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A study published Thursday in the Journal of Adolescent Health said that U.S. immigration policies have led to psychological distress for many Latino parents, even parents who have legal status in the country.

“A substantial proportion of Latino parents reported that they are avoiding authorities, warning their children to change their routines and worrying about the future due to recent U.S. immigration policies and news,” lead author Kathleen Roche, MSW, PhD, said in a release about the study. “Parents experiencing these kinds of immigration-related consequences also appear to be at a very high risk of anxiety, depression, and other forms of distress.”

Roche is an associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The team’s researchers studied 213 Latino (mostly Central American) parents of adolescent children who were living in a suburb of a large mid-Atlantic city. Although some parents were undocumented, “more than two-thirds were living in the US legally, whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or under temporary protected status,” the media release noted.

Here are some of the key findings of the study that the media released shared:

  • “A substantial proportion of US Latino parents reported adverse emotional and behavioral consequences from recent immigration actions and news. For example, 64 percent said that they very often or always worried about family members getting separated.”
  • “Nearly 40 percent of parents said they frequently avoided getting medical care, help from police, or support from social services because of immigration actions and news.”
  • “Almost half of the parents reported that recent immigration events had led them to very often or always warn their teenagers to stay away from authorities and to change their behaviors such as where the youth hang out.”

The study also looked into symptoms of high psychological distress. The release explained that “parents who frequently experienced worries or changes in behavior due to immigration news and policies had at least a 300 percent increase in the odds of high psychological distress, including symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression.”

“Such high levels of distress among parents raise concerns about immigration impacts on the entire family, including among teenagers,” Roche added in the release. “Studies show that adolescents whose parents are anxious or depressed are at elevated risk of doing poorly in school, adopting risky behaviors, and developing lifelong health and mental health problems.”

Here is a public copy of the study.

Other authors of the study were Elizabeth Vaquera, PhD, Director of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute at GW, Rebecca White, PhD, at the Arizona State University and Maria Ivonne Rivera, MPH, of The Rivera Group, Inc.

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