From Generation To...

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For children less than age 5, there were no significant differences between first- generation Mexican-origin and third- and later-generation white children; there were also no significant differences between first- and either later-generation Mexican-origin children or third- and later-generation black children in this age group. Data about the nutritional status of Asian children in immigrant families are limited and complicated by the diversity of Asian countries that send children to the United States.

As a result, an understanding of the economic, nutritional, and health conditions of the countries of origin is essential to assessing the condition of these children. In the s, several studies reported on the growth parameters of children in immigrant families from Southeast Asia. Dewey reported significant stunting for age among Vietnamese, Hmong, Mien, and Laotian first-generation preschoolers Dewey et al.

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In fact, Dewey found that children who had been in the United States longer were heavier but not taller. Other studies have similarly reported stunting among Southeast Asian children in immigrant families Barry et al. Some evidence shows that, with improved economic, nutritional, and health conditions, these children have exhibited significant catch-up growth Yip et al.

But others have found persistent growth problems among them, including among second-generation children , which have been attributed to persistent health and nutritional problems related to poverty Baldwin and Sutherland, ; Himes et al. The limited data on the dietary intake of Asian children in immigrant families indicate that they initially consume traditional diets, but then make a transition to American foods Story and Harris, , ; Thuy et al. Southeast Asian mothers have been observed to reduce the practice of breastfeeding, apparently as a result of the need to work, the desire for convenience, and the sense that baby formula is superior Serdula et al.

For Southeast Asians there are also findings of high levels of anemia—in some studies, among 18 to 36 percent of new immigrants Goldenring et al. The prevalence of anemia indicates not only poor intake of iron-rich foods, but also possible loss of iron from gastrointestinal bleeding, commonly associated with active parasitic infections Juckett, ; Sarfaty et al.

However, in addition to anemia from iron loss, Southeast Asian children in immigrant families also have a high prevalence of hemoglobinopathies Craft et al. One of the few longitudinal studies of school-age children in immigrant families was done by Schumacher et al. All the children in immigrant families showed improved growth velocities that were either at or above the median for third- and later-generation white children. That is, they grew at a faster rate than the third- and later-generation children , implying that they were experiencing catch-up growth. By subgroup, 60 to 90 percent of the children, even those who started at two standard deviations below the median, showed significant catch-up growth Schumacher et al.

There are a number of other conditions for which children in immigrant families may be at increased risk, based on current prevalence rates among low-income U. These include unintentional injury, the most important cause of mortality and serious disability for American children and adolescents; child maltreatment; and poor vision and dental health.

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Given higher rates of these conditions among children living in poverty, one might expect higher rates among children in immigrant families. However, parental report information from the NHANES III seen in Table shows that the prevalence of accidents, injury, and poisoning among all ages of Mexican-origin children is significantly lower than that of third- and later-generation white children of similar ages Mendoza and Dixon, Rates increase from the first to the third and later generations but remain lower than those reported by parents of third- and later-generation white children.

The opposite pattern is found for dental health. Parents of first-generation Mexican-origin children are significantly more likely to report that their children's teeth are in fair to poor condition than are parents of second- and third- and later-generation Mexican-origin children or parents of third- and later-generation white and black children Mendoza and Dixon, see Table The third- and later-generation children of Mexican origin were more likely, however, to be reported as having fair to poor teeth than were third- and later-generation white children.

For first-generation Mexican-origin youth and second-generation Mexican-origin 6- to year-olds, vision problems were also reported at levels that exceed those of third- and later-generation children. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health called Add Health provides estimates, based on new analyses conducted for the committee, of the perceived health status and health risk behavior of first- and second-generation adolescents compared with third-generation adolescents Harris, As shown in Table and Figure , overall and for most specific countries of origin, first-generation adolescents were less likely than second or third and later generations to consider themselves in poor health specifically with neurological impairment, obesity, or asthma or to have school absence due to health or emotional problems.

