Children in Immigrant Families
No group of children in America is expanding more rapidly than those in immigrant families. During the seven years from 1990 to 1997, the number of children in immigrant families grew by 47 percent, compared with only 7 percent for U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents. By 1997, nearly one of every five (14 million) children was an immigrant or had immigrant parents. More than three-fourths of children in immigrant families have been U.S. citizens all their lives because they were born in this country, and fewer than one-fourth immigrated to the United States from another country.
The physical and mental health of children in immigrant families is consequential for their civic participation, labor force productivity, and quality of parenting in the coming years and decades. Whether they experience healthy development and successful adaptation to life in 21st-century America will profoundly affect their roles as future citizens, workers, and parents.
CHARGE AND SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Despite the importance of children in immigrant families to the social and economic future of the United States, existing scientific research on them is disturbingly sparse. For this reason,
the Committee on the Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families was charged with three tasks:
To synthesize the relevant research literature and present results from secondary analyses of existing data sets (see National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1998) to provide demographic descriptions of children in immigrant families;
To clarify what is known about the varying trajectories that now characterize the families and the development of immigrant children, about the risk and protective factors associated with the differential health and well-being of different immigrant groups, and about the delivery of health and social services to these groups; and
To assess the adequacy of existing data and make recommendations for new data collection and research to inform and improve public policy and programs.
A large and complex array of conditions can influence the physical and mental health of children, and factors associated with immigration expand the range and complexity of these conditions. Their health and adjustment cannot be addressed without attending to the factors relevant to all children generally; insofar as possible, this report discusses ways in which these factors are similar or different for children in immigrant families and U.S.-born children in U.S.-born families. But we are especially interested in the circumstances that may be particularly relevant to these children, as well as those that may vary greatly across children whose families hail from different continents or countries.
This report does not address many important issues of immigration processes and policies that are not directly linked to the health and adjustment of children in immigrant families, nor does it explore in detail the processes influencing the physical and mental health of children and adolescents generally. For example, the report does not assess the economic, demographic, or fiscal effects of immigration (see National Research Council, 1997). It does not provide an analysis of why the recent changes in welfare policy for immigrants came about, or of their possible effects on
future immigrant streams, return migration, or trends in the number of immigrants seeking citizenship. The report does not provide a detailed assessment of the causes or reasons for immigration to the United States. It also does not address issues related to foreign adoption.
Similarly, although poverty and violence impose major burdens on health—burdens shared by people in developing and developed countries alike (Institute of Medicine, 1997)—this report does not review or analyze in detail the mechanisms by which poverty or violence foster physical, psychological, or social difficulties among children and youth. Because many children in immigrant families live in poverty or may be exposed to violence, however, and because poverty and exposure to violence can profoundly affect health, this report does discuss experience with such conditions among children in immigrant families.
Although the movement of people across national borders, not only through migration but also through tourism and international commerce, is inevitably associated with transfers of health risks, such as infectious diseases, contaminated foods, terrorism, and legal or banned toxic substances, the primary focus of this report on children precludes discussion of these issues. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine (1997) discusses the critical need for major research efforts devoted to identifying the relationships linking international movements, poverty, and health.
Finally, the history and major sources of support for this study led to a focus on health care and social welfare policies for children in immigrant families. As a result, the report does not address the many critical issues facing education policy for them. The report also does not provide a thorough analysis of their educational progress. It does, however, include some discussion of achievement outcomes in the context of assessing their adjustment (see Chapter 3). In the committee's judgment, these issues warrant a thorough analysis in light of relevant emerging new research and proposed major shifts in state education policy for children in immigrant families.
THE POLICY CONTEXT
In this context, children in immigrant families are an important focus of attention for a number of interrelated reasons, discussed below.
Future Population Growth
Children in immigrant families now have a dominant role in future U.S. population growth. Today, the fertility rate in the United States is near or below the level required to replace the population, and the baby-boom generation is moving beyond childbearing ages. Therefore, most future growth in the population of the United States will occur primarily through immigration and through births to immigrants and their descendants (Rumbaut, 1998b).
