The Mental Effect of Family Separations

childThere have been a lot of stories lately, particularly in the last couple of years, regarding immigration. They have a more depressing tone to them, often discussing how there have been more attempts to put rules in place to make it more difficult to enter the United States. The most common of these stories involve deportation cases that take place at the United States and Mexico border.

Unfortunately, other groups are also being affected by the threat of deportation. Southeast Asian American groups are going through a similar situation, with twice as many Vietnamese people being deported in 2017 compared to 2016. In February, a man was deported back to Jordan, a country he had moved from nearly 40 years ago.

The situation itself is already worrying, but as a result of sending people back to their original country, families are being separated. Family separation is a situation that has increased recently, where forceful, unwilling separation of parents from their children can not only impact their relationship, but how the child views future relationships and their current living situation.

Because families are literally being separated from each other, the effects on everyone can be severe. This is especially true for the children in these families – both adolescents and kids. Regardless of the age, seeing their parents taken away from them can drastically impact children in a negative way. For example, in the span of just over a month, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. These children can also go through extreme situations after the separation, especially those separated at the border. This includes being sent to detention centers with extremely poor living conditions. Even if there are still able to see their parents, it can still be hard on the child. It can cost a lot of money for their family to afford legal fees, and a lot of time devoted for their caregiver to drive them to visit the detention center.

As a whole, these sorts of situations are extremely stressful, and can have lasting effects that can have huge impacts not just immediately, but as they get older. These sorts of effects are the results of something called toxic stress. When a child experiences intense difficulties that are out of their control, such as exposure to violence or neglect, or in this case, family separation, their development can be affected. This doesn’t just include the increased chances of developing mental illnesses, but their physical health can also be affected, such as a poorer development of their organ systems. Overall, development is delayed, which can result in a higher chance of behavioral problems, chronic illnesses, and dropping out of school.

These are in addition to the troubles that come with puberty and adolescence, and as we mentioned, the effects can be extreme. Removing parents from their children impact both groups, especially when it’s something neither of them choose to do. People are noticing though, and the outcry has been strong. The election just occurred, and it may come with action to keep families together, but if there’s anything else you want to do, check out the following articles from Huffington Post and Time.


What other kinds of effects do you think that family separation can have on a child? What do you think can be done to help reduce the mental and physical effects of toxic stress?

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