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Children of undocumented parents may be at higher developmental risk
Date:7/13/2009

Undocumented people live in a shadowy world of high fear and stress -- fear of deportation and stress brought on lack of economic, linguistic and educational resources.

And of course if they are parents their worries trickle down to their children. A new study from UCLA examines parents' concerns about development, learning and behavior for young children of Mexican origin and identifies whether these concerns differ by the families' citizenship or documentation status.

The study appears in the July-August issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics. It shows that, as reported by the parent, Mexican children with an undocumented parent have greater developmental risk than do Latino and white children whose parents are documented or who are U.S. citizens.

"In the United States, nearly 4.9 million or 25 percent of children younger than five years old are Latino, which makes them the largest group of young minority children," said Alexander Ortega, a professor of public health and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "That's huge. With Mexicans as the vast majority of Latino children 64 percent understanding their health, well-being and the development of Mexican children is critical, given future U.S. demographic changes."

He added that the concern "is there are a significant number of children with an undocumented parent whose developmental risks may be missed by the health care sector."

What's less clear, say the authors, is what's causing the concern. Few studies have examined the impact of immigration on children's development and behavior. Studies have identified that immigrant children tend to have more behavioral problems and learning difficulties in school, which may be attributable to immigration stress. Another study found that a majority of Mexican immigrant mothers perceived their children as having significant delays in language sk
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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