In fact, largely because most immigrants belong to Hispanic or nonwhite racial and ethnic minorities, Census Bureau projections indicate that the proportion of children under age 18 who are white and non-Hispanic1 will decline steadily and rapidly, from about 69 percent in 1990 to 50 percent in 2030 (Day, 1993). Conversely, by 2030, children who are Hispanic, black, or some other racial minority will constitute the other half of the childhood population of the United States, growing from 30 percent in 1990. As the white majority becomes the numerical minority, America's well-being will increasingly depend on the children
who today live in immigrant families and on the children they will bear as adults.
The U.S. immigrant population is concentrated in a handful of states and in less than a dozen major metropolitan areas. In 1990, 76 percent of immigrants arriving in the United States in the 1980s resided in only six states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois (National Research Council, 1997).
Accordingly, children in immigrant families show pronounced geographic concentrations. In 1990, California accounted for 35 percent of all children in immigrant families, followed by New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, at 12, 11, 7, 5, and 4 percent, respectively, for a total of 74 percent in six states. An additional seven states had at least 2 percent of all children in immigrant families: Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. Three less populous states also had comparatively high proportions (higher than the national average) of children in immigrant families: Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Nevada. These 16 states accounted for 84 percent of all children in immigrant families (Hernandez and Darke, 1998).
The increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population due to immigration and differential birth rates among immigrants will occur in the context of an aging population. Between 1990 and 2040, as the population of children is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, the proportion of children in the total population is projected to decline from 26 to 23 percent. Although increased racial and ethnic diversity will occur at all ages, greater increases will occur at younger ages. Projections indicate that, by 2040, 75 percent of the elderly will be white, compared with 59 percent of working-age adults and 50 percent for children. As a result, the growing elderly population will depend increasingly for its economic support on the productive activities
of working-age adults who are members of racial or ethnic minorities.
Welfare reform is another major reason for the importance of an increasing focus on immigrant children and families. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 fundamentally altered the nature of the safety net for people in need. The ramifications of the new law are particularly far-reaching for legal resident immigrants, including children, who arrived in the United States after August 1996, eliminating their eligibility for many programs until and unless they become U.S. citizens.
As discussed in Chapter 4, the law's impact on children in immigrant families derives in large part from new restrictions on a wide range of benefits, including income assistance, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Food Stamp Program, and noncash services. Moreover, the devolution of responsibilities from the federal to state governments implies that eligibility for and access to publicly funded health, medical, and social services by children in immigrant families will depend increasingly on decisions and investments of state and local governments. States now have discretion in determining eligibility for many programs for immigrants residing in the United States prior to August 1996. Because children in immigrant families are concentrated in a few states, and a small number of states have comparatively high proportions of children living in immigrant families, the eligibility rules in these states will be critical both to these children and to state expenditures. Major public policy research is needed to focus on the consequences of this significant departure from prior policy.
THE SCIENTIFIC CONTEXT
The health and development of children in immigrant families are severely understudied issues. Little attention has been paid to them in studies of immigrants and their assimilation, and they have been virtually invisible in the developmental research
literature (Booth et al., 1997; Buriel, 1994; Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 1997; Laosa, 1990, 1997; Rumbaut, 1997a). The absence of a research literature specifically on children in immigrant families posed a major challenge to the committee's inquiry into their circumstances, well-being, and life prospects.
In our efforts to develop recommendations to fill this large gap, the committee examined key concepts and recent advances in four research traditions that have the potential to inform the development of a knowledge base on children in immigrant families: (1) immigration and assimilation, (2) the development of minority children, (3) life-course development, and (4) risk and protective factors in development. This research extends across the disciplinary boundaries of the behavioral and social sciences and embraces cross-national networks of investigators. It provides a bridge to the long-standing research on immigration and suggests the structure of an emerging research enterprise focused on children in immigrant families. We briefly describe key developments in these research traditions that the committee views as relevant to understanding the development of these children.
Immigration and Assimilation
The concept of assimilation has been at the center of research on U.S. immigration since the turn of the century (Gordon, 1964; Park and Burgess, 1924; Warner and Srole, 1945). Both the terminology of assimilation and research in this area have been controversial, in part due to their close ties to the politics of race. Studies of assimilation have traditionally focused on the experiences of adults and, accordingly, have not been influenced by nor have exerted influence on theory in child development. Research on children in immigrant families has the potential to bring theory and research on assimilation and development into closer alignment and thereby enhance research on immigrants of all ages.