By the third generation, reports of poor health often exceed those of third- and later-generation white adolescents. First-generation adolescents also reported less delinquent or violent behavior and less substance abuse than did later generations see Table and Figure Among the first generation, those living in the United States for longer periods of time tended to be less healthy and to report increases in risk behaviors. Figures and provide additional information by ethnic group and immigrant status. Percent with physical health or school problems for first- and second-generation adolescents by generation and third- and later-generation adolescents by race and ethnicity: Source: Harris Percent engaging in health risk behavior for first- and second-generation adolescents by generation and third- and later-generation adolescents by race and ethnicity: Mean physical health and school problems index for adolescents by generation and by country or region of origin: Mean risk behavior index for adolescents by generation and by country or region of origin: The Add Health survey also found that first-generation immigrant adolescents were older at age of first intercourse and had a lower probability of having had intercourse than later generations.

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However, first-generation adolescents were less likely to use birth control at first intercourse. These generational differences remained after statistically excluding the effects of family income, family composition, and neighborhood factors Harris, Other research addresses the influence of acculturation to American society among adolescents, particularly in regard to reproductive patterns and contraceptive use in the Hispanic population. A review by Brindis indicates that, with increased acculturation, Hispanic girls engage in sexual activity at earlier ages and are more likely to give birth outside marriage and to leave school.

Moreover, Hispanic adolescents who consider themselves or aspire to be highly acculturated to American society report increased use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs Brindis et al. Among the general population, relatively early childbearing is a common occurrence among young Hispanic women, with those age 18 to 24 almost twice as likely as white women though less likely than black women to have had children. However, there are considerable differences in fertility rates among different Hispanic groups, with Mexican-origin women consistently having the highest and Cuban-origin women the lowest fertility rates.

Among adolescents in grades 7 through 12 in , health risk behaviors involving early sexual activity, nonuse of birth control, delinquency, use of violence, and substance use tended to increase with each generation for adolescents from all countries of origin taken together Table Harris, These risk behaviors also increased for each generation for children with origins in Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America, China, the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Africa and the Caribbean, and Europe and Canada, although the differences are not always statistically significant Harris, For most of these behaviors, the third- and later-generation rates approach and even exceed those of third- and later-generation white children.

In general, the mental health and adjustment of children and youth in immigrant families appears to be similar to, if not better, than that of U. There is, however, little systematic evidence available in this domain. Among the factors that have been measured with samples of children in immigrant families are acculturative stress , psychological adjustment, and academic achievement. A key factor in understanding psychosocial distress among children and youth in immigrant families is acculturative stress Aronowitz, ; Gil et al.

Acculturative stress is an aspect of children's adaptation to the cultures and social structures of a new host country. The kinds of problems associated with acculturative stress include:. A study examining acculturative stress among Hispanic teenage boys found that second- and third- and later-generation Hispanics from low acculturation backgrounds who were primarily Spanish speaking and who experienced little family pride, high levels of language conflicts, and perceived discrimination from the larger society were at greatest risk for psychological distress.

For first-generation adolescents, higher levels of acculturation corresponded with increased family conflict and decreased family pride. Bicultural individuals born in the United States experienced less acculturation stress, more family pride, and the most positive outcomes Gil et al. In general, mental health researchers have begun to establish that bicultural individuals are more likely to be better adjusted in a new society. This is due to the fact that they not only maintain the strengths of their home culture, but also retain supportive social links to that culture while they develop the language and social skills needed to successfully negotiate their new cultural setting LaFromboise et al.

However, more research is needed to further validate these relationships. Other studies have focused on the context of the receiving host communities and their impact on children 's adjustment. One study differentiated the reception of Cuban and Nicaraguan immigrants in Miami Gil and Vega, In this study, Cubans were more actively supported by the U.

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The results of this study emphasized that supporting the family was more important than supporting an ethnic enclave. This research also established that adolescents acculturated more quickly than their parents, particularly with respect to English language acquisition, and that boys acculturated more quickly than girls. A key finding of this study was that, at equivalent stages of adjustment, the Nicaraguans experienced more acculturation conflicts and perceived more discrimination than the Cubans.

Differences in the supports provided to these two Hispanic communities and differential response from the broader society in support of these groups were particularly reflected in the adolescents' adjustment. Others have found that the degree of acceptance provided by the ethnic enclave may also affect the adjustment of children in immigrant families. McKelvey and Webb examined the expectations of Vietnamese Amerasian adolescents and young adults born to Vietnamese mothers and American fathers before they left Vietnam and the actual support they received from the Vietnamese community upon arrival.

