DACA eligibility for mothers improves children’s mental health

Stanford Medicine| Fri Sep 15 16:23:48 EDT 2017
DACA eligibility for mothers improves children’s mental health

Children with mothers eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program suffer from lower rates of anxiety and adjustment disorders than those with mothers who lack DACA eligibility.

Researchers further narrowed in on adjustment and anxiety disorders, theorizing that children may be stressed by the uncertainty of their parents’ immigration status.

What they found is that mothers’ DACA eligibility significantly decreased adjustment and anxiety disorder diagnoses among their children and that parents’ unauthorized status is a significant barrier to normal child development and perpetuates health inequalities.

“We found that before DACA was implemented, the rates of mental health diagnosis were exactly the same; but in the post-DACA period, mothers started to benefit from protection and the rates of adjustment and anxiety disorders dropped by half,” Hainmueller said.

“When you consider the social determinants of mental health, there are a lot of things that are hard to change, but here we have an instance of a dramatic improvement in the mental health of those kids. You can, through a law, get a dramatic improvement in health. And unlike poverty, that’s something uniquely changeable,” he said.

But just as a law helped change mental health outcomes for kids in this study in a positive way, so too can an absence or reversal of the law change outcomes in a negative way.

“If it were to be reversed, those gains would quickly evaporate and maybe reverse and these parents would be back in the shadows,” Hainmueller said.

The researchers are trying to obtain similar mental health data of children of DACA recipients in California and New York. Also, as a follow-up to the research based on data from Oregon, the team has an ongoing effort to interview families impacted by DACA. So far, they’ve completed 25 interviews.

“One of the things the study can’t do, with quantitative data, is determine what’s leading to the dramatic improvement we see,” Hainmueller said. “We don’t know if it’s job security, reduced stress because there’s less anxiety, but hopefully that will come out in more qualitative interviews.”

The study’s results imply that expanding deferred action to the millions of unauthorized immigrant parents who do not meet the current DACA eligibility criteria could further promote the health and well-being of this next generation of American citizens. And the study states it’s also reasonable to expect that permanent legal status or a pathway to citizenship would have an equal, if not greater, effect in improving children’s health.

Other Stanford co-authors of the study are postdoctoral scholar Lucila Figueroa, PhD; Michael Hotard, program manager of the Immigration Policy Lab; and Tomás Jiménez, PhD, associate professor of sociology.

Researchers from Uppsala University, Northwestern University and Oregon Health & Science University also contributed to the work.

The study was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Read at Source
Related News