Historically, study of the assimilation of immigrants to the United States involved the study of European ethnic groups in American society. This literature conceived of assimilation not only as taking place within a single immigrant generation, but also as a process occurring over the course of successive generations (Alba and Nee, 1997; Gans, 1992; Lieberson, 1973). Assimi-
lation was operationalized primarily by examining educational and economic attainments, as well as intermarriage and childbearing behavior (Chiswick, 1977, 1978, 1986; Lieberson and Waters, 1988; Neidert and Farley, 1985; Warner and Srole, 1945).
Early literature also pointed to the persistence of diverse outcomes and distinct ethnic subcultures (Gordon, 1964; Lieberson and Waters, 1988; Lind, 1995), cautioning that assimilation does not occur at the same pace or even in the same direction for all immigrants. Accordingly, research in this area employed a comparative historical approach that examined differing contexts of ethnic contact, competition, conflict, and assimilation (Shibutani and Kwan, 1965).
Following in this tradition, the literature on more recent immigrants examines ways in which the outcomes of the assimilation process are affected by the changing opportunities for upward mobility and social integration that different immigrants confront (Alba and Nee, 1997; Borjas, 1995; Gans, 1992; Nee et al., 1994; Lalonde and Topel, 1991; Rumbaut, 1997b). Recent evidence linking declining health and mental health outcomes among immigrants to length of time in the United States (Guendelman and Abrams, 1995; Marks et al., 1990; Rumbaut and Weeks, 1996) has, in particular, spurred research that considers the adaptation process as one of "segmented" assimilation to the cultural practices, health behaviors, and economic fortunes that characterize different sectors of American society (Alba and Nee, 1996; Lalonde and Topel, 1991; Portes, 1996; Rumbaut, 1997a).
This contemporary literature suggests that society's incorporation of the children of immigrants today is likely to take different pathways, depending on a variety of conditions and contexts, vulnerabilities, and resources. The new immigration is characterized by enormous variation in ethnic and socioeconomic background, neighborhood contexts, and the opportunities for work experience and education. At the turn of the century, most jobs required low levels of skill, but the expanding urban-industrial economy provided opportunities for upward economic mobility, and high levels of intergenerational assimilation may have been related to the subsequent low levels of immigration. For recent immigrants with limited education and skills who are entering an economy with many jobs that require high educational attain-
ments, their opportunities for upward economic mobility may be more limited, and continuing immigration may slow assimilation.
As a result, rather than being a homogenizing experience, assimilation may produce highly divergent trajectories among different immigrant groups, with some experiencing upward mobility and others experiencing persistent poverty and other detrimental outcomes (Portes and Rumbaut, 1996; Portes and Zhou, 1993; Rumbaut, 1994b). Moreover, the assimilation process may not be uniform in terms of variations in health and nutrition, acquisition of English, educational and economic attainments, and cultural experiences.
Points of intersection between research on assimilation and models of development can be readily identified. Certainly, the economic, linguistic, and social assimilation of immigrant parents will influence the well-being of their children and the likelihood that they will successfully adapt to American society. Immigrant parents who experience economic assimilation are more able to provide the material, social, and cultural resources that facilitate the successful adaptation of their children. However, in the absence of economic assimilation, the harsher material circumstances and sociocultural isolation of immigrants locked into lowpaying jobs may impede successful adaptation by their children. it is clearly important to study separately the well-being and adaptation of children of more highly educated immigrants who experience more rapid economic assimilation and that of children whose parents enter the United States with less education and fewer skills.
Knowledge about the actual adaptation patterns of the children of immigrants and how they relate to the assets, circumstances, and fortunes of their parents is quite fragmentary. Studies of the children, more so than of their parents, raise important issues about how development and adaptation to American society are affected by the process of migration (Laosa, 1984). For example, how does age at entry and level of schooling affect assimilation? Research on children in immigrant families has identified their responses to acculturative stress as central to their adaptation in other arenas, ranging from school engagement and achievement to mental health (Chud, 1982; Cooper et al., 1994; Laosa, 1989, 1997). Yet little is known about subjective aspects of
their experiences (for example, modes of ethnic self-identification, aspirations for the future, intergenerational cohesion or conflict within families) and how these may be related to more objective indices of adaptation, such as school performance and English acquisition (Rumbaut, 1994b).