In general, the established Vietnamese community in the United States was not very supportive of the Amerasian Vietnamese. The investigators found that the adolescents who had higher expectations for support from the U. Vietnamese community and did not receive it had the highest depressive symptoms when they were assessed several months after arrival. The investigators also discovered other factors that may have contributed to the worsening mental health of the Amerasian youth following immigration, including traveling alone or with only partial family support, close identification with other youths from whom they were separated upon arrival in this country, limited education, and little or no knowledge of English.

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This study underlines the importance of the local ethnic community to the mental health and adjustment of children in immigrant families. The study also provides important cautions about decisions concerning the determination of ethnicity, the appropriate ethnic community of resettlement, and the response from the local community and national government. Although the family is the nexus of the growth and development of immigrant children , as it is for all children, differential rates of acculturation by parents and children have been associated with family problems and conflicts.

Variable rates of acculturation have also been linked with psychological distress among children in immigrant families Aronowitz, ; Chiu et al. Common family problems include illness of a key adult, difficulties maintaining the family's financial well-being, spousal conflict, and parental drinking. Such family problems have been predictive of higher rates of adolescent distress Zambrana and Silva-Palacios, In particular, girls seem to respond more strongly to family conflicts than boys, perhaps due to the fact that girls are thought to place more emphasis on social relations in developing their sense of self Zambrana and Silva-Palacios, Boys may be buffered from family conflicts because they tend to spend more time outside the home.

However, their tenuous family ties place them at risk for developing other kinds of problems. In general, very little is known about the effect of the migration experience itself on children and adolescents in immigrant families. Migration from one country to another and from rural to urban areas has been found to be stressful for adults Desjarlais et al.

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A study by McKelvey and Webb illustrates and other research confirms that the health and well-being of children in immigrant families may be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the decision to migrate, the resources of the family, and the response of the receiving community to the immigrants Cervantes and Castro, ; Portes and Rumbaut, ; Portes et al.

The stages of family adjustment over the course of the immigration experience also affect the psychological health of children and adolescents Aronowitz, ; Gil and Vega, ; Pawliuk et al. Often, the family's first year in the United States may be characterized by feelings of euphoria over the success of their immigrating. However, the second year tends to be the most stressful, as the impact of acculturative stress is completely experienced. The third and subsequent years vary greatly psychologically, depending on the interplay of family factors and contextual variables.

The response of the host community to the family may be particularly critical to the psychological well-being of children in immigrant families in the third and subsequent years. Some have speculated that during adolescence the stresses of immigration are likely to be expressed as identity problems pertaining to views of the self, issues of control and efficacy, and fit into the peer group, with the school being a particularly critical context for development Aronowitz, ; Gil et al.

Aronowitz notes that children in immigrant families face a challenging double bind: if they maintain their cultural heritage over time, they risk greater discrimination and alienation from the host culture; if they abandon their cultural heritage, they risk alienation and rejection from family and friends, with no guarantees of acceptance from the wider society.

Features like racial differences accentuate the differences between the immigrant child and the host society and heighten this dilemma Phinney and Chavira, The constructs assessed in Add Health were psychological distress and psychological well-being; NELS measured self-efficacy feelings of having control over the direction of one's life , self-concept, and alienation feelings of being unpopular among school peers. The NELS analyses Kao, indicated that first- and second-generation youth had significantly lower feelings of self-efficacy and higher feelings of alienation from their schoolmates than third- and later-generation white youth.

In contrast, the immigrant youth and their white counterparts with U. The Add Health analyses Harris, found no differences between first- and second-generation immigrant youth and third- and later-generation white youth in psychological well-being and distress see Table Taken together, these results may suggest that immigrant youth are able to maintain positive feelings about themselves and their general well-being, despite perceiving that they have relatively less control over their lives and are less well accepted by their school peers.

After the effects of socioeconomic status are statistically excluded, the NELS data continue to show relatively lower self-efficacy among first- and second-generation youth who are Hispanic and Asian compared with third- and later-generation white youth see Figures and Black youth in immigrant families and third- and later-generation white youth, however, no longer differ significantly. With respect to alienation, after controls are added, first- and second-generation Asian youth continue to show higher feelings of alienation than third- and later-generation white youth.

Among Hispanics, however, only the second generation continues to differ significantly from third- and later-generation white youth; among black youth, only the third generation shows significant differences. It is also important to note that, especially for Hispanic youth in immigrant families, low socioeconomic status is an important explanatory factor, leading to reports of lower self-efficacy and greater alienation.

