adaptation uncertainties. Ordinarily, immigrants understand their cultural heritage that defines the structure of families and cultural values (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2006). This way, the functioning of all families and individuals, including children, is guided by the native culture.
Overall, children immigrants all over the world experience challenges during the acculturation process (Martinez, 2006). Acculturation is defined as the process of social change that occurs when individuals, families or groups are exposed to another culture (Martinez, 2006). In the case of immigrant children and their families, acculturation involves changing cultural values and attitudes and adopting the dominant culture of the host community in their new cultural settings. According to Martinez (2006), acculturation is characterized by immigration status, language use, chosen cultural behaviors, and bilingualism. Immigrant children, as well as adults experience significant psychological stress. This stress is attributable to several factors, which are involved in shaping the lives of immigrants in the new culture. For instance, being unfamiliar with traditions and customs of the host culture creates psychological stress to immigrant children. Second, unfamiliarity with cultural systems in their host cultures is believed to cause acculturation stress among immigrant children. Additionally, language barrier and confusion within the new cultural settings creates psychological stress to children. Finally, it is apparent that immigrant children experience stress due to transiting from majority cultures in their countries of origin to minority status in the host countries (Martinez, 2006). In most cases, minority status combined with anti-immigrant sentiments lead to discrimination and stigmatization (Hancock, 2005). These aspects cause detrimental psychological consequences on immigrant children. An outstanding example can be given with the experiences of Latino children and families in the US who are reported to be experiencing social stigmatization due to anti-Latino-immigrant sentiments and transition to minority status (Hancock, 2005).
Social interaction is the second issue that is associated with immigration. Evidence indicates that immigrant children experience problems in social interactions (Plenty & Jonsson, 2016). From a critical perspective, this social interaction issues among immigrant children are usually attributable to cultural differences, which impair their social competence, parental warmth, peer interaction, and parent-child communication. The fact that children’s developmental outcomes depend on cultural values and beliefs implies that cultural differences have negative consequences on children’s social competence. In native cultures, parents adopt socialization goals and childrearing practices based on their cultural values. Ordinarily, culture influences the interpretation of a child’s social behavior, an aspect that underlies social interactions. Therefore, it is apparent that raising children different cultural backgrounds affects their social competence. For instance, Chinese immigrant children who are raised in the US exhibit varying degrees of social competence compared to those brought up in Chinese native culture (Chen, 2000). According to Chen (2000), children who are raised in Asian societies exhibit a high level of socialization with their peers and this is characterized by self-control, cooperation and self-restrain. In contrast, children who are growing up in western societies exhibit assertive and self-directive social relationships. This implies that Asian immigrant children growing up in the Western societies such as the US experience low levels of social competence.
Immigration has also been found to affect peer-peer interaction and parent-child relationship. It is believed that peer-oriented extracurricular activities influences child’s interaction with their peers. In the case for immigrant children, their parents are likely to engage them in structured extracurricular activities based on their native culture. For instance, an American Chinese parent may engage his or her child in extracurricular activities based on Chinese culture. On the other hand, Native Americans engage their children in extracurricular activities based on the western culture. As immigrant children interact with their peers, a clear social difference that reflects cultural differences emerges impairing peer-peer interactions (von Grünigen et al., 2012). Similarly, cultural differences influence parent-child interactions. As immigrant children interact with their peers from the dominant culture, they learn cultural values and behaviors, through a process of assimilation. They adopt the culture of their hosts and abandon their native culture. However, immigrant parents have been found to exhibit slow assimilation to new cultural settings. As time goes by, immigrant children hold different cultural values and beliefs from those of their parents who tend to stick to their native cultural system and this impairs parent-child interactions (Chao, 2001). Finally, immigration introduces cultural differences, which affect parental warmth. From a critical perspective, parental warmth influences child’s social behavior. Therefore, exposure to different cultures is associated with challenges in parental warmth. The fact that parental warmth plays an integral role in bonding children to their parents, adoption of a new culture by parents is usually accompanied with consequences in parent-child interaction. In Eastern societies, parental warmth is usually expressed through investment, involvement, and support. This is contrary to the situation in the western societies that express parental warmth through physical and emotional love (Chao, 2001).
Communication is another aspect that is affected by immigration. In children, communication occurs in different ways that are relatively different from that of adults. Therefore, immigrant children experience communication problems in their host cultures. Some of the key communication aspects influenced by immigration among children include language development, language fluency, and parent-child communication, all of which are essential in children’s communication and social interaction. In immigrant status, children are forced to learn the language of the host community. This is not an easy task because language development requires a synergistic interaction with the environment. In most cases, dual language development occurs during early school years. Therefore, it is explicit that transition to school holds paramount significance in dual language learning among immigrant children. Children attempt to cope with cultural changes by developing communication strategies that will promote their survival. One of these strategies is learning the language of the host society. According to Worthy et al. (2003), immigrant children in the US tend to learn English at a fast pace during the early school years due to assimilative forces. However, they exhibit variable language competencies in home language and English. From a critical perspective, language competencies among immigrant children depend on the environment. In this context, both home linguistic and school linguistic environments are essential for dual language development. For immigrant children to exhibit effective communication, they are required to develop dual language competencies. This occurs in home linguistic and school linguistic environments. In the home linguistic environment, children’s language development is determined by language exposure within the family settings where siblings and parents play key roles in enhancing children’s communication (Place & Hoff, 2011).