Finally, Buriel and De Ment (1997) have proposed that the family acculturates as a unit and conditions the acculturation of individual members, suggesting the need for family-level and longitudinal studies of children's assimilation and the effects on their health and well-being. As noted by Rumbaut (1997a:498), "Becoming American ... may well turn out to be a lifelong occupation [suggesting] the importance of applying a life-course perspective to the analysis of social change and individual identity."
Racial and Ethnic Stratification and the Development of Minority Children
The integration of immigrants into American society is not only a matter of education and economics. It is also profoundly affected by processes of racial and ethnic stratification. At the beginning of the 20th century, most immigrants came from Europe. Despite the enormous racial differences perceived at the turn of the century to separate northwest and southeast Europeans (U.S. Immigration [Dillingham] Commission, 1911), this earlier wave of immigrants has been characterized by high levels of intergenerational assimilation. Today, most immigrants come from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia and are racially classified as Asians, blacks, Hispanics, or whites, using American norms that may be quite different from the racial and ethnic stratification systems in their homelands (Alba, 1990; McDaniel, 1995).
The processes through which race and ethnicity affect the assimilation of today's immigrants are poorly understood. Research has been based largely on models developed for U.S.-born minority populations, which focus on understanding the lingering effects of the "failed assimilation" of Africans brought to the United States through practices of slave trading or immigrating voluntarily but becoming absorbed into the category of "black American." This literature has focused on the role of discrimination, residential segregation, and racial differences in educational at-
tainment, labor force attachment, and marital, childbearing, and criminal behavior, which are viewed as both fostering and resulting from racial stratification. But it is increasingly accepted that immigrants, as well as U.S.-born minorities, assimilate as members of different racial and ethnic groups and that this has vast implications for their life chances in the context of racially and ethnically based social hierarchies in the United States (Alba and Nee, 1997; Borjas, 1995; Gans, 1992; Keith and Herring, 1991; Lalonde and Topel, 1991; McDaniel, 1995; Nee et al., 1994; Rumbaut, 1997b; Telles and Murguia, 1990).
Critical to understanding the role of racial and ethnic stratification in the adjustment of immigrants to American culture and society is the issue of identity formation. Recent research on ethnic identity formation has focused on social learning experiences, through which children learn about their race and ethnicity starting at very young ages. These experiences may involve exposure to discrimination and, in turn, shape children's understanding of their racial and ethnic identity and its implications for self-appraisals over the life course (Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Rumbaut, 1994b; 1997a, 1997b; Spencer and Markstrom-Adams, 1990). The work of Rumbaut and his colleagues has called attention to the complexity of identity development among immigrant children and youth (Rumbaut, 1994b, 1998b). The ethnic identities of these children range from a plain "American" identity to national-origin (e.g., "Cuban") and pan-ethnic (e.g., "Asian'') identities and often evolve over the course of development. Moreover, these more detailed categories of ethnic identity have been found to predict patterns of school achievement and aspirations. The roles of bilingualism and second-language acquisition are also critical issues, not only in identity formation, but also in understanding family processes, adaptation to and performance in school, and peer relations (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 1997).
Although this research highlights strengths as well as signs of trouble and deprivation in multicultural and minority populations, it has not focused on the development of children in immigrant families. One notable exception is the emerging literature on biculturalism and multiculturalism (Buriel, 1984, 1994; Buriel and De Ment, 1997; Chud, 1982; Gutierrez and Sameroff, 1990;
Ogbu, 1994; Szapocznik and Kurtines, 1980). This literature poses the intriguing question of when does the ability to function effectively in two or more cultures act to enhance or impede development. For example, does it lead to an expanded repertoire of coping strategies? Or, in contrast, does it produce identity confusion and conflicts within families? To date, research on biculturalism suggests that children in immigrant families who are able to accept both their own and the new host cultures are more likely to be well-adjusted and to achieve in school (Buriel, 1994). But this very new literature focuses primarily on limited samples of Mexican-origin immigrants, with few replicated findings. Other evidence suggests that bilingualism has a positive effect on child school achievement only until the immigrant parents themselves achieve a moderate level of English language proficiency (Mouw and Xie, 1997).
The recent resurgence of research on minority children may provide insights into the development of today's children in immigrant families, who are primarily of Hispanic and Asian origins. This literature similarly faces the triple challenge of distinguishing developmental mechanisms that are unique or more prominent for racial and ethnic minority children from those that characterize development for all children, understanding diversity within minority populations, and disentangling the consequences of minority status from those of its strong association with poverty.
