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U.S. Children of Undocumented Parents Report Anxiety, Depression

KUT News
A study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies led by UT Austin School of Social Work Dean Luis Zayas suggests children of undocumented parents have high levels of anxiety.

A study from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, Davis, and the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría, Mexico City, looks at the mental health of children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are undocumented Mexican immigrants.  

These U.S.-born children of undocumented parents reported high levels of anxiety and also symptoms of depression if their parents were detained or deported. 

LuisZayas, the dean of UT Austin’s School of Social Work, led the study on the youngest citizens of the U.S. impacted by the country’s immigration policies.

"There’s a particular type of anxiety that these children experience that comes out of the uncertainty of detention and deportation of their parents," Zayas says. 

He and his fellow researchers worked with three groups of U.S. citizen children whose parents are undocumented Mexican immigrants. They looked at a group living in Mexico with deported parents, another group in the U.S. with parents who’ve been detained or deported and a third whose parents haven’t been detained or deported.

The children whose parents were deported were much more likely to show depressive symptoms including low self esteem. The ones whose parents weren’t deported showed high levels of separation anxiety.

"In the future we can see these children with continued anxiety, depression and other maladaptive behaviors as part of the ongoing stress of the anxiety of the stress of their parents detention and deportation," Zayas says.

The study was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies. Zayas has a related book coming out in April.