Problems of Immigrant Children

Written by jennie dalcour
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Problems of Immigrant Children
Immigrant children face divided loyalty between their home and new countries. (Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Immigrants move to new countries to build new lives with new cultural and economic opportunities, often with keeping in mind the welfare of their children. While the sentiment of a new life is pleasant, the realities that immigrant children face are generally negative and long-lasting. They experience difficulties in school, in relationships and at home.

Sociocultural Problems with Adjustment

Sociocultural influences and challenges are immense. Immigrant children face pressure from dominant American culture to conform while parents and extended family expect children to maintain their native social norms. Assimilation is difficult and older relatives may disapprove, but clinging to native culture creates further challenges in being accepted by the dominant culture. Children must learn to deal with the stress of acculturation as they find their unique place in society.

Economic Hardships

Immigrants paint a diverse socioeconomic portrait, with immigrants from some geographic areas, specifically Asian countries, achieving financial success, while others experience economic hardships. South and Central American immigrants are likely to have little education and low socioeconomic status. Children suffer from their families' economic hardships. They experience a limited food supply, substandard living conditions and a lack of clothing and hygiene necessities.


The educational system is not designed to meet the needs of immigrant youth. Immigrant children have many challenges in education starting with language barriers. Children are expected to master the educational standards for their age while learning a new language and social norms. Schools are embroiled in the bilingual education debate that asks whether children should be instructed in their native language while learning English or should be exposed only to the dominant language. The poverty they face at home is also detrimental to their school experience, especially children who are not receiving proper nutrition. Immigrants have a much higher dropout rate than natural-born citizens, according to a study conducted by Princeton University.

Health Care

Immigrant children face additional challenges attaining sufficient health care. In July 2005, "The Washington Post" reported that immigrant children receive about half the monetary amount of medical services than nonimmigrant children. Immigrants' poverty and lack of work opportunities means that their children are uninsured and do not receive appropriate medical care. Many parents are too intimidated by government services or inhibited by language barriers to apply for Medicaid for their children.

Legal Status

Children of illegal immigrants face additional hurdles that other immigrants avoid. Their parents are unable to find sufficient employment because of their illegal status, furthering the effects of abject poverty. Families are less stable, causing frequent moves and unsteady sources of food and clothing. Illegal immigrant children grow up knowing shame and prejudice.

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