Research on minority children also provides a compelling illustration of the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to widely varying outcomes within groups (McLoyd, 1990; McLoyd and Randolph, 1984). Variables that best explain differences in achievement within certain minority groups, for example, are sometimes different from those that best explain differences between groups (Howard and Scott, 1981). However, because research to date has been limited mainly to a single minority group—blacks—information about the extent to which processes are similar or different for other minority groups or immigrant populations awaits future research.
Life-Course and Ecological Models of Development
The field of developmental psychology, with its legacy of longitudinal research (see Block, 1971; Eichorn et al., 1981; Elder, 1974; Holahan et al., 1995; Kagan and Moss, 1962) and closely aligned theories of social ecology (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1992; Bronfenbrenner and Ceci, 1994) and life-course and life-span development (Baltes et al., 1997; Elder, 1997; Featherman and Lerner, 1985), has brought concepts of time and place to the forefront of how development is now understood to unfold—concepts that have obvious significance and perhaps special meaning for the study of children in immigrant families. These literatures have highlighted the critical importance of studying children as they develop over years or decades and across the changing social contexts of families, neighborhoods, local institutions, government policies, and social, economic, and cultural systems. They have also identified the need to pay special attention to the order and timing of events and social roles as they are experienced over the course of individual and intergenerational development, and to focus on transitional events and periods as windows for gaining insights into successful or unsuccessful responses to changing life circumstances.
The ecological approach highlights the embedded nature of both individuals and institutions that affect children's development. Family members, friends, caregivers, and teachers, as well as the nature of relationships among these individuals in the immediate, everyday environment, affect children's development and well-being. More broadly, the policies and practices of local social institutions, such as town or state governments, schools, places of worship, and the local media, can affect child development directly or by influencing activities and relationships among people in the child's immediate environment. Finally, at the broadest level, the national government, international organizations, transnational processes, and economic, religious, and cultural systems can influence child outcomes by affecting the nature and availability of resources and by shaping processes at the local, family, and individual level.
Life-course theory, which emerged in the 1960s in part from the increasing recognition that children who grow up in different historical times and places experience distinct contexts for development (Elder, 1997), has brought to the study of human development a temporal view of individual development across historical time and changing environments. These time- and place-bound contexts, in turn, shape the particular adversities and opportunities that impinge on and influence children's development.
As the research of Elder and his colleagues illustrates, children growing up in families affected by the Great Depression (Elder, 1974) or the farm crisis of the 1980s (Conger and Elder, 1994) show patterns of development that can be explained only when traced back to their age, family circumstances, and surrounding social relationships at the time these socioeconomic events occurred. The life-span perspective (Baltes and Brim, 1979; Baltes et al., 1997; Featherman, 1983) has demonstrated that individuals change and adapt not only during childhood but also into the middle and elderly years, thereby extending the time lines for longitudinal research and explicitly linking research on children in immigrant families to more prominent concerns about the economic fortunes and assimilation of adult immigrants.
By linking societal and historical changes to individual lives and providing conceptual models and strategies for studying these links as they shape family dynamics, social roles, and child development over time, contemporary theories of development bear directly on the lives of children in immigrant families. Their lives are inextricably tied to particular historical and political events in both their countries of origin and in the United States; to immigration and resettlement transitions experienced by them, their parents, or their grandparents; and to the context of their receiving communities and the roles they assume within these communities.
Researchers who have studied children in immigrant families agree that more explicit attention is needed to their migration histories, social norms and cultural traditions in both sending and receiving communities, and the changing social-familial roles that often accompany the migration experience (Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 1997; Laosa, 1997). Unfortunately, the focus of study
in this fledgling area of research has been on negative outcomes and obvious stresses associated with the transitions of migration and resettlement, rather than on normative experiences or processes that lead to differential outcomes (Laosa, 1997). As a consequence, research has largely overlooked the children who successfully adapt—presumably the majority of them—despite the presence of challenging circumstances.
