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Immigrant children more resilient than U.S. born counterparts


A national study published in the journal “Pediatrics” found that Hispanic children in immigrant families were more resilient to violence than their U.S.-born counterparts.

The data behind this claim was collected from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, sponsored by the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. In this survey, there were over 12,000 Hispanic children who answered. This was 12 percent of the unweighted NSCH sample, which included just over 95,000 children.

Three types of questions were used in this study. These question types dealt with Adverse Childhood Exposure, immigrant family status, and family and child characteristics. ACE refers to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, family dysfunction and violence exposure. The study categorized these experiences as no ACE exposures-or zero ACEs, low ACE exposure-or one ACE and high ACE exposure-or greater than two ACEs.

Immigrant family status served as the primary independent variable.

Researchers categorized children as being part of an immigrant family if they were either foreign-born or born in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent. On the other hand, children were categorized as being part of a U.S.-native family if both they and their parents were born in the United States. The family and child characteristics section dealt with questions such as the mean age of the  child, household income-to-poverty ratio, highest parental educational attainment, family structure, maternal mental health, insurance type, child health status and primary language at home.

Family support was assessed based on how the patients responded to two questions: “In general, how well do you feel you are coping with the day-to-day demands of parenthood and/or raising children?” and “Is there someone that you can turn for day-to-day emotional help with parenthood and/or raising children?”

To make sure the self-reported evidence was reliable, the analysts used unadjusted multinomial logistic regression models. This is a method used to predict the probabilities of the different results of dependent variables, given a set of independent variables. Researchers altered this regression model for family and child characteristics to assess the function of these factors in explaining any differences between the groups.

The covariates, two or more random variables exhibiting correlated variation, in the multivariate model included household income-to-poverty ratio, highest household education, family structure, maternal mental health, family environment supportiveness, public benefit participation, child health status and insurance type.

The survey study revealed that children in immigrant families were more likely to live in low-income households, have public or no insurance, participate in public benefits, be part of a nonsingular woman family structure and have parents with an educational attainment that is less than high school level.

Despite this, the prevalence of high ACE exposure was significantly higher in children that were from native U.S. families as compared to children in immigrant families.

This stems  from the emphasis immigrant families place on family and community.

These strong social connections buffer the effects of ACE exposure. Immigrant families also hold more religious and spiritual values than native U.S. families.

When young people are grounded in their cultural identities, they may be better equipped to fight off adverse circumstances.

However, people of non-Western European descent, born in the United States, may feel a pull from both cultures and get themselves into some trouble due to a confusion of influences.

It also needs to be mentioned that the ACE questions themselves may not be able to capture the true immigrant experience. For example, affirmative responses to a question about discrimination were relatively low in number. Meanwhile, it is known that minorities tend to underreport racism and discrimination as a significant stressor because these experiences may be perceived as commonplace and “part of the immigrant experience.”

The study provided interesting things for Baruch College students to consider.

Ali Troncoso, a freshman and prospective economics major, said that he found it very surprising that Hispanic children born in the United States had higher odds of ACEs. It made him think that “even though immigrant families come to the U.S. for better economic opportunities, they might actually be coming to worse social situations in places like the hood.”

Hugh Shin, another freshman and a prospective political science major, added on that “it's important to realize that just because the statistics point toward optimistic results, such as how Hispanic children are less exposed to issues like …  violence, this doesn't necessarily indicate that this is a relationship of causation where people can learn from these families. Immigrant families are living under different conditions with a different set of demands … whereas people like you and I would consider not having enough money for your second cup of coffee to be a struggle.”

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