Friday, November 21, 2014

Consequences of Stress on Children's Development

“In a country that emphasizes the importance of family unity in the socialization and upbringing of its children, an immigration system that promotes family separation is a broken system.” (Kremer, et al, 2009)

“The President asked Homeland Security Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to inform recommendations on reforming our broken immigration system through executive action.” (Homeland Security, 2014)

(I wrote this blog before President Obama announced the new amnesty program for the immigrants. It looks like only 4.4 million of them will benefit from the new amnesty, and that includes children which is good news.)

Immigration is a thorny issue in America and especially in the Southwest near the United States and Mexico borders. I never thought much about the immigrants and the living conditions they would endure. Today, I have been thinking biosocial, cognitive, and psychology impacts on those children.

When I was a child, I would see migrant workers passing through my Indiana hometown over the summers. They would find work on the numerous farms. Then, I would not pay much attention to them. Today, I wonder how many children fall through cracks from this kind of migratory lifestyle.

We have different kinds of immigrant families. There are families who have had been in the United States for years and have children. They live in constant fear that they would be caught and deported. They fear both work and home raids. Most of all, they fear separation from children as a result of raids. This has the most serious consequence on the children.

Kremer et al (2009) outlined the long-term biosocial and psychosocial harm to those children whose parents are deported:
1. The trauma experienced in the immediate aftermath of the enforcement deportation action;
2. The separation of the family due to the detention and ultimate removal of a parent;
3. Devastating and long-lasting financial and emotional harm on the children left behind;
4. Families left without their primary breadwinner, many consisting of stay-at-home mothers who themselves are undocumented and cannot work;
5. Those parents whose spouses have been deported have encountered significant difficulties providing even the basic necessities to their children;
6. Children who have been in school and doing well would become withdrawn and have setbacks in their academic progress; and
7. There would be significant increases in children’s anxiety, depression, feelings of abandonment, eating and sleeping disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and behavioral changes among children who have experienced the loss of a loved one or who witnessed the raids in action.

There’s a sizable Hispanic population in our small beach town. Their children go to our schools. The schools recognize that the children are under stress because of their parents’ poverty and medical or dental needs. In a school & church volunteer partnership, our community provides free medical and dental care at a local preschool for all of the Hispanic families living in our community. Our church provides after-school and evening tutoring not only for students but also English classes for the parents so that the families stay together. Our church also has a breakfast, homework, & mentoring club at the middle school.
I don’t know if all that compensates for the stress those children endure in their lives that should not be happening.

I am thinking of children who are suffering from the devastating spread of Ebola in Liberia and the surrounding countries. They are experiencing losses of their parents and extended family members. First, they try to take care of people who have Ebola and die from them. Then they experience people in protective clothing entering their villages and taking them away to unknown places.

There are 2.5 million children under the age of 5 living in areas affected by Ebola. (Save the Children, 2014) They are more able to survive the outbreak of Ebola. But they lose their parents to Ebola and the lives that they are familiar with.

Save the Children have a Ebola Relief Fund where we can donate. Although celebrities have donated a total of 354 million dollars, Bono, the singer, wrote in a blog:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- and the world's inept initial response to it --shows how fragile we are on all fronts. Because the epidemic isn't just a failure of health systems in poor countries, or of leadership and coordination by wealthy ones, it's also a failure of our value system. If governments the world over had kept their promises to fight extreme poverty and diseases, the three countries most affected would have had stronger national immune systems.

In this region, they are suffering from more than just Ebola. They also suffer from war, poverty, natural disaster, hunger, chaos, disease, and violence. Those stressors impede the normal biosocial and psychosocial developments in ways that would be impossible to gauge.


Bono. (November, 2014) Ebola is what happens when promises are broken. The Huffington Post. November 20, 2014. Retrieved from:

Fixing our broken immigration system through executive action: key facts. (2014) Homeland Security. Retrieved from:

Kremer, J. D., Moccio, K. A., and Hammell, J. W. (2009). Severing a Lifeline: The Neglect of Citizen Children in America’s Immigration Enforcement Policy. A Report to the The Urban Institute. Retrieved from:

Save the Children’s Relief Fund. (November 2014) Retrieved from:


  1. Marla,
    Your post is very informative. I agree there are children around the world who are suffering on all levels, and just the thought of children having to be separated from their family is very sad.

  2. This post shares so much valuable information! Thank you for sharing. I agree that we need to fix our immigration system and think about the children that belong to these adults.
    I was also so happy to read about what your community does for the hispanic immigrants that live there. If we could all do half as much as your community is doing it could really lighten the load on these small children.
    As far as ebola, Bono couldn't have said it better. It is a shame that we have let poverty get this far.
    This assignment has really shown me just how lucky I am to have been born in this country, to a middle class family.

  3. Hi Marla, Thank you for shedding light on very current issues that effect children. Thank you for your efforts to help immigrant families stay together. The psychological result of abandonment can be heartbreaking. I have a friend who had psychological problems for years. Finally she found out she had been separated from her mother at age 18 months to live with grandparents because her mother was sick. She was reunited with her mother after a few months. She didn't remember the incident and the family had no idea it was effecting her psyche years later, into her adulthood. Attachment is a powerful force that needs to be protected.

  4. Marla, this is a sensitive political issue, and I commend you for sharing your views. The children from immigrant parents go through many stresses we aren't aware about, and all to find a better life. I believe the separation of children and parents has to stop, but it is still in the parents' hands. They must be a benefit to the US, and not bring harm. Again, this is a sensitive issue, but an important one to resolve, for children's well being.

  5. Marla, the information you provided both about the children of immigrants and children in Liberia suffering from Ebola in their country and their families. It is heartbreaking to think about how much they suffer, and it makes one think about how fortunate we all are here. Thank you for sharing!