Little disagreement exists that migration from one country to another is stressful (Desjarlais et al., 1995; Laosa, 1990, 1997). However, the conditions surrounding the decision to migrate as well as the migration process itself—including who (if anyone) accompanies the child, family resources, and the response of the receiving community—are likely to produce varying outcomes for both children and their families. Changes that reverberate from the migration experience, such as the dissolution of and need to reestablish supportive interpersonal bonds, and cultural differences across family members in gender and generational role expectations that can produce marital and parent-child tensions, also warrant study over time (Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 1997).
The wide range of policies that flow from conditions of entry (for example, refugee or not, legal or illegal) are a critical component of these transitions, given their direct implications for the access of children to public benefits and services. Each of these issues, in turn, requires a developmental approach that considers how the role and importance of various factors involved in the processes of migration and adaptation are mediated and differentiated by the age of the child (Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 1997; Hirschman, 1994; Laosa, 1989; de Leon Siantz, 1997).
Risk and Protection in Child Development
Many studies have identified a wide range of conditions that can compromise or impair children's development, including poverty, low levels of parental education, living in a one-parent family or in large families with many siblings, exposure to racial or ethnic discrimination, residential mobility, and depleted neighborhood resources (Bradley and Whiteside-Mansell, 1997; Brooks-Gunn et al., 1997; Duncan and Brooks-Gunn, 1997; Huston et al.,
1994). More recently, recognition that some children and adults transcend these difficult life circumstances and vulnerabilities to lead successful lives, whereas others are susceptible to negative life outcomes, has given rise to an extensive knowledge base on risk and protective mechanisms in development (Garmezy, 1991, 1993; Hauser and Bowlds, 1990; Rutter, 1985, 1987; Rutter et al., 1995; Werner, 1989, 1995; Werner and Smith, 1992).
Risk factors are conditions or circumstances that are associated with a greater likelihood of negative or undesirable outcomes. Protective factors, in contrast, are associated with a reduced likelihood of negative outcomes, because of their own direct effects, or because they moderate the relationship between risk factors and negative outcomes. Protective factors may be conceived in two ways: as the opposing end of a risk-factor continuum—high parental education, for example—or as separate dimensions that act independently of or interactively with risk factors (Jessor et al., 1995; Rutter, 1987). This may be the case, for example, with beneficial cultural influences on development.
Circumstances that foster successful adaptation despite high-risk status are: (1) individual/dispositional features, such as self-efficacy, optimism and perception of opportunity, cognitive competence, active coping strategies, strong interpersonal skills, and good health; (2) family characteristics, such as cohesion, shared values, warmth and acceptance, absence of conflict, consistent rules and responsibilities, financial security, appropriate monitoring, high parental expectations and support for learning, and religiosity; and (3) features of the communities in which the child and family live, such as availability of external supports, access to constructive out-of-school activities, strong schools with supportive teachers, positive role models in the community, housing quality, and residential stability.
Interest in community-level influences on development has increased in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by rising concern about the transformation of many urban neighborhoods where most immigrant children are growing up (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1997; Wilson, 1990, 1997). Issues in this area that may influence not only child behavior but also efforts to address social problems in urban settings include social organization, consensus on values, and "collective efficacy," defined as social cohesion among
neighbors combined with their willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good (Elliott et al., 1996; Sampson et al., 1997). This area of inquiry is unique in drawing together ethnographic, epidemiological, and quantitative data and, as such, offers a promising model for integrating the range of methods that have been used to study immigrant children.
Other promising developments in this area of research include: (1) efforts to understand how risk and protective mechanisms act in concert to affect development (Garmezy et al., 1984; Sameroff et al., 1993), (2) conceptual models that shift the balance of attention in this literature away from a focus on risk toward examining positive outcomes and the protective or compensatory conditions that enable children to thrive despite adversity (Bradley et al., 1994; Masten et al., 1991; Seifer et al., 1992; Takanishi et al., 1997), and (3) research designs that view development for all individuals as entailing gains and losses that accrue over time to shape development (Bradley and Whiteside-Mansell, 1997). This research has also focused new attention on strategies that children and their families and communities employ to navigate difficult circumstances in their physical and social environments (see, for example, Furstenberg et al., 1998).
Only recently have researchers sought to adapt this literature to children in immigrant families (Buriel, 1994; Buriel and De Ment, 1997; Chud, 1982; de Leon Siantz, 1997; Garcia Coll and Magnuson, 1997; Laosa, 1997; Waters, 1997). Studies have begun to focus on the exposure of some children in immigrant families to a wide range of conditions that have been found to compromise the development of children in U.S.-born families. Potentially protective conditions have also been identified, such as health-promoting behavior during pregnancy, close family ties, religiosity, and high parental expectations and supports for achievement.