Estimates of adolescent self-efficacy. Note: The baseline is the score of white third-generation youths native-born children of native-born parents. Source: Kao Estimates of adolescent alienation at school. When controls for socioeconomic influences such as family and neighborhood poverty are added in the Add Health data, differences in psychological well-being and distress emerge as well, but they are in the opposite direction from those found in the NELS data.

When differences are found, first- and second-generation immigrant youth demonstrate better psychological well-being than third- and later-generation white youth. There is one exception, however: adolescents from the Philippines, among the most Americanized of the immigrant groups studied and a group speaking English as its native language, experienced higher psychological distress in every generation than third- and latergeneration white adolescents. Family and neighborhood poverty were among the most influential predictors of psychological stress and well-being for all children.

Harris interprets the data as demonstrating the protective influence of immigrant status among youth that emerges once the effects of greater exposure to poverty and inner-city neighborhoods are eliminated. Some evidence of a protective function of immigrant status is also found in recent studies of suicide. A study of suicide trends among adolescent immigrants and ethnic groups in California found that first-generation immigrant adolescents were at a slightly lower risk of suicide, regardless of age, than third- and later-generation adolescents.

The suicide rate for immigrants was the same as that of lifelong residents among third- and later-generation white and black adolescents, but the rates for Mexican-origin adolescents were lower than those for all third- and later-generation adolescents Sorenson and Shen, A similarly low rate of suicide among Mexican-origin adolescents, compared with the third- and later-generation adolescent population, was found throughout the Southwest.

In Miami, a longitudinal study of Cuban, Nicaraguan, other Hispanic, black, and non-Hispanic white adolescent boys found the highest rate of suicide attempts among Nicaraguans and other Hispanics. In that study, higher levels of acculturation among minority groups were associated with an increase in suicide attempts. The Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study, conducted in Southern California San Diego and South Florida Miami and Fort Lauderdale , is the first large-scale survey of changes in the family, community, and educational experiences of children and youth in immigrant families from nine countries of origin in the Western hemisphere and Asia see Portes, ; Portes and MacLeod, ; Portes and Rumbaut, ; Rumbaut, b, , b, b.

Although it does not provide nationally representative estimates for children from these countries of origin and does not include comparative data from U. For example, Rumbaut b has recently identified the rise of a reactive ethnicity among immigrant youth. That is, some youth—notably those of Mexican and Filipino descent—increasingly identify themselves by their foreign nationality e.

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He speculates that this pattern points to a growing identification of immigrant youth with U. At the same time, the vast majority of youth in this sample agree that "there is no better country to live in than the United States. Research was conducted for the committee based on data from this survey, focusing on children and youth in immigrant families living in San Diego who were from Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos Rumbaut, a. This study assessed possible risk and protective factors for low self-esteem and depressive symptoms, including gender, country of origin, intra-family and extra-family contexts and stressors, educational aspirations and achievement, language preference and skills, and physical looks and popularity with the opposite sex.

The study found lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms among youth in immigrant families for girls and for children experiencing high parent-child conflict, low family cohesion, recent serious illness or disability in the family, a high proportion of English-only spoken in the neighborhood, a school perceived as unsafe, dissatisfaction with physical looks, and lack of popularity with the opposite sex. Subsequent analyses of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study Rumbaut, b also found that self-reports of experiences of racial and ethnic discrimination were associated with a higher incidence of depressive symptoms.

Self-esteem, in turn, is significantly associated with the school performance and ambitions of these youth in immigrant families. Interestingly, the NELS data discussed above also revealed the importance of language factors and school experiences for feelings of self-efficacy among Hispanic and black youth in immigrant families, but not for Asian youth in immigrant families see Kao, Despite the potential importance of these factors for enhancing or reducing self-esteem and depression among children in immigrant families, national estimates of the prevalence of their experience with most of these factors are not available exceptions are educational aspirations and achievements, as measured by NELS, and language proficiency, as measured by the decennial census.

Children from immigrant families face many potential challenges to their educational success. Many of them come from homes in which English is not the main spoken language.

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Parents are often unfamiliar or uncomfortable with avenues for participation in their children 's schooling, and some have received little formal education. Immigrant families tend to settle in large urban areas that have troubled school systems Fuligni, It follows that these children may experience difficulties at school—yet a handful of recent studies have begun to question this assumption.