But critical questions remain largely unexplored: Do risk factors, which have been identified as sources of vulnerability for U.S.-born children in U.S.-born families, affect children in immigrant families similarly? Are children in immigrant families insulated from risk by the same conditions and coping strategies as have been identified for U.S.-born children in U.S.-born families? Do the dynamics of risk and protective factors operate similarly
for both groups? Do different immigrant groups face different risks?
Although subgroups of children in immigrant families who have been the subject of research have been found to vary widely in their coping strategies, adjustment, development, and adaptation (de Leon Siantz, 1997, Laosa, 1990; Rumbaut, 1994a, 1994b, 1997a, 1997b), efforts to disentangle the multiple determinants of this variation and to juxtapose this research with the empirical literature on U.S.-born children in U.S.-born families are in their infancy.
Implications for the Study
Research on the developmental processes in children have helped identify health, nutritional, and family nurturance needs that all children share (Maccoby, 1980). It is not known, however, to what extent these developmental processes differ for children in immigrant families. Among the fundamental questions requiring attention are: Do the conditions that foster or compromise development for U.S.-born children in U.S.-born families also apply to children in immigrant families? Can approaches to understanding the adjustment of adult immigrants be generalized to children? If not, how can research more accurately capture and understand the lives of children in immigrant families?
The committee draws four implications from its review of the pertinent literatures:
The early studies of children in immigrant families reviewed above suggest that many of them experience unusual circumstances and special challenges and benefit from some culture-specific strengths that must be incorporated into a theory of development of children in immigrant families. The closest analog is developmental research on minority children, but evidence of within-group and contextual variations suggests caution before generalizing from prior theory and research.
Far greater attention needs to be paid in the developmental literature to issues of (a) bilingualism and biculturalism as they manifest themselves in families and in the broader society; (b) racial or ethnic discrimination and intergroup relations, particu-
larly as they affect the values, adult role models, and peer groups toward which these children gravitate; and (c) the influence of access to income, health, and other benefits as they are legally conditioned by the specific immigrant statuses of family members.
The health and adaptation of children in immigrant families unfolds in the context of two inextricably linked processes: the process of development and the process of migration and assimilation. Efforts to understand their development must examine both processes. Unlike other children, those who immigrate to the United States straddle the social contexts of departure from the homeland and of reception and integration in their host community. Indeed, their development incorporates the physical transition from one context to another, and perhaps to multiple places of settlement in the United States. Children born in the United States to immigrant parents also straddle the contexts of sending and receiving communities, albeit more indirectly, through cross-national social networks, family traditions and expectations, and connections to ethnic communities and resources within the United States.
Studies of children in immigrant families must pay far greater attention to diversity in the immigrant population than has been the norm in research on minority children. There is no typical immigrant child; indeed, they span the full spectrum of socioeconomic status, economic opportunity, race and ethnicity, family circumstances, and social context. This fledgling area of research affords an opportunity to incorporate the importance of historical circumstances, local place, and within-group variation into research designs.
The differing contexts and outcomes of assimilation experienced by different subgroups may be the most important issue for research on children in immigrant families. To what extent are different trajectories shaped by the characteristics and experiences of children at the time of their entry into the United States, their parents' mix of assets and resources, and the particular events and people who shape their experiences in the United States? Although some research on adolescents in immigrant families is beginning to address this issue (see Portes, 1996; Rumbaut, 1994b), no research follows young children in immi-
grant families over time, systematically incorporates samples of children that have immigrated to the United States at different ages and from different countries, or adopts an intergenerational time span that can provide answers to critical questions about the effects of exposure to American culture within a single life-span and across generations.
The issue of appropriate comparison groups is also extremely important. In addition to internal comparisons within the immigrant population, it is essential to compare the development of children in immigrant families with that of their U.S.-born peers and to consider the role of immigration-related factors per se compared with the many other factors known to affect development. Comparisons are also needed between children in U.S.-born families and children in immigrant families both within and across ethnic and racial groups.
The committee was struck by the paucity of research on each of the issues identified and, accordingly, keenly aware of the great extent to which our capacity to draw conclusions about the health and adjustment of children in immigrant families was constrained. Accordingly, we sought to summarize and supplement, through research expressly conducted for this study, what is known about the circumstances and characteristics of children in immigrant families, noting both strengths and potential risk factors; to understand their adaptation over time, albeit in the absence of longitudinal research and research that incorporates information about their countries of origin or about the migration process itself; to remain sensitive to the vast diversity that characterizes them; and to inform the next phase of research on the differing contexts and outcomes of assimilation that characterize children in immigrant families.
Because the unanswered questions far exceed those for which even preliminary answers can be given, perhaps the most significant outcome to emerge from the committee's work will be the impetus it provides for a sizeable increase in research on this rapidly expanding population of children. Not only would such research inform the nation about the development of children in immigrant families, but it would also afford substantial opportunities to reexamine and enrich existing understanding of devel-
opmental processes for all children, to render research on both development and immigration more widely generalizable, and to encourage interdisciplinary research and collaboration on issues of extreme national importance.
TERMINOLOGY AND ANALYTICAL DISTINCTIONS
The report discusses children in immigrant families in terms of several dimensions. The most basic distinction is between first-generation immigrant children, who are foreign-born children who emigrated from their country of birth to the United States, and second-generation immigrant children, who are U.S.-born children who have at least one foreign-born parent. First-generation children are not U.S. citizens at birth but may become citizens through the process of naturalization. 2 First-generation immigrant children are also referred to in this report as immigrant children and foreign-born children of immigrant parents.
Second-generation children, because they were born in the United States, are citizens, regardless of their parents' citizenship or immigrant status. Second-generation immigrant children are also referred to in this report as U.S.-born children of immigrant parents.
Third-generation immigrant children are U.S.-born children of U.S.-born parents. They are distinguished from foreign-born and U.S.-born children of foreign-born parents.
First- and second-generation children are distinguished further according to the country in which they or their parents were born. Populations of different countries vary in the language spoken, socioeconomic circumstances, demographic behavior, customs and culture, and race and ethnic composition. The primary reasons that people immigrate to the United States also vary from country to country. Some, for example, come to avoid persecution or death; others seek an occupational environment that allows them to fully utilize knowledge gained in earning advanced degrees in science or engineering.
Each of these distinctions has potentially important implications for the physical and mental health of first- and second-generation children in immigrant families. Judgments about whether they are doing well or poorly, and assessments of reasons for differences among foreign-born children or between foreign-born and U.S.-born children, must be based on comparisons with other relevant groups. Because this report focuses on immigration to the United States, the situation of first- and second-generation children is assessed here mainly in comparison to children in the third and later generations—that is, families in which both parents, as well as the children, were born in the United States.
In addition, because race and ethnicity are critical indicators of life chances in the United States, and because the racial and ethnic composition of immigrants has shifted markedly during recent decades toward a larger representation of Hispanic and nonwhite minorities, this report often compares the situation of immigrants and natives who are white, black, Hispanic, or Asian.
In this context, the committee was keenly aware throughout its deliberations that children who live in poverty—many of them U.S.-born minorities—often experience restricted access to many of the resources, programs, and benefits that are discussed in this report specifically with respect to children in immigrant families. U.S.-born black children, in particular, whose historical legacy arises from one of this nation's most profound immigration policies and from the abiding significance of race in American culture, face life chances that are all too often characterized by the risks and foreclosed opportunities that are considered in this report. In its calls for new research, the committee is explicit about the importance of making comparisons between today's children in immigrant families and U.S.-born black children whose immigrant ancestry is many generations removed (as well as to other children in ''at risk" groups) in order to better understand the successes and failures of the nation's policies for children and families. Only by placing efforts to understand the life chances of today's children in immigrant families in the context of the range of life chances experienced by children in U.S.-born families can
we begin to understand fully the forces that shape successful adaptation.
ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT
This committee's review and analysis begins with Chapter 2, which portrays socioeconomic and demographic risk factors experienced by children in immigrant families from many countries of origin. Chapter 3 presents information on the health status and adjustment. Chapter 4 discusses public policies and the use of public benefits, as well as information on health insurance and access to health care. Chapter 5 presents the committee's conclusions and recommendations for future research, data collection